Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Words as art

Though I am not yet too far into it, Paul Glennon's geometrically-inspired The Dodecahedron [or A Frame for Frames] is reminding me of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, albeit in only a superficial way. The perceived similarities have to do with the linking of stories with common threads that are sometimes quite detectable, and sometimes not. What sets the two apart, I believe, is Glennon's clever use of geometry as a framework for the novel. I have read reviews that recommend using a physical model to aid the reader in the conceptualization of how the individual vignettes connect, which almost makes me want to seek out my 3-D organic chemistry model set from university [though I suspect that such an act may only result in the lamentation that I have forgotten how to differentiate between two enantiomers of a single molecule, which is in fact the very least of what I've forgotten]. I have not embarked on an endeavour to visualize the involved dodecahedron as of yet, but once I get a better grasp on all the connectors, I may just try. I may appear as a literary ingenue by asking this, but I wonder if anything of this type has been done before? I will naively say this: it would seem as though Glennon is the architect of his very own art movement. More on this later.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

"A made-in-Canada approach to cleaning up the environment"*

I recently learned that environment minister Rona Ambrose put the kibosh on the speaking engagement (i.e. book launch) of Mark Tushingham on the occasion of the release of his futuristic environmental thriller, Hotter than Hell, the premise of which involves Canada and the U.S. at war over water supply shortages in the not-so-distant future. Since Tushingham is an Environment Canada employee, Ambrose seems to have considered his public explication of the controversial subject matter inappropriate for whatever reason [which most likely has something to do with the slashing of environmental spending in the new Harper government], despite the fact that the book is labelled as a work of science fiction. I thought that the resulting fallout from such a revelation would have interested parties crying censorship, but I haven't heard one more peep on the issue since the story emerged on Thursday, which is somewhat unsettling. Perhaps Harper's renowned gag order M.O. is effectively censoring any protestation of censorship? Whatever the case may be, Rona Ambrose is one scary chick, by which I mean, anyone who feels they are justified in cutting environmental programs by 80 per cent frightens me. No wonder Tushingham went into hiding when the decree was issued.

*see rabble.ca

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Aching for Gravitas

Just a fun quote that I came across while perusing my notebook...this one is courtesy of Tibor Fischer:

The drawback to profundity is that it's like being funny, either you are or you aren't, straining doesn't help.

Alas, I think these words arise from Fischer's review of Martin Amis' Yellow Dog a couple of years back [i.e. the book that he deemed the 'not knowing where to look kind of bad'].

However, he also calls Amis the overlord of the OED, so I suspect he must love the Amis on some level. Don't we all?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Gender Confusion*

So then, women love the work of Jane Austen, while men feel greater affiliation to the work of Albert Camus: passion versus alienation, as the Guardian concludes. Having viewed** the latest film production of Pride & Prejudice just last night, I would say, that yes, certain moments were, indeed, fraught with passion, but a great deal of the other moments were quite irritating and tiresome. Of course I know that a film is not a book, and that I would have to read the Austen classic to offer a more informed opinion, but I do know that the involved story is not one that might change my life. The same goes for the other four titles on the list of books that women have cited as all-time favourites: I have read none of these, nor do I have any desire to do so. If it's all about thwarted romances and overcoming obstacles and love conquering all, I want no part of it. There's a company called Harlequin that caters to the needs of that reading audience.

The list of works cited as the mens' favourites are arguably more promising (if a book that heavily features angst and alienation can be considered promising). Heller, Joyce, Kafka, Kundera, and Vonnegut are some of the names that appear. Now, we are told that the men polled all have some professional connection to literature, yet we are not told of any such connection for the women's group (I suspect that this connection may be absent in the latter). Despite this literary connection, which should presumably carry some weight, literary critic Lisa Jardine, who carried out both polls, calls some of the mens' choices "puberty reading". So feelings of angst and alienation, it would seem, is par for the course for a teenaged boy.

Newsflash: feelings of angst and alienation are also par for the course for every other age group, and not just men! Perhaps women are fooling themselves into believing that their existential crises can be quashed by losing themselves in the romantic fluff that Jane Austen and others write (though, to be fair, Mr. Darcy's own existential crisis is brilliantly executed: I have only Colin Firth's and Matthew Macfadyen's performances to go by, however).

I guess it's apparent that I fall into the alienation camp when it comes to literary preference. Just another lone wolf on the steppes. Whether I would call any of these works "life-changing" is questionable, insofar as the realization that angst and alienation are a part of life is made known to me through life itself, and not exclusively through literature. Reality, in other words, is what changes lives. It would follow, then, that works of non-fiction should be considered as potentially life-changing. And indeed, this is the case: of the men polled, a number cited works of non-fiction as the ones with the most impact on their lives. Of course, they also said they "had a slight fixation with the stiff covers of hardback books". And with that, I have no more to say, except for this: I suspect that Kurt Vonnegut may be somewhat pleased to discover that the Guardian reporter has characterized him as a "dead white man" (I'm not sure what Nick Hornby will think).

*By which I mean, judging by the works appearing on each list, I feel greater affiliation to those works in which a certain degree of alienation prevails, that is to say, the works chosen by men. Ergo, I am like a man?

** Here, it should be noted that the copy in question was not rented or purchased, but rather, lent to me by a colleague who I mistakenly told that I wouldn't mind watching said movie when asked, would you like to see this movie?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Gotham Writer

Was there ever a writer more devoted to his craft than Paul Auster? Having recently finished reading Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure, in which Auster recounts his early years as a struggling writer, it is perfectly clear that there was never a doubt in his mind that writing would be his only occupation. He is unrelentless in this belief, despite an abundance of hard times that befall him. White collar work? Forget it. Blue collar work? Sure, but only for the experience it affords, which may shape itself into a story later on. Translating the work of others? Definitely, because it involves sitting down at a desk with pen and paper and requires a substantial amount of intellectual effort. Plus it pays the bills. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he had both Paris and New York as backdrops to inspire him during the leaner years. How does an artist survive in this day and age when the rising cost of living in such urban centres accompanies a steely and unwavering resolve to remain true to one's calling? A difficult question that shouldn't be but must be asked. As Auster relates in The Art of Hunger [a critical piece revolving around Knut Hamsun's Hunger],

A young man comes to a city. He has no name, no home, no work: he has come to the city to write. He writes. Or more exactly, he does not write. He starves to the point of death... The process is inescapable: he must eat in order to write. But if he does not write, he will not eat. And if he cannot eat, he cannot write. He cannot write.

Auster forged ahead despite an ongoing (but impermanent) relationship with poverty: poetry, non-fiction, criticism, fiction, screenplays, and more. My admiration for this man and his varied body of work is expansive. His work overflows with humanity that is achieved in a most understated and straightforward manner. However, my favourite aspect of Auster's writing has to do with his use of place, which seems like the single most important facet of his oeuvre: he is undeniably the quintessential New York writer. When I think of New York, one of the first things that pops into my mind is Paul Auster. The city belongs to him, and it reflects in his writing. One day, I hope to have such a relationship with my own city. I already feel the ties starting to bind.


This page is powered by Blogger

Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com