borrowing bones

The occasional weblog of writer Dora Dueck

Havel: A Life, and more

Just in from a bike ride, unaccustomed thighs aching. A lovely morning, the green unfurling at last. I hadn’t intended to wait until (visible) spring to show up at my blog again, but that’s how it turned out, and I was thinking about that too while I pedalled, and about some reading experiences I’d like to share.

Since my daughter and I are planning a trip to the Czech Republic, I enjoyed Havel: A Life by Michael Zantovsky, a new biography of Vaclav Havel. I was alerted to it by Michael Ignatieff’s fine summary of the man and book in The Atlantic. A biography has to succeed on two levels for me: the subject must be compelling and the life well written. This one ranks high on both counts. Zantovsky was a friend and colleague; his work is affectionate and insightful but never hagiographical. The poet/playwright/philosopher turned president was as flawed as he was noble; he helmed the Velvet Revolution, but could not prevent the breakup of Czechoslovakia. He was a man of great vision who fussed about details like office curtains. Most astonishing–and inspiring–to me was Havel’s ongoing introspection, which power couldn’t shake out of him. “Being in power,” he said, in fact, “makes me permanently suspicious of myself.” Read the rest of this entry »

My “Serial” Binge

Last weekend, I binged on the wildly popular podcast series, “Serial”, in which Sarah Koenig and other producers and staff of “This American Life” investigate the case of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of the murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore in 1999 and who continues to claim his innocence.

I say “wildly popular” as if I’d been in the loop about the series while it unfolded last year, like some five million others anxiously waiting for the next installment (there are 12), but that’s not true. I’m aware of its reach after the fact. But even this much later, I’ll admit I feel a strange satisfaction in having participated in this phenomenal thing, to be in the know about it. Aren’t we just funny that way? There’s so much that I’m completely clued out about, which is inevitable and quite fine actually, and a great deal else on the “cultural” front that I access only tangentially. I’ve watched only half an episode of “Mad Men,” for example, one episode of “Downton Abbey,” none of “Orange is the New Black” or “Transparent” and on and on, which is not to discredit the accomplishments of these programs, nor to discredit people who are faithful fans of these series, but just to say that it’s possible to be aware of things, even know quite a bit about them, without actually listening to or watching or reading them.

But I digress. Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond stereotype

Earlier this month, Maclean’s magazine created a challenge for my city when it called Winnipeg the most racist city in Canada. A feature article explained why. While there were those who disagreed with the assessment, or tried to bring nuance to the claims, many others simply set about doing something about it. If the article was “a gift in barbed wire,” as I’ve heard it described, they decided to open the gift, never mind the scratches it might involve. MACLEANS-cover

On Monday evening, Rosanna Deerchild, writer and CBC broadcaster, and face of the recent Maclean’s cover, along with Heather Plett, connection facilitator, invited people to the Forks–whoever wished to come–for an informal dinner and discussion about race relations and the path forward in our city. Some 80 people showed and I among them. Read the rest of this entry »

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