Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Toward the End Of Time

John Updike's Toward the End Of Time. Knopf, 1997.




Ben Turnbull is 66 years old, living near Boston, beside the sea, in 2020, after the destruction of the Sino-American War. Government has disappeared. Entrepreneurs are moving in to offer services, and are in turn being encroached upon by corporations. The chaos in society is parallelled in the chaos of Ben's golf game.

Ben is mostly retired from a financial planning job, unhappily married to his second wife, remembering countless flings and mistresses. He has adult children, step-children, and grandchildren, a fact which seems to be related to his neurotic anxiety about the distant future and distant galaxies. He struggles to recover from a prostate operation. The only good thing in his life seems to be a heightened awareness of the miracles of nature which surround him. Like the black holes in space, there appear to be a few holes in the cheese of his brain, leading him to recall his time with St Paul and, later, as an inhabitant in an Irish monastery during a Viking invasion. The "End of Time" alluded to in the title is personal, cultural, planetary, cosmic. While the journal entries which compose this novel are his attempt to comprehend and control, time and time warps evade his pen.


Personally, I got that his mind is a bit discombobulated and I did not really need all these words and descriptions. I also got that he seems to be a man led, driven, solely by lust and his own physical sensations and gratifications. His abstract scientific mental meanderings are an unconvincing attempt to know the unknowable. Although the dystopic vision of a post-apocalyptic planet does somehow ring true. And in the final identification with nature still dominated by human Old-Think, the narrator offers the reader a glimmer of hope that he may have seen some light.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Man

Kim Thuy's Man.Random House, 2014. Translated by Sheila Fischman.


This gentle novel is post-Vietnam, when abandoned female children have been adopted, married, emigrated. It's about the love of words and the love of food, and about love in general. About cultural vestiges, cultural differences, cultural taboos. Set in Montreal and Paris with flashbacks to the old country. A must read for all lovers of poetry and language. Foodies who love Montreal. A fusion for lovers of ideas - of individualism and identity - and of ideals - of parenting, friendship, marriage, and obsession. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Circle Game

Margaret Atwood's The Circle Game. Anansi, 1966.


Poet, writer of short stories, novels, non-fiction. Political activist. Canadian celebrity.
I really miss how George Strombo . . . used to get so flustered in her presence. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Zen Telegrams

Paul Reps. Zen Telegrams: 79 Picture Poems. Charles e.Tuttle, 1959.



Two great finds on a hunting and gathering adventure to Value Village in Chilliwack and Baker's Books in Hope. 


One Hundred Flowers

Georgia O'Keeffe. One Hundred Flowers. Knopf, 1990.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

for one more day

Mitch Albom's for one more day. Hyperion, 2006.


My cousin loaned me this book. I enjoyed Mitch Albon's Tuesdays with Morrie. This one, for one more day, is even better. Listed as fiction, but the pictures in the back, of the author as a child and his late mother, add to the sense of surreal reality. 

It is fitting that I read this book immediately following Anam Cara which talks about the Celtic idea of time and the three realms, underworld, this world, and beyond, and how they can intermingle. This story is about Chick Benetto who, during a potentially fatal car accident, spends one more day with his deceased mother. 

This story is unusual too because we do not often read about "failures" and the terrible effects of family trauma, although there are enough elements of redemption and triumph to keep you wanting to read more. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Anam Cara

John O'Donohue's Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom. Harper, 1997.

This book was on my "to order" list the minute I got back from holidays, and, would you believe, I found it at the first used book store I entered, Bill's, in Fort St John, BC. That is the universe sending a message. Now that I have finished reading, my volume is fattened by a whole pad of post-it notes. "When the student is ready, . . . "


I've always been a bit uneasy with too much abstraction. One of the insights I've gleaned from O'Donohue: "the soul is the presence of the divine within us." Thank you. Merci.