Showing posts from September, 2010

Cormac McCarthy's The Road

I bought this paperback because of the movie tie-in, because of Viggo Mortensen. I love his work; I love looking at him. I am that shallow. I doubt, though, that I will choose to watch the film. Like "the man" says, Once you allow those images into your brain, they're there for good.

It is very very difficult to write this simply, in a style stripped of all elements save character, conversation, and action. Style is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the book. There are no quotation marks. (Some day, more publishers and writers will catch up.) Nor is McCarthy constrained by the old definitions of sentences and complete thoughts. He uses words like a paint brush--a dab, more dabs here, a stroke, more strokes there. Through the father's actions--feeding, clothing, sheltering, and nurturing his son--and through their conversations, their lives, their roles, their fears and goals, their relationship are all revealed. With a minimum of flashback memory, some nightmares, …

Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness

Last Sunday I finished re-reading Miriam Toews' GG's award-winning novel A Complicated Kindness. I almost never re-read a book; there are just too many books and too few hours. But this one I remember enjoying so much that I wanted to get my own copy and I wanted to check to see whether the conclusion by others in the book club made any more sense to me now. Some members, knowing the writer's family history, suggested that the novel is about the suicide of a major character but I didn't get that. Was I being a Pollyanna? Was I in denial? I am happy to report that, after a second go-through, I still do not accept that interpretation, although it is certainly one of the options that the distraught teen narrator Nomi posits. I think the inconclusive ending is intentional, meant to highlight the mystery of what we know and what we cannot know about the lives of others. If there is no hard evidence in the text, it has not happened. There is no simple explanation, as the tit…

Mary Gaitskill's Veronica

The writer and her novel. Photograph by David Shankbone, Creative Commons.


Today I finished reading Veronica by Mary Gaitskill. I hadn't heard of her until she spoke to the assembled writers at the Humber School in July. Her presentation was both eerie and inspiring. Eerie because Gaitskill, a beautiful woman, seemed unable or unwilling to smile. Perhaps she was just reacting against the convention that we must be ingratiating before people will listen to us. Her words were inspiring in that she told a personal story of believing in herself in spite of the rejection and denigration from pricks in positions. I wonder what her workshop was like? I bought Veronica because I overheard other writers saying it was good. (And it was an American National Book Award finalist.)

Reading Gaitskill reminds me somewhat of Margaret Atwood, the way people say she “writes with a scalpel.” And Veronica is similar to Mordecai Richler's Barney's Version, the way it is a challenge to tell a compelling story about an unattractive or "difficult" character. It …