On Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda

61zg5MSMHkL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU15_Well, what does one say about Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda?

I read the book recently, after it won this year’s Canada Reads competition in which five books and their defenders faced off to eliminate and leave standing “one novel that could change Canada.” Reviews of The Orenda have been laudatory; apparently there was a “gasp” when it didn’t make the Giller Prize shortlist. It has received sharp criticism as well, especially from aborginal reviewers like Hayden King. Continue reading

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A hair shirt and more reflection

I’m thinking a lot about the act of reading these days. Thinking that it depends on the stage one’s in.

From childhood’s diving into whatever’s available, hour after hour of sheer delight, the world opening to me…  through the required reading of high school and post-secondary education, with extracurricular books riding waves of deep longing and the quest to figure life out…  through the busy middle years of children and work, when books seemed especially memorable and piercing, perhaps because time for them was rarer…  through the ravenous reading in an emptying nest, as if to finally catch up with the Great Unread, when I began a book log to keep track and push myself… Continue reading

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How books get into my life

At lunch with three friends, the conversation turned to books. Sally proposed that what we read often comes to us serendipitously. Later, the four of us exchanged a string of emails. Sarah sent us an essay by Moyra Davey called “The Problem of Reading” which opens with the author’s confession that “what to read” is a “recurring dilemma” in her life. She pictures a woman moving about the house among shelves of books, many unread, picking up one for a few pages, then another.

IMG_4316“It is not just a question of which book will absorb her,” she writes, “but rather, which book, in a nearly cosmic sense, will choose her….” Continue reading

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Tis the season to be listing

That time again, lists taking over like dandelions. The best or most important in news, people, books, movies, fashion. Experts summoned for the top picks of whatever they’re experts about.

For the most part I enjoy reading these retrospectives, if only to refresh my memory or compare “their” favorites with mine or be alerted to all that I missed. I often feel somewhat lethargic and retrospective myself just before the new year breaks and find myself paging through the past year’s diary/journal.

For me, less voluminous note-keeping is definitely trending (one of the words I see on lists of words to abandon in 2014), so a year takes less time to review than it used to. 2013, in fact, has been quite nicely contained in one relatively thin Moleskin-knockoff, written on only one side of the page no less. Here’s a bit of a list of what I discovered when paging back. Continue reading

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Delivered!

She was unloaded and delivered to us, glory be!
Unloaded from her mother, the little one, delivered,
And we all say Glory Be!
(Inuit birth song)

Good news early this morning! Our seventh grandchild — a girl — arrived safely into the world. And for the seventh time, my heart wells up in the words of the song above: Glory Be! So, I write her name in my journal, ponder who she is and will be, mull over the word delivered, which comes from Old French and Latin roots meaning “set free.” (Which reminds me of one fictional newly-hatched chick saying to another: “See, I told you there was life after birth!”) The meaning of the word developed through “set free” to “give up, surrender,” and finally “hand over to someone else.” All rich connotations for the delivery of a baby and the life ahead of her, and for the Christmas season, all about a baby’s birth as well. — Glory Be!

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Does she need a second word for dress?

Recent visits to see our grandchildren, both east and west, impressed on me again that most miraculous and mysterious of matters: children acquiring language. How in the world do they process vocabulary and grammar and everything else in those little brains of theirs? It’s a delight to watch and participate in, to read aloud to them and hear the nursery rhymes and songs learned so effortlessly, it seems.

The adult reader realizes that the little Miss being read to can’t possibly know all those words yet. Gown, for example, in a story about a girl who delivers a dress through a snow storm. But set into the story, which charms her for any number of reasons, and heard numerous times,  gown, which is another word for dress will probably stick. Does she need a second word for dress? Well, yes of course she does. The two are slightly different, and she will need a lot of words for everything. Differences, nuance, precision, sounds of various kinds enrich our lives. Continue reading

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Filed under Family, Personal

Running on Repeat: the death of JFK

It being the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s death, we’re bombarded with retrospectives of various kinds. I’ve been tuning in to many of them. I don’t know why I’m drawn back so intensely. Perhaps I’m reaching for a time I lived through, unbelievably half a century ago already, and to a 13-year-old Me.

John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy

John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy

Last evening, for example, I watched “Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy.” The assassination happened Friday and by Monday some 45,000 letters had arrived to Mrs. Kennedy at the White House. Over the next two months, the number reached 800,000. Among them was a letter from me. Handwritten. In green ink as I recall. Continue reading

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Filed under Current events, Personal