Saturday, January 03, 2009

Holiday reading journey

I'm back from the most fantastic vacation in the Dominican Republic, with some genuine freezing to the core of my body in Edmonton before and after. I'll write about my time in the DR in another post and will put up some photos; however, I'd like to start the new year with a post on something I love, something that I've not written about for months and months because of my schoolwork. That something, of course, is fiction.

During my time on the beach, I had managed to read five books:

1) Raymond and Hannah, by Stephen Marche -- This book is a modern romance, a rendition of a long-distance relationship, something that I know a bit about. Hannah is a Jew from New York who embarks on a journey in hopes of finding herself by (re)connecting with Judaism. She meets Raymond, an agnostic intellect, a week before she flies off to Israel for nine months at a yeshiva. Given the current political climate in Gaza, this novel provided me a bit of perspective from the Israeli point of view regarding the Jewish diaspora and the search for a spiritual homeland. While I had always been sympathetic mostly with the Palestinian cause, I understand the deep desire to belong somewhere, to have roots. I could write on and on about my views of the conflict in Gaza, but the feeling that overwhelms me is that after six decades since the "founding" of Israel, time has erased what had initially seemed black and white. Must the roots of one people uproot those of another?

2) No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July -- A great short story collection by a brilliant writer/artist. If you've never seen her film, you should run out and get it. And check out her web project, "Learning To Love You More," by clicking on the link on the sidebar of this blog under "Worth Visiting." I can't say much about the book because my words are inadequate.

3) The Flanders Panel, by Arturo Perez-Reverte -- I had received this book as a birthday gift years and years ago, when I was still in high school, and never got around to reading it for several reasons: 1) It's a mystery; 2) it's a mystery about chess; 3) it's a mystery about chess translated from the original Spanish. But I didn't get a chance to stock up on more books before my vacation, so I lugged this one along. I'm glad I did, although mysteries, including this one, always leave me dissatisfied at the end, with their neat, tie-it-all-up conclusions. I enjoyed the twists along the way though.

4) Consumption, by Kevin Patterson -- I had bought this book because it was about the Canadian Arctic, and had hesitated reading it for the same reason. I was worried that it would either be condescending or idealized. However, I ended up thoroughly admiring Patterson for what he had accomplished. He described the clash of cultures, the tug between looking forward and looking back, without resorting to blame or despair. For anyone who wants to get an understanding of the North, this is a good place to start. It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that the novel is not an epic tale spanning multiple time periods; rather, it shows the immense changes within one character's lifetime. The communities in the Arctic have probably undergone the most rapid change within just a generation or two when compared to any southern city.

5) The Birth House, by Ami McKay -- This is a gentle, humorous book, about one girl growing up in rural Nova Scotia, bound by her gender and time, but transcending both in her own small ways, breaking conventions, gathering traditional wisdom and finding personal strength.

Happy New Year to everyone! I'm not going to panic about what I'm going to do now that I have no more courses to take, and while I wait to hear about grad school, and wait to decide if that's indeed what I want to do. I'm not going to panic, yet....

1 comment:

  1. Happy new year! I hope you get back to reading lots of good books this year because I always like hearing your recommendations. Take some time off before jumping into the next thing, there's no rush!