I recently had a middle of the night worry that an author of a book I didn’t like might stumble across one of my I-didn’t-like-it reviews. Don’t worry. I fell quickly back to sleep. But the thought lingered. I like writing a good scathing review as much as the next blogger, but was I being fair to the novelist? Was I just having fun being a little too mean? Continue reading
Category Archives: Governor Generals
Anosh Irani’s The Parcel follows Madhu, a transgender prostitute in Bombay’s red-light district, as she delivers on an assigned responsibility to prepare a captured girl, Kinjal, for induction into the sex trade. Woven onto this plot line is a thread documenting the history and culture of the hijra – those of the third sex – in Bombay, including the complex system of governance and authority in this community including what kinds of work are permitted, what kinds of allegiances are owed and how members of this community joined or are exiled. Layered, too, is an exploration of gentrification of this particular city (but cities more broadly) and the economic and social consequences for those displaced by this gentrification (a particularly compelling thread for me as I’m writing from a city that is currently grappling with how these displaced populations are represented both figuratively and literally in the sense of their political representation). Continue reading
Clara Callan: In which I start writing the review ambivalent, and end up not liking the book; or, the merit of writing reviews
Oh I don’t know. It’s hard sometimes to summon a review. Sometimes you read something and think ‘yes. that was just fine.’ And in the case of Richard Wright’s (why does he insist on the middle initial?) Clara Callan, I have no solid argument against reading it, but I also can’t muster a persuasive case for picking it up. So sure, if you find yourself in a hostel with a free copy (or in my case, a used bookstore with a copy in the $1 bin and your only other reading material is the very boring A Brief History of Seven Killings) then by all means: go in. Continue reading
I heard Patrick de Witt read from *The Sisters Brothers* in Hamilton last year, and the book excerpt – and the reading – was brilliant. The novel won the Governor General’s Award and the Writers Trust. It was shortlisted for the Giller and the Booker. N. told me to read it, so did J. and I. (in short all my most trusted recommenders). Yet it took being stranded in the airport with nothing to read – a battery dead on an ereader at the end of a vacation is a sure testament to the staying power of print – before I finally sat down (trapped on a plane) to read it.
Why my resistance? When the book is SO FUCKING GOOD?
I don’t know. I blame my disinterest in cowboys (even though I loved True Grit, The Englishman’s Boy and Lightening) (I think this means I’m not *actually* disinterested in cowboys so much as I *think* I should be disinterested in cowboys). I blame the title for making me think it was going to be about some boring sister and her brothers (sigh). Maybe I blame my own stand-off-ish-ness to historical fiction post-dissertation? Yeah, maybe that (in fact I think this is the secret of the life post thesis – or maybe not secret, but I’d never heard it talked about – and that is that when you finish four years of thinking about a particular genre almost exclusively, by the end of those four years you want absolutely nothing to do with that genre Ever Again even if it also happens to be your *favourite* genre. What a bind).
So anyway. I was wrong to wait this long. I should have read this the day it came out because (let me say it again) it is so. good. It’s dark, and funny, and features incredibly well developed characters, it asks questions about morality, will and choice, duty and what it means to be a gentle, man. It is really very, very good.
So yeah, sorry to N. and J. and I. I should have listened to you. My favourite part? Calling N. to tell him to go out and get the book Right Away and having him sigh and remind me that he recommended it to me months ago (he’s so good to put up with me).