Saturday, February 28, 2009

Book Review - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

A tad overrated, but still worth the read.

What a dismal and depressing state of affairs The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time turns out to be. Heavy-heartedness for the obvious struggles and emotional deficits of the main character, and narrator, suffering from Asperger Syndrome, were a harsh enlightenment. Then to add the lamentable fact that his parents would never feel emotion from their only son was crushing. But truly the most distressing aspect was that in a system where young Christopher had been brainwashed to believe in the horrors of ‘Stranger Danger,’ not unlike most kids in today’s society, it was only too obvious that it was the people closest to him that offered the most clear and present danger, and that instead it was a stranger that afforded him safety.

Though Haddon had an interesting and fresh concept in this one, I did find it a little slow at times, especially with the detailing of math equations. That being said, it was obviously affective and gave a better understanding and depth into our protagonist and his obsessive and genius-like behaviours.

By the anti-climactic end I realized that the story reminded me of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man, and how I had the same feelings of perpetual melancholy when I watched that many moons ago. My heart goes out to all families dealing with any form of autism, because God knows it takes super-human strength to deal with it at all, never mind well.

3/5 Snakes

Friday, February 27, 2009

Book Review - Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards

Evil is as evil does

Having picked up far too many books at the library on my last visit, I thought I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to finish Mercy Among the Children before its due date, but I made it a priority once hearing it was a Canada Reads 2009 selection. I will happily pay the late fees when entertained with such thought provoking and affecting storytelling as this.

Our narrator, Lyle Henderson, has the misfortune of being a descendent of a father and grand-father who have been outcasts in their small New Brunswick town for decades. Poverty, alcohol and condemnation have all been sources of ridicule and embarrassment that these men have had to endure. Lyle’s father, Sydney, a compassionate, stoic and righteous man, lives his life under the “turn the other cheek,” philosophy, and has faith in the fact that those who attempt to hurt him or his family, will eventually hurt themselves. This is a tough pill to swallow for Lyle, who sees his dad’s inability to protect or stand up for the family as pacifism, and ultimately neglect. His eventual recourse is to become a renegade, as he starts to detest all the propriety and weakness that his father seems governed by.

I would often find myself in a tizzy after reading the incessant small-town gossip and lies that run rampant throughout, and in disgust would throw the book down and pace my living room shouting obscenities at the ruthless and diabolical nature of the characters Richards has expertly presented us with. I would ferociously plead for Saint-Sydney to grow a spine and reject the false accusations made of him. As another one of his philosophies is never to beg the truth of anyone that wouldn’t understand it, for him justice was something that could only be obtained through patience, and waiting for others to self-destruct, not participating in injurious revenge. It was these instilled moral convictions versus a teenagers need be accepted and feel safe within the morally corrupt society around him, that ignited the internal battle between good and evil that Lyle found himself struggling with throughout this complex, tragic, and tightly woven tale.

Although you won’t find any perfectly ‘happy endings’ here, there are ponderous messages relating to spirituality, the essence of bravery, the possibility of redemption in spite of affliction, and the importance of truth, that leave me feeling challenged and inspired, no matter how lamentable the outcomes. I look forward to reading more of David Adams Richards’ work.

5/5 Snakes

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Book Review - Generation X by Douglas Coupland



















Phew, I'm glad that's over!

Upon finishing what appears to be the last chapter of Generation X, if not including the statistics section entitled Numbers, I am only slightly surprised by my loud and spontaneous outpouring of the chorus to All You Need Is Love.

I’m not sure how I feel about this writer, Douglas Coupland, and his first novel, as I have never read anything else that he has written, and thereby have nothing to compare it to, nor do I have any knowledge of any personal growth that he might have had as a writer since. I know that it took me a full week to get through it, and being that it is less than 200 pages, this cannot be a good sign, and probably speaks for itself.

I can appreciate the messages relating to social responsibility for our environment, consumption and consumerism, as I’m often one to amplify the same thoughts. I can get down with the existential reflections of those on a mission to find themselves and their place in this gargantuan world. And I can even say that for many years I subscribed to the ‘terminal wanderlust’ as experienced by the main characters in this novel. What I can’t get onboard with is the bitter and resentful attitude characters like Dag emit towards their parents and their ‘easy’ lives, “...with no worries of futurelessness.” Those same parents were able to provide a life for Dag, through hard work and stability, whereby he had the choice to either be a stuffed shirt in a cubicle or to traipse around Palm Springs finding his purpose, and they did this all, never knowing what the future held. Coming from an upbringing where the aforementioned parenting was not a given, I suppose I just find this kind of spoiled-brat whining annoying and offensive to my sensibilities. Be mad at the corporate monster, give up all your worldly possessions if it helps you to sleep at night, but always be thankful for what you have, because others who don’t-have are struggling because of it.

Ultimately, I believe that the angst shown by the generation X’ers of this novel differs none from any generation that looks to the one before them. Everyone thinks their generation has it the worst, life has gotten harder, and that nobody understands their plight; just one of the many writes of passage to maturity.

A couple of Neo-logisms from the novel, that I favoured:
Emotional Ketchup Burst: The bottling up of opinions and emotions inside oneself so that they explosively burst forth all at once, shocking and confusing employers and friends, most of whom thought things were fine.

Option Paralysis: The tendency, when given unlimited choices, to make none.

Terminal Wanderlust: A condition common to people of transient middle-class upbringings, unable to feel rooted in any one environment, they move continually in the hopes of finding an idealized sense of community in the next location.

2/5 Snakes

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Book Review - Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill

Not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

On the seedy streets of the red-light district in Montreal we are observers to the lonely and depressing existence of Baby, our twelve-year-old heroin. Heroin serves to identify more than just the lead, heroic character in this story, as it also is the drug of choice for Baby’s young and irresponsible father, Jules. With her mother long since dead, and no real ties to their remaining family members, Baby and Jules must fight the mean streets defenceless and alone, their foremost challenge always basic survival.

Lullabies for Little Criminals is a coming of age story, for the downtrodden, misfortunate and abandoned. By the end of the novel Baby is only thirteen years old, yet she seems to have lived a lifetime, as she transforms from a child to adolescent to adult, all within the span of two years. Desperate to find love and feel like she belongs to something or even someone, Baby is constantly changing and moulding herself to what she feels others want or need from her. She soon realizes that she is desired by some, and although they happen to be a pimp, perverted paedophiles or other wayward children, this attention is better than being alone. As she bounces from foster home to detention centre to the sketchy one-bedrooms that her father temporarily provides, a solid identity is the least of her worries.

Heather O’Neill’s tumultuous upbringing in Montreal, after being abandoned by her mentally ill mother, obviously served her well when writing this gravely accurate depiction of growing up on the streets. Her descriptions of how drugs and alcohol can instantly provide a physical and emotional comfort, where there usually were none, are spot on. The portrayal of the street hierarchy, with the most neglected and down-and-out kids reigning as the supreme leaders, and how they wear their hunger and abandonment as a badge of honour, is appalling but irrefutable.

Lullabies tragically flawed and pathetic characters serve as a reminder to many that destitution can be found blocks away from our cushy and privileged lives, and that the cycle of addiction and poverty is as common and unfaltering as the cycle of life. If you can stomach it, open up your eyes to a parallel reality and read this devastating work of ‘fiction.’

3.5/5 Snakes

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review - Darkness Visible by William Styron

A literary memoir on madness

William Styron was a soldier in his internal war with melancholia, who after rising up from the depths of its temporary madness decided to share his fashioned armour and learned defences with the afflicted masses, via Darkness Visible.

This literary memoir details one mans descent into paralyzing inertia, discontent and hopelessness, while never once causing the reader to follow suit. Styron seemingly attempts to dispel some of the myths surrounding hospitalization, and the efficacy of pharmacology, while informally poo-pooing ‘group’ and ‘art’ therapies, asserting that they may be helpful to others, irrespective of their inability to assist him. In an effort to explain and understand the root of depression and its piercing clutches, Styron subscribes to the theory of an “incomplete mourning” of profound loss in childhood, as one of its driving instigations. The insinuation is also made that it is a disease that commonly affects artistic types - especially poets - and women, to higher degrees.

What I take away with me at the end of this short glimpse into the malady of a literary giant, are some profoundly affecting and, possibly, life saving observations that have surely helped countless people find their way out of the desolate labyrinth that is depression.

“Even those for whom any kind of therapy is a futile exercise can look forward to the eventual passing of the storm. If they survive the storm itself, its fury almost always fades and then disappears. Mysterious in its coming, mysterious in its going, the affliction runs its course, and one finds peace.”

3/5 Snakes

Monday, February 23, 2009

Book Review - The Art of the Steal - Frank Abagnale

Watch your wallets!

What a ride! I’m shocked and appalled at the incidence of thievery and deception out there, and it is utterly amazing how easily it can all take place. Frank Abagnale is the author of The Art of the Steal, and you may remember him as the person Catch Me If You Can was based upon. What else should an expert conman do after turning straight? Why, provide information on how to catch guys like him of course.

Clearly, Abagnale is a very crafty and intelligent man for all of the shenanigans that he was able to pull off in his past, and now, marketing himself and his abilities after the fact. Between his books and his lectures, he most certainly must be comfortable. He has created this valuable collection of warnings teaching how to minimize your vulnerability and risk of being taken advantage of, and only briefly goes over his past deceit. That information can all be obtained in one of his other books, so I was happy with just short outlines.

I chose to listen to an audio book for this one and I’m really glad I did, as there are short sections that you can easily leave and come back to. Also, the narrator has great timing and a calm way about him when reading, which makes it relaxing, even though the content might have your stomach in a knot. It’s ghastly and terrorizing to think of the lives that have been lost to medications and airplane parts that are being counterfeited, or the identity theft that can take place from a simple obituary.

Although I’m sure this will help many people in their attempts to protect themselves, I shudder to think how many crooks are polishing up on their skills with this information.

3/5 Snakes

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Book Review - Rhymes With Useless - Terence Young

I defy you not to relate with at least one of Young's genuine characters!

I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of short stories, as I often feel inadequate in my comprehension of what it is the author is really trying to convey. On more than a few occasions I've finished a story and thought, “Did I miss something?” This is not a question that I enjoy asking, nor does it help with my literary confidence. I then will take a step back and process the details, making sure to point out that writing is art, and it can be interpreted in a million different ways by a million different people. In the end I try to convince myself that I am just a person who requires a lot of information and character development to actually get it.

Rhymes with Useless was a little less harsh on my ego, but there were still a few moments where I felt I’d missed the boat. None the less, Terence Young has compiled 13 stories that accent honest characters, living day-to-day, with real issues. From a child’s perspective of her parents’ failing relationship, to a teenager’s first experience with love, to a young couple settling into the doldrums of a marriage, to a middle aged woman’s struggle with her faith, and to an elderly man’s evaluation of his years, the whole spectrum of individuals was represented. Amidst the feelings of remorse and regret, the thoughts of revenge, the hidden desires, as well as the sometimes revolting truths that surfaced as a result of people just honestly being people, it is apparent that Young has an astounding sense of the common man and his/her idiosyncrasies. Those who favour short stories will surely not be disappointed by this Canadian talent.

3/5 Snakes

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book Review - Me Talk Pretty One Day: Stories - David Sedaris

Getting to know David Sedaris

David Sedaris doesn’t pull any punches while introducing us to his eclectic family, and observing the entertaining and often ridiculous idiosyncrasies of common Americans, as well as the French. Me Talk Pretty One Day is laugh-out-loud funny as Sedaris has the ability to expose and turn any seemingly ordinary situation into hilarity, by picking it apart and applying a healthy dose of sarcasm and a honed wit.

To think that the foundation of his extended vocabulary in elementary school was due to using a thesaurus to find s-free alternatives in order to escape his pronounced lisp and keep the loathsome school appointed speech therapist, or as he referred to her, ‘articulation coach,’ off his back.

Although it is hard to pick a favourite from these 27 insightful and animated recollections, I find myself partial to the stories detailing his family and their quirky personalities. I think it would be quite the event to be a fly on the wall at one of their traditional Greek Orthodox Easter dinners. I look forward to reading more of Sedaris’ comedic moxie.

4/5 Snakes

Friday, February 20, 2009

Book Review - An Audience of Chairs - Joan Clark

An empathetic and well-written account of manic-depression.

I had selected An Audience of Chairs from the bargain section, as filler to reach the free shipping mark, during one of my many online book-buying sprees last year, and accordingly did not expect much from it. It sat patiently waiting and collecting dust on my bookshelf, in hopes that I would one day give it the attention that it so rightfully deserved. In an effort to finally make a dent in the copious amount of unread books that are taking up the diminishing space on my oversized shelves, I finally picked up this Canadian piece of fiction, and am I ever glad I did.

And so began my love affair with Moranna MacKenzie, the proud, self-absorbed, impetuous and free-spirited heroin of Joan Clark’s imagination. I am left with an impression of melancholy and bewilderment, now that her story has been told and she is no longer a part of my existence, as I have spent the last two days completely enthralled in hers. On more than a few occasions I found myself breathless, anxiously awaiting her next unbridled move that would only further her unfortunate descent into madness.

Although those closest to Moranna were quick to blame her mental illness for all that befell her, it was quickly apparent to me that it was also those accusers that needed to shoulder some of the blame. Her father failed her by keeping her mother’s illness a secret, as she might have found help for herself before having children, thus avoiding many of the hardships she was faced with. Secondly, the real tragedy of Moranna’s story is not her abandonment of her children, but her husbands abandonment of her, as she was sick and in need of help, while he was of sound mind and had vowed to be there for her in sickness and in health. Alas, it may be that her forced independence is what led her to a place of contentment, as her anger and will helped her to eventually weather the storm.

That being said, one of the most telling parts of the story, for me, was Moranna’s aversion to the story of the crucifixion of Christ, and his dying whilst taking responsibility for our sins. This cherished Easter story proved too much for her to bear, as she, in true form with her illness, was never able to take responsibility for any of the adversity or mistakes arising from her instability.

In the end, it is the unyielding empathy that Joan Clark affords this tragic character, and that I, as the audience filling one of those chairs, feels for her, that makes this story such an amazing and affecting journey into the complex, isolating and misunderstood abyss that is Manic-Depression.

4.5/5 Snakes

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book Review - The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

In short, a story on the effects of war and its castrating abilities.

The Sun Also Rises at first appears to be a story based upon Robert Cohn, a shy and awkward ex-boxer, who is insecure, yet disciplined in his struggle to rise up and out of the shadows. Quickly we realize that Cohn is little more than a weak and tormented scapegoat for the narrator and the other expatriates of the novel to debase and mock, all in efforts to ignore their own self-loathing and disgruntled lives.

Cohn, a self-conscious writer lacking any true connection with others, whilst shouldering emasculating abuse from women as a constant, is a clear and vicious reminder of all of the traits that Jake Barnes, our narrator, despises about himself. Since the feminizing war, Jake is not unlike many other men who had returned from combat broken and lost, choosing to pay no mind to their servitude and how it had changed them. Theirs is a life impaired by an arrested development, devoid of any meaning, direction or significance. They stay numb with drink and forever search for the next form of entertainment to keep their minds occupied. Some trivial, like getting ‘tight’ at the bars, some poetic, like the destructive and metaphorical bull-fights.

At the contrast of the weak men, we are presented with few women in The Sun Also Rises, all of which are strong, dominating and controlling, and, frankly, come off as bitchy whores. Lady Ashley, our femme fatale, is quite possibly the most tragic and damaged of all the flawed personalities we encounter. It is interesting to note that although she was not part of the war, she did lose her true love to it, leaving her part of the lost generation indirectly, as a consequence. Although you would be hard pressed to find any very likeable men or women in this cast of characters, I did finish the novel with an aftertaste of misogyny in my mouth, and I’m interested to see what the female roles of Hemingway’s other works amount to.

Hemingway’s clean and precise writing style, lacks in rhetoric or pretentiousness, yet this is not meant to imply that his work is simple or commonplace, as The Sun Also Rises is like a pungent onion, that you slowly peal-back layer by layer, always respectfully aware of its strength and savouring its dissolve.

4/5 Snakes

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book Review - Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

I've finally read it, and I'm content in my discomfort.

Good Ford! I sit here exhausted after finishing Brave New World, and the first thought to enter my mind is that I am grateful to my High School English Department for not including it in our studies, as I’m sure it would have sent me into a fast and furious depression. Alas, I feel that a gramme of soma may be my only recourse. haha

Huxley’s didactic and political satire has sent me into a spiral of whirling emotions, as I draw far too many comparisons from his dystopian society to our modern day. A revolutionary of his time, Huxley’s oppressive World State is not a far cry from the western world, as he conjures up images of the lower-caste members as “… a long caterpillar of men and women travelling home on the monorail.” (Wasn’t I a part of that caterpillar in my trek home on the TTC yesterday, minus the doses of soma to keep things civil?)

How about the nine-years war, which created a state of fear and panic, forcing the government to take charge and control all measures of the World State in pedantic form, in order to stabilize society and provide uniform happiness? However, to me, enforced happiness seems just as ridiculous and unattainable as enforced democracy. Of course one could argue that both of these things are illusions, in and of themselves anyway.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this ‘fictional’ world is the use of a structured class system, derived by embryo manipulation, sleep hypnosis, and the numbing soma, to create a population of slaves who happily carry out the dirty work for the upper-caste members of society. This of course being the most powerful parallel to western civilization, as the capitalist machine oppressively ensures that immigrants and children of low-income families get stuck in the cycle of low-paying, dead-end jobs, unable to afford an education that could possibly enhance their opportunity for personal growth. How would consumerism continue at this accelerated rate if everyone were educated? Who would take on the monotonous task of flipping the burgers, or working the assembly lines? In the end, theirs is a sacrifice for the greater good of the collective. (I can’t help but be reminded of the Borg.) And if they complain, just write them a prescription for the latest anti-depressant or anti-psychotic that the ravenous pharmaceutical monster is peddling.

All in all, the World State is a mirror of our world wrought with consumerism, sexual liberation and sedation through government-issue medication, simply exaggerated. In this state of disillusionment and contentment through instant gratification, the truth of our existence is lost. Without our passion for each other, artistic expression, scientific exploration or dogma, what is the purpose of our time here on earth

4/5 Snakes

Book Review - Blindness - Jose Saramago

In a word, FRUSTRATING

Blindness was my first encounter with Jose Saramago, and between being beaten over the head with his allegorical commentary, struggling through the lack of punctuation and quotations, and experiencing some of the most horrifying and disturbing scenes I’ve ever read, I am almost at a loss for words. I can only assume that some of the story was lost in translation, or at least I hope so, because even upon reading and re-reading page-long paragraphs, I still didn’t have a clear picture of some of the finer nuances within this daunting narrative.

As I gather, this is a statement on the fragility of society, and the weakness of the human condition. It points an accusatory finger at government and authority, and its inability to provide for its citizens in a time of crisis. This of course is brutally honest when considering the disastrous outcome of tragedies like Hurricane Katrina. Its nameless characters are reduced to animal instinct, and as such, spend every waking hour in survival mode, forging for food and water, seeking shelter and protecting their precious lives from others, also just looking to survive, all of this while completely blind. In this regard, Saramago shows us that we are just one small step away from complete and utter chaos, in a world where we rely so heavily on technology and the systems which it has created. Although the main cast of characters are rather one dimensional, they do provide hope that humans can remain civil and loving, even in the most desperate of situations, at least in small groups.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad novel, and you do eventually get used to the style in which it was written, but I definitely expected more from it, and find that it was slightly overrated. The plot was gripping, and Saramago’s mind is quite creative, but in the end I just found myself wishing that someone with a different style had produced it

3/5 Snakes

Monday, February 16, 2009

Book Review - Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal - Eric Schlosser

Sex, Drugs and Slaughterhouses

Whoa! If there weren’t enough reasons I was aware of for me to continue to avoid fast food, I have just added fifty more. Let’s put the obvious health risks involved aside and just focus on the oppressive and exploitive nature of these major corporations that are brainwashing, feeding and devouring our children, and that should be enough to have you on a soap box at Dundas Square.

Would it surprise you to know that for over two decades the right wing of the U.S. Republican Party has worked closely with the fast food industry and the meat packing industry to oppose food safety laws, worker safety laws and increases in the minimum wage? If corporations in bed with the government weren’t bad enough, we learn about the ties to the mafia and how they were used as enforcements to keep labour unions out of the slaughterhouses. Or what about the methamphetamines supplied to migrant workers to keep them awake for endless shifts in these deplorable and often fatally dangerous workplaces? How about the sexual harassment bestowed upon female workers in order to be moved to a better department, or even to just keep their horrendous jobs? Sex, Drugs and Slaughterhouses might have been a better title for this eye opening account of the dangers of mass production. The shock and awe doesn’t stop there, as Schlosser informs us that until the Clinton administration stepped in, the government purchased the cheapest ground beef available, from suppliers with repeated infractions of E. coli and Salmonella contamination, to sell in their school lunch programs.

At the end of this book I am left feeling ill, but not ill-informed, as there is a plethora of outstanding information to be absorbed. Although sometimes the writing lacked a certain flow, jumping back and forth between points, only to repeat the same information, and sometimes the same sentences. Regardless, everyone should be made to read Fast Food Nation and learn about the atrocities involved in making food fast, and corporations rich even faster. Part of me is wishing and hoping that things aren’t as bad here in Canada, but alas I am left with the feeling that greed is an international and human flaw, and that corruption knows no borders.

3.5/5 Snakes

Book Review - The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank

Inspiring and Courageous!

I recently picked up this book because my ten year old niece expressed interest in reading it, and I wanted to make sure that the content wasn't too graphic for her quickly diminishing innocence. I’ve come to the conclusion that Anne’s story would undoubtedly teach appreciation for the small things in life, a strong work ethic and the importance of a positive mental attitude. However, because this is a diary recording the thoughts of a young teenage girl, it also covers Anne’s discovery of her sexuality, her adversity towards her parents, mixed in with some spoiled-brat whining, these of course all being areas where a ten year old needs no help with advancement. I will be sure to pass the book on to her when she is about thirteen, when I’m sure she will better relate with Anne’s plight.

Ultimately, Anne was insightful, self-aware and very driven, and it is amazing to notice her continuing transformation into a mature young adult as the entries progress. I found her determination to be a writer very inspiring, and even though Anne’s young life was cut short due to the horrors of the Nazi party, her dream was still realized after her death through her diary.

3.5/5 Snakes

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day


That is the customary greeting on February 14th, but it is an illusion for many and a commercial cash-grab for most. What once was an opportunity for people to share and express love for one another, either by a hand-written love note, or some other form of romantic gesture, has turned into an all out gift-giving extravaganza, where florists and chocolatiers feel the need to rip us off by jacking their prices by at least 100%. What about the poor single person on Valentine’s Day? Bombarded with images of lovers walking hand-in-hand, as the young woman gushes over her new diamond ring, and the young man looks on in adoration, that lonely schmuck gets to contemplate what he/she has done wrong in their life to miss out on such splendor. At this time of year, while trying to fight off the winter blahs, that is a one-way ticket to Depressionville.

It is reported that the U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, behind Christmas. The association estimates that, in the US, men spend on average twice as much money as women. Poor suckers. But that’s how they have you by the balls. How could you deny your lovely what is rightfully hers on this holiday for lovers? Clearly, an inability to provide a box of chocolates or a dozen long-stem roses only highlights the fact that you care nothing for your mate, and that it is only a matter of time before your relationship dissolves into nothing. Ha! What a scam.

I do believe in love. I am not a pessimistic or cold-hearted spinster. I am happily engaged and am more in love now than I have ever been. I don’t, however, subscribe to the idea that spending a hundred dollars on overpriced trinkets or parishables, to line the pockets of CEOs for the corporate monster, is an honourable or devoted way to celebrate love. And I may be naive, but there’s something inside of me that feels that most women would appreciate a hand-written poem, or a few tender words of appreciation to some heart-shaped, helium balloons, any day. Besides, save the flowers for random days throughout the year, they’ll be cheaper, unexpected and much more fulfilling.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Book Review - The Edible Woman - Margaret Atwood

A literary delicacy!

In the first part of The Edible Woman we meet Marian, a self-reliant, educated, modern woman (for the 60s/70s), who spends her days as a manipulator of words and the consumer, in her position at a market research firm. Despite these things, Marian is also an amiable and even yellow-bellied narrator who stretches herself to the limits in order to please the likes of her boss, her friends, her roommate, her landlady, and her boyfriend, a promising young lawyer with a suffocating fear of marriage and commitment. Seemingly, right from the start, she is a woman in battle with herself and, silently, with those ravenous others around her, to find her true self.

By Part II, the narrative of the novel shifts and the story is no longer told from Marian’s perspective, but instead from the third-person. Affectively, Atwood has us understand on a deeper level that our heroin is losing her identity, being devoured by those around her, and unraveling right before our very eyes. While we are observing the breakdown of Marian’s psyche, her autonomy, and her ability to eat, first meat, then eggs, then vegetables, she is preparing to marry her previously frightened but now enlightened, predatory fiancĂ©, Peter. At this time Marian finds she’s drawn to Duncan, a young graduate student who appears to be the polar opposite of Peter. Although not as emotionally draining and demanding as Peter, like most men in this novel he still has a predominant neediness to him. The difference with Duncan being that Marian at times also needs him, and is not afraid to ask when she does.

The Edible Woman is a stylistic tour-de-force, and although this is Atwood’s first novel, her metaphorical talents are found on every page. The characters behave strangely, almost whacky at times, but the messages are clear and important. Gender roles were at a shift when she wrote this novel, so I can imagine that it must have had a profound impact on the thoughts and feelings of women trying to find their place in the new and improved world. In this regard, all though women have been vacillating between their roles as caregiver and individual less in recent years, there is a timeless struggle-for-self apparent on these pages, that even today’s woman can’t help but relate to.

In the end, I’m amazed by a heroine that can have me revolted and ready to scream at her spinelessness at one moment, and then vigorously dazzled, while I rally behind her strength of character, at the next.

4/5 Snakes

What’s the haps, Yo !!?

Calling all bookworms, writers, pseudo/genuine intellectuals, and just plain, old Nosy Parkers, PeachyTO, a.k.a BookSnake, is in the blogger house, coming to you live from Ontario, Canada! I am new to this whole blogging thing, and in the interest of getting onboard with the latest trends (so I’m a bit behind), I’ve decided to give it a go.

I will consider this my new home for all of my thoughts and opinions relating to the books that I read or have read, and look forward to hearing any possible comments or words of wisdom from anyone that might happen upon my page. I am always open to feedback, book recommendations or large monetary donations. (lol)