I usually try to balance out my adult reading with children’s literature. Recently, I seem to have been more engaged with middle school fiction, but have had some digressions with some very fine fiction for grown-ups.
THREE TALL WOMEN by Edward Albee (script)
I recently went to see a terrific Broadway production of this play (Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf, Alison Pill) and decided to re-read the script of this 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner by Edward Albee. The play is presented in two acts, with characters identified as A B C. In Act One, A, a cantankerous senior, is tended by a caregiver, B and visited by C who is hoping to get A’s affairs in order. Act Two has A B and C playing the same character at different stages of her life.
I’VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL YOU: A letter to my daughter by David Chariandy
The author presents thoughts on heritage and identity to help his 13 year old daughter consider the politics of race and a sense of responsibility for her present and future life. Chariadny, the son of Black and South Asian migrants from Trinidad, draws on his personal ancestral past and experiences growing up as a visible minority.
HOW TO WRITE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL by Alexander Chee (essays)
The sixteen essays in this collection help us to learn and care about the growth of a queer American Korean writer as we read about his background experiences in university, in publishing and in teaching writing. We learn about his Chee’s life as a young gay man, his experiences as an activist, his adult relationships and his quest to survive as a successful artist in America. The book is a melange of memoir and exposition and an advice column for those who choose to dedicate themselves to the craft of writing. I look forward to next reading his novel Edinburgh.
CITY POEMS by Joe Fiorito (poetry)
I bought this small anthology because it paints stark portraits of downtown Toronto living, neighbourhoods that I am familiar with. Fiorito gives voice to the downtrodden, the drugged-out the dying folk. Most poems are short and pack a brutal punch. Note: I was hoping to be able to use some of these poems in drama workshops centred on homelessness, but they are too stark and too bleak for anyone but adult readers.
WHAT IS IT ALL BY LUMINOUS by Art Garfunkel (autobiography)
I have been a fan of Art Garfunkel’s voice for many years. (Angel Clare would be one of my desert island choices.) I was intrigued to read his autobiographical book. This book seems to be a stream of consciousness venture, filled with poetry and photographs from the singer’s life. The text is also presented in non-traditional font in order to represent the author’s writings over the years. This is not your standard/traditional narrative story of a person’s life. Lots of ambiguity and inferring about his relationships and his artistry. The book reads like a poem so I was able to glean some highlights about this person, but was often challenged to interpret his statements and insights with ease. I think I’ll stick to his music. Does anyone notice he faint aroma of slowly decaying flesh? /I’m depressed. All is vanity. Where is meaning? We are eating and excreting organisms. We’re led by maitre d’s. / We rest our Western Civilization on plumbing…
WHAT BELONGS TO YOU by Garth Greenwell
Terrific reviews for this debut novel (2016) that tells the story of a gay man and his encounters and ‘friendship’ with a hustler in Bulgaria. A striking glimpse into one aspect of gay culture but the novel also strikes a universal chord regarding lust and relationships, trust and fidelity, the past and the present.
THE SPARSHOT AFFAIR by Alan Hollinghurst
Hollinghurst won the Man Booker Prize in 2004 for his novel The Line of Beauty. After reading some terrific reviews f I was eager to dig into the new novel that takes place over several decades. I enjoyed the first 1/3 of the novel but my interest waned as the decades passed. In the end, I was somewhat warmed over as we learned about generations of a handful of gay men, their admirers, their secrets, their talents and their exploits that seem to be in-tune with the times they live in. I wish I cared more about the characters and their connections. I much preferred John Boyne’s The Hearts Invisible Furies which had stronger narrative power and emotional engagement telling the story of a gay character from ‘womb to tomb’.
WARLIGHT by Michael Ondaatje
When I went to purchase this book, I asked the clerk if he heard it was ‘good’. He said, “Even if you don’t like Ondaatje’s narrative, you have to admire his great writing.” Alas, I didn’t love this book. I didn’t even like it much. I was intrigued at first by the central characters who were adolescents and the first thirty or forty pages had me interested in their plight of being abandoned by their parents. The plot sort of settled into my familiarity with reading novels for adolescents. As the book unfolds, characters that I thought were bizarre, and situations which I found hard to grasp did not engage me. As the mystery of the parent’s past and present lives unfolds, the book got more and more disjointed for me. And boring. I ended up skimming through the last 30 pages – just wanted to finish the darn novel. I went online to read some reviews – raves by many and one or two stars by a large number of readers who found the narrative to be convoluted and unengaging. One and half stars from me. I guess ya gotta admire Ondaatje’s writing.
MOTHERING SUNDAY by Graham Swift
A novel about secret lovers between two ‘upstairs / downstairs’ characters. The book shifts back and forth in time but is mostly centred in the year 1924. An intriguing love story. Thanks for passing this novel on to me DN. Dare I ask, ‘Is this a woman’s book?’
What a beautiful book. A beautiful Canadian book. The narrative crosses continents and different generations, but the chapter titles clearly inform the reader of the time and place of the different characters. When novels are described as sweeping adventures, I know understand what this means as the author takes us through time and sweeping events in the lives of Bangladeshi characters. The story particularly resonates with the complexities of legal immigration. Arif Anwar, you are a fine author! The Storm kept me good company on a 12 hour airplane flight to China.