Friday, April 15, 2011

A girl named Lionel

I've got another book for you but don't let the subject matter scare you off.

I promise you that it's the kind of book you call in sick to stay home to read.Or maybe not, once you see what sickness gets you.

Novelist Lionel Shriver, born Margaret Ann Shriver, has written an oddly life-affirming work about disease, dying and the obscene cost of medical care in contemporary America as seen through the eyes of searingly real and complicated characters.

The novel takes an unflinching look at love and loyalty in the face of almost-certain death...which includes our own, of course.

The protagonist, a likeable guy by the name of Shep Knacker, has spent his whole life saving and building a business with one goal in mind: the Afterlife. He's spent a large portion of his working life counting down the minutes until he can retire and move himself and his family to a cheap third world country where he can live like a king on a pittance.

Tickets bought, he's about to tell his wife it's now or never when she announces that she's just been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

The very best thing I can say about this book is that it's not remotely sentimental. You'll cry, of course, but not because you're manipulated into doing so. This isn't Brian's Song.

Shriver confronts the grim truth of mortality with brilliance and humour. And I promise you at least one moment where you'll say "Oh my God!" out loud to an empty room.

Don't be afraid to pick this up. Guaranteed good read.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What about love?

Love Etc. finished the Doc Soup season last night. The film followed five engaging love stories over the course of a year in New York City.

Young, old, gay, straight, single or married for 48 years, -- every story had a common thread: the search for and cultivation of love. When this film is released -- which I hope it is -- I hope you run out and see it.

I'm not one to be quoting scripture, but the stories reminded me of 1 Corinthians 13. If you're not the believing sort, you've probably heard it read out at weddings. The couples and singles in the film seemed to embody the verse at various stages. Here it is if you need a primer.

Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own, is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;
love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

The film reminded me of Young@Heart in its celebration of the heart truths of ordinary people and the things that bind us.

But, I haven't even gotten to the best part of the night, which was this.

It being the Bloor, the first seat I chose was broken. When I found an alternate, the woman I sat beside started chatting with me, then paused and said, "Didn't we live beside each other in Cabbagetown?" Yup. I sat beside my old neighbour. After the Doc, when audience members were invited to ask questions, I recognized a voice. It was the guy from work who I replaced at a radio record yesterday.