Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Good House

This morning I reluctantly finished Bonnie Burnard's Giller-winning novel, A Good House. This is, by far, the best novel I've read this year. Perhaps one of the best of the last five years.

I feel like I've said goodbye to good friends.

I'm not ashamed to tell you that I had to close the novel and weep at several points -- not out of sadness necessarily, but because the author has such a painstaking facility with language that she is able to reach out from the novel's pages to touch our hearts.

It really is a work of the finest construction.

Burnard undertakes to tell the story of a large extended family from 1945 through to 1999. We visit them every five or seven years and learn what they've been up to. The characters who start the novel young and full of life grow old along the way, and new members of the family are born and grow up to take their place.

This is life, after all.

That Burnard manages to make us care about each of the characters -- and there are literally dozens of them -- is testament to her genius. It's probably the best use of author omniscient that I've encountered.

It's as moving and haunting as Our Town. Carol Shields calls it, "Perhaps the finest work of fiction produced in this country in some time." She's right.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Giving Back

I've spent a lot of years thinking about what motivates people to give to the causes they choose.

So let me ask you something.

When you prepare your income taxes, are you surprised by how much or how little you gave in the previous calendar year?

I have a theory. I think, for the most part, that there are plenty of people who think they give a lot more than they actually do.

Not so much Baby Boomers. More generation X and Y.

The latter group puts heavier emphasis on volunteerism and product purchase. And may swoop in with a sporadic contribution for a bright and shiny emergency or a pledge when a friend does a bike ride or a walk.

But regular, consistent monthly or several times per year donations to a single cause? Not so much.

I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about giving. What motivates you. What attracts you to it. Is there a moral imperative behind it. And, if you're willing, your age range.

Go ahead, give it to me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Someday this pain will be useful to you

I love the word "spate", particularly when it refers to the number of good books I've been reading recently.

For a time during the winter, I was reading a lot of non-fiction. Some biography and Buddhist philosophy, mostly. But in the last few weeks, I've really ramped up on the fiction.

Fiction massages my brain like Ambien.

It feels good to be transported to another world, especially when the main character is as precocious and compelling as James Sveck, author Peter Cameron's creation for his novel, Someday this pain will be useful to you.

I think it's intended to be a young adult novel -- call me immature -- but I found it merchandised with the GLBT Lit in (possibly) Toronto's best bookstore -- Nicholas Hoare. It looked interesting. They usually don't steer me wrong, so I picked it up.

Someday, someone -- maybe even me -- will write an essay for English class comparing James Sveck to Holden Caulfield.

There are certainly lots of parallels. But this is an older, post 9/11 Holden. More anxiety ridden. More sympathetic.

The LA Times got all gushy about it -- calling it "One of the all-time great New York books, not to mention an archly comic gem."

I couldn't put it down. Bet you won't be able to, either.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Jesus Agency

I interrupt my silence to bring you this.

This Anglican Church that I pass on my way to work every morning has been having some fun with its signboard over the past few weeks.

A few days ago it read: Come in for Happy Hour. Sundays 8:30 and 10:30.

Then: Now open between Easter and Christmas.

It reminds me of an old God campaign. You probably remember it, too.

Can you imagine the price of air if it was brought to you by another supplier?

What do I need to do to get your attention? Take out an ad in the paper>?

How can you possibly be a self-made man? I can specifically recall making you.

Tell the kids I love them.

Let's meet at my house, Sunday before the game.

C'mon over and bring the kids.

What part of "Thou shalt not" don't you understand?

We need to talk.

Loved the wedding. Invite me to the marriage.

Big bang theory. You've got to be kidding.

You think it's hot here.

Don't make me come down there.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Three Year Old Diet

George Bernard Shaw said it best, "Youth is wasted on the young."

If I could bottle three year old energy, there's no telling what I could accomplish.

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon watching the oddly entertaining Disney Stars on Ice with my adult pals and their extremely enigmatic three year old daughter. For every one of our steps, she took about thirty -- often darting ahead of us because she was impatient with our progress, then returning to encourage us along.

Three year olds have only two speeds -- on and off. If she's not going one hundred miles an hour, she's asleep in her car seat. That's all there is.

Forget French women not getting fat, you need to move like a three year old if you have any hope of being svelte into your forties.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fat Chance

And we wonder why there are so many people vying to be The Biggest Loser. This should be illegal.