Monday, February 27, 2006

Damn! Damn! Double Damn!

Hey there folks, got back my Shakespearean English Essay: a B-!

Turns out that my professor is a stickler, an extremely detail-oriented stickler, for the MLA format - as in, she deducts points for past tense, typos, and extra added line spaces, all of this stuff that none of my other English Professors saw fit to call me on. I have the MLA guide - I refer to it with my citations, mostly. Now I'm going to have to read the whole fuckin' thing from cover to cover so that Ms. Stickler can get her jollies reading my stuff. I like to imagine that wherever she lives is spotlessly clean and bare and boring.

That's probably not true, and probably very cliched. It'd be more funny if she had an untidy apartment while she was marking off points for every tiny missed detail in my essay. Did she even notice the actual content of my essay? Yes, she did, she thought I made a (relatively) good argument. But that still got me a B-. Talking to her afterwards, she said all of this I should have known from 1st year English.

1) I did not take first-year English, I skipped it due to an aced AP exam in High SChool.

2) My second- and third-year English professors had NO qualms whatsoever about where I Italicized and Bolded my fonts in my other essays.

So now I have some more reading to do, but not fun reading, apparently.

In other news, I am now official bored of Patrick Dempsey movies. Not with Patrick Dempsey, mind you, just his films. I watched Happy Together (where Dempsey finds himself [confoundingly] attracted to his very female, empty-headed, "free-spirited", college whore roommate who's afraid of commitment - Brad Pitt got mentioned very clearly in the beginning credits even though he was in two scenes!) and Some Girls (where my bilingual education came in handy when Dempsey goes to Quebec to see his girlfriend [Jennifer Connelly] - very boring, not nearly the quirky guy-sleeps-with-three-Canadian-sisters dramedy the trailer suggested it was). Both movies were tedious, although Dempsey went full frontal for Some Girls - which was, to tell you the truth, rather unpleasant to my sheltered Catholic girl sensibilities.

To be perfectly honest, the only movies of his that I wasn't bored by was Can't Buy Me Love, Scream 3, and Sweet Home Alabama. But now he's on every week on Grey's Anatomy, and he's very very good in that, and the TV show is very very good every week. So that's a million times better.

And, if you've been paying close attention, I've had to change my "What I'm Reading" segment three times! I've read a lot over Reading Week, which is appropriate. But now I have to go and read my MLA handbook, which will be very, very boring.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's Writing Time!

Yup, I finished reading Mystic Empire by Tracy and Laura Hickman. Turns the Bronze Canticles wasn't a trilogy. Anyhoo, you're not to read the review here - I got it as an advance copy (doesn't even come out until April) so you're going to have to wait your turn and read it at The Green Man Review.

In other writing news, I've been sought out and given an assignment by the editor of one of my city's weekly magazines, SEE Weekly. It's an interview, something I'm usually pretty iffy about doing, and it's kinda last minute, but it's a legitimate publication that loves hiring young people (and especially Gateway alumni), and also, did I mention? They pay. As in, real money. So hurrah for me - a little extra spending money - too bad I already spent it, ordering Storyteller: 27 Years of the Clarion Workshop and the three final books of Kate Elliot's Crown of Stars series. Heh heh heh.

So anyway, the assignment's really flattering, mostly because I didn't go looking to be working for SEE, they looked me up and liked what I wrote and so came and asked me. So, lots of writing. And still lots of reading - but it's very encouraging to see the pictures up on the sidebar.

Also, have you been to the Official Spider-Man Movie Website? They're giving Spidey a BLACK COSTUME for the third movie! This can mean only ONE thing - VENOM! Topher Grace is Venom! Whoohoo!

Pink, Pink, Pink, Pink, Pink....

I think I've made it very clear (through my posts and the style of my blog) exactly what my favourite colour is.
I like it very much.
So there.
*sticks out tongue*

I gots pictures now!

Like how I edited my sidebar? Now you can see the covers of the books I'm reading, or going to be reading. Excellent! It makes my site look so classy.

Anyhoo, on more news, I had a great day yesterday. Honestly, a great week. I've been spending most of it with my dear Mum, shopping for summer-job-interview clothes and sheets.

Usually shopping with Mum doesn't end well. Mum will make a well-meaning comment and I'll get defensive and insecure and we usually end up fighting. Well, this time it was just another lucky lucky shopping day because it turned out perfectly. We found a perfect, well-fitting blue-pinstriped suit for me at the second store we looked at, and it was on sale to boot. We bought that, a nice shirt, and pair of black dress pants. In the third shoe store we looked at, I found a pair of good black shoes that fit! (Turns out I have freakishly slender heels as well as freakishly tiny veins - which is why when I tried to give blood last Friday they missed the vein and didn't get enough blood out to do anybody any good) Plus, the shoes were also on sale.

I'm not sure if it was the new clothes that did it, but I aced the Test for Minimum Requirements I had to take to apply for my dream-job - a clerical Staff-Support job reserved for Post-Secondary students. It's a job in a typing pool for the city, which means if I get it this year, I'll be guaranteed it the next year, and the next, and the next, so I won't have to worry about summer jobs for University again (and this also means not having to settle for the movie theatre job).

The minimum requirements for the job were as follows:

I had to get 60% overal on the Word 2002 Knowledge Test. (I got 76%)
I had to manage 40 words per minute with 98% accuracy on the Typing Test. (I got 70 words per minute, 100% accuracy)
I had to manage 8000 keys per hour with 98% accuracy on the Data Entry Test (I typed 9200 keys per hour with 99% accuracy).

And on top of all that, I got asked to an interview! I really, really, really, really hope I get this job (really, really). It just seems so perfect, that any other summer job looks wretched by comparison. But I know I can't just give up and not take interviews with other jobs, even though I desperately want to. But I can't have another debacle the way I did last year, where I was let go from my job at the 11th hour and had to take up with a movie theatre to sling popcorn for three months. It was a great job (and had free movies), but it didn't pay near enough.

Moving on with the shopping - shopping for new sheets was harder, but we managed it without a fight and were able to have some quality time on the way. After THREE DAYS of looking through different stores for the best duvet cover/comforter/quilt (my room is painted pink, and the colours-du-jour seemed to be gold, beige, blue, brown, and green), we finally got the most beautiful pink patchwork quilt and green and blue sets of sheets. It looks fantasic - my room looks like the classiest bed-and-breakfast ever.

I have no problem cleaning up after myself and pretending a maid did it and that I'm living in a classy bed-and-breakfast.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Writing and Reading for Fun Again!

Today is the first official day of Reading Week. It's a ridiculous name - mostly because the majority of midterms (and the studying for said midterms) occur before this week. And also, because I'm done all of the reading I have to do for school and have at last turned to the gigantic pile of books I have to review for Green Man.

I also finished another short story, for my Creative Writing class. This one has to be about 2500 words, and my first draft of it has come to 2300. Pretty close, if you ask me. It's a pretty cool concept - I rely very heavily on the sense of smell more than any other sense in this story (hence the title: "Whiff") and (I like to think) it's dark and suspenseful and creepy without being too obvious and completely giving it away.

I think I'm going to put it in front of my online Writer's Group before I bring it before my in-person Writer's group, primarily because the online one caters to sci-fi and fantasy whereas it's anything-goes for my Creative Writing Class.

But I'm glad to be writing again.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Triple Book Reviews! "Snow Crash", "A Tourist's Guide to Glengarry", and "The Penelopiad"!

Wow, have I started reading faster or have the books just gotten smaller? I finished "Snow Crash", then devoured "Glengarry" and "Penelopiad" before I had another chance to update my blog! Anyhoo, here's the scoop - I will go into detail about why I liked/disliked these books, but not much else. Both "Snow Crash" and "Penelopiad" are the subjects for my University essays.

Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson:

This book was absorbing right from the very start, because it threw me right into a world both alarming and hilarious at once. Our hero/protagonist, helpfully named Hiro Protagonist, is a pizza-delivery boy who likes carrying (and frequently using) a pair of Japanese swords. Of course, in the future, all the pizza places are owned by the Mafia, and delivering the pizza under 30 minutes is such a sacred act that one has to study at Pizza Universities, and the failure to meet the 30-minute mark can result in class-action lawsuits, general embarassment, and the firing and possible death of the deliverer.

Anyhoo, Hiro, who only delivers pizza to support his freelance hacker job, due to car trouble nearly misses his deadline, and has to have his life saved and pizza delivered by a spunky teenage Kourier named Y.T. (short for Yours Truly). Of course, now their fates are intertwined, and things begin to get ugly when Hiro discovers that someone's devised a virus specially designed to fry the brains of hackers.

The entire world as we know it is gone in Snow Crash. There are no rules, no governments (except for the tiny United States of America, which is really just a bunch of deluded bureaucrats who like to pretend that rules and goverments still exist), and everything, from churchs (purchase salvation at your local Reverend Wayne's Pearly Gates franchise!), to freeways (intersections are hotspots for copyright infringements), to the police (take your pick: MetaCops or Enforcers Inc?), have been turned into money-making franchises! The world is OWNED by capitalism, warping public morality to such an extent that it makes the Mafia look like a wholesome family-run community service industry.

I was swallowed whole by the setting, and fully engaged by the characters, but the ending did leave a few, okay a lot, of loose ends that I hope will be explained away when we discuss it in class. By the way - I've officially finished ALL my reading for this semester. Have I mentioned that? This story was technical without being confusing, with a hint of mysticism and linguistics thrown in. I had to seriously think about the issues and ideas brought up by the novel (such as: the idea of information as virus that affects and changes the brain), and while I never had all of my questions answered, the book never made me feel stupid for not figuring everything out, and that's aces in my book.

A Tourist's Guide to Glengarry, by Ian Mcgillis

Now, while I was sucked into Snow Crash because of its bizarre, fantasic setting, I was drawn to Tourist's Guide because of the very opposite. It's set in Edmonton in the 1970s, and Edmonton is a city I know very well, and know equally well that it doesn't often get to be a setting in the books I read. A lot of the vernacular and scenic references that the 9-year-old protagonist uses are ones that I understand implicitly.

For instance, I've been to the downtown public library when the Children's section was still in the basement, and I remember Iggy the Iguana (although he must have been really old if he was the same iguana Neil saw in the '70s). I've always used the word crazy carpet for the thin sheets of plastic (with handles for us to hold on to cut at one end) that I used to slide down snowy hills with, but I've never read that term used in any book before Tourist's Guide. Despite the difference in time, I empathized and understood Neil.

Neil expresses a desire to be a writer, and his substitute teacher suggests that he start by writing everything that happens in one day. And a lot happens - although not all during that day. He leads us through the morning and each and every class he takes at school, but he frequently pauses to go into flashbacks and memories and weird little tidbits that come into his head. So in the course of one day, he succeeds in outlining the wheels and gears that turn his world.

The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood

I finished reading this book in one day, and was surprisingly short. Also, I was expecting it to be a story of how Penelope got through the years when Odysseus was away, and I was also expecting Penelope to be the focal point of the story. I was wrong on both counts. We go over pretty much the same points in time as The Odyssey does, only from Penelope's point of view. To be fair, there might not have been a great deal of exciting things happening over the twenty years she lived on a rocky island with goats and a baby boy. However, the point of this story seemed to be more on her twelve maids - in The Odyssey, once Odysseus is finished killing the suitors, he hangs the twelve maids who'd been sleeping with them and insulting his family. The Penelopiad serves as an explanation as to what really happened, as well as the consequences of their murders. It was actually rather dull, and anti-climactic, but maybe my expectations were too high. Atwood gives Penelope a wonderfully wry tone, and manages to reconcile how she can be a strong, intelligent woman and a worrying crybaby at the same time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Battle of the Casts: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" vs. "Veronica Mars"

The Titular, Blonde Heroine
BTVS: Buffy Summers
Pros: Kung-fu grip, upstanding moral character.
Cons: More street-smart than book smart, over-protective of her friends

VM: Veronica Mars
Pros: Whip-smart any way you slice it, keen eye for justice
Cons: Disregards rights to privacy, over-exploitative of her friends

Similarities: Both share pretty, pretty hair, official outcast status at school, teeny-tiny bodies, and hot boyfriends.
Differences: In the brain game, Veronica's miles ahead, but can she drop-kick a fire-demon?
Advantage: Tie.

The Goofy Boy Who Happens to be a Friend, but Is Only a Friend
BTVS: Xander Harris
Pros: Everyboy charm, good-natured humour
Cons: The weakest link in the Scooby chain

VM: Wallace Fennel
Pros: Athletically talented, good moral support
Cons: Bit of a push-over.

Similarities: Both represent an average normality that helps their Blonde Titular Heroines keep things in perspective. Also, both lack the ability to disobey the imperious commands of their Heroines, and frequently find themselves in need of rescuing by their Heroines.
Differences: Wallace has a shy, put-upon side, but he has a healthier style and social life. Xander plays the loser card a little too heavily, and depends on Buffy more than anyone else.
Advantage: Wallace

The "Good" Boyfriend
BTVS: Angel
Pros: Snappy dresser, snappier un-dresser. Sensitive, loyal.
Cons: Bland, square, whiny.

VM: Duncan Kane
Pros: Ironic sense of humour, good-natured, handsome.
Cons: Erratic behaviour, the occasional black-out.

Similarities: Both Angel and Duncan share a tendancy to be dark, silent, and brooding, with occasional bursts of (possibly) homicidal madness - Angel due to his gypsy curse, Duncan to epilepsy.
Differences: Duncan knows how to crack a smile and a joke without killing himself, and also how to enter into sexual relations without killing somebody else. Angel takes himself a little too seriously, and is actually more entertaining when evil.
Advantage: Duncan.

The "Bad" Boyfriend
BTVS: Spike
Pros: The leather jacket! The accent!
Cons: The obsessiveness! The rape attempt!

VM: Logan Ecchols
Pros: The heart of gold! The devil-may-care attitude!
Cons: The drinking problem! The crying!

Similarities: Serious mommy issues, predilictions for violence and mayhem with infrequent but highly-anticipated moments of tenderness.
Differences: Spike's more reliable, and more authentically bad-ass. Logan's a loaded gun, and years of his father's abuse hasn't made him any more stable. Spike's pain is endearing, Logan's is a little pathetic.
Advantage: Spike

The Mentor
BTVS: Rupert Giles
Pros: Used to be a bad-ass black-magic punk, now is a warm father-figure
Cons: His change from bad-ass to librarian left him with a terminal case of Uptight-a-litis and Fuddy-Duddy-ness.

VM: Keith Mars
Pros: World's coolest dad, efficient private detective
Cons: Prone to obliviousness, especially regarding The Bigger Picture, and his Family

Similarities: Both provide moments of warm fuzziness when Titular Blonde Heroines need it most, both are willing to go completely apeshit-Rambo-violent when the situation calls for it.
Differences: Keith is the more blue-collar, down to earth, with intelligence gleaned from experience. Giles is more refined, book-smart, and seriously out of date.
Advantage: Tie.

The Quirky, Attractive Geek
BTVS: Willow Rosenberg
Pros: Cheerful, bubbly even. Oh, and smart, did I mention smart?
Cons: Shy, quiet, unbalanced.

VM: Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie
Pros: Fiesty, organized, a problem solver
Cons: Morally challenged.

Similarities: Both are talented hackers, aiding our Titular Blonde Heroines with the help of records and databases meant to be kept secret.
Differences: Mac's more confident in her personality, and not afraid to add a personal touch to her appearance. She is also not above profiting from chaos. Willow tends to hide in cutesy sweaters and knit caps until she inevitably snaps, sending her over the edge.
Advantage: Willow - but only because she gets more screentime.

The Bad-Ass Sidekick
BTVS: Faith
Pros: Can kick butt in tight leather pants, knows how to party.
Cons: She's an evil, murderous bitch, and also kind of a slut.

VM: Eli "Weevil" Navarro
Pros: Pays his debts, strong family loyalty, and awww, he cried at Lily's memorial service!
Cons: Dude, you cried at Lily's memorial service, you sissy!

Similarities: Both are from troubled family backgrounds, live on the wrong side of the tracks, are emotionally vulnerable, and look good in leather.
Differences: Other than the fact that they have different parts in their swimsuit areas, Weevil, at least, has his sweet ol' grandmother to take care of, that and the fact that he doesn't kill people just to watch them die. Both live in shades of grey, but Weevil's more good than bad, and Faith's more bad than good.
Advantage: Depends on what parts you have in your swimsuit areas.

Cast Advantage: Tie.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Boys! Sex! Cooties! Ew ew ew!

Well, this year's Gateway Purity test is out, and not only that, but they've turned the entire Feb 14th issue into a Sex Issue. The entire front (and back) page has sexually suggestive pictures on it, some of which are quite gross, to me at least. I've half a mind to suggest that next year they distribute the Sex Issue in brown wrappers.

While there were a few articles that went on about the wrongful stigmas placed on people who remain virgins during University, the rest of the issue is devoted to articles about the best way to give oral sex, to the best places to have sex, to information about bondage, and furries, and other things that come across as slightly nauseating to me.

The Purity Test itself was funny, but the final categories (where you're "put", depending on how many points you've scored) seem to place a giant emphasis on how Having Sex in University is Healthy, Fun, and Mandatory, and how Staying A Virgin Is Just Silly And Narrow-Minded.

I'm of the rather paradoxical idea that sex isn't nearly as important to your social life as the media would like to tell you, and that sex is a sacred and significant act. You shouldn't do it with just anyone, and it shouldn't be the best thing about a relationship. It should be a good thing, yeah, but not the Be All and End All. Right now, I'm of the Wait Until I'm Married school of thought, but it's pretty easy to adhere to that idea when I've never dated, or had any relations with ANY guy outside of school EVER.

I mean, there's lots about sex that just seems gross to me. Like the idea of oral sex. One of the guys at the Gateway had a long and VERY explicit article about the best way to do it to a woman. I did not find it interesting, or particularly titilating. It seemed disgusting to me, and unhygienic, and uncomfortable. "No way in HELL is ANY guy going to do that to ME!" was my original mental reaction. There is a part of me that thinks this is just the same as my reaction to the taste of beer or coffee - I may hate the idea of it now, but sooner or later I'll come to like it because everyone else does. Still, ick.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Review: "Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson

While I had to read this for Comparative Literature, Science Fiction, I'm not sure I could totally classify this as sci-fi. While it started out on a wacky, far-out idea, the story, leading all the way to the eventual conclusion, simply came across as, well, regular fiction/mystery.
It certainly didn't adhere to any of my expectations. The main character is Cayce Pollard, and she identifies herself as a "coolhunter" - she has almost a psychic sense of which logos, brands, or advertisements will do well on the market. While this offers her an interesting job opportunity, its downside is that her sensitivity renders her painfully allergic to the worse logos and brands - for instance, she'll have an allergic reaction when confronted with Tommy Hilfiger or the Michelin Man.
While it's intriguing that she can't wear brand-name clothing (or has to have the labels professionally removed), and such, it doesn't entirely have a great deal to do with the plot itself. There aren't any other "coolhunters" with this ability, at least any that Cayce has heard of - she's a bit of an anomaly.
The plot itself is that Cayce is hired by an advertising company called Blue Ant, initially to offer a thumbs-up or -down on a new logo they're considering, using her unique abilities. It quickly morphs into an assignment to find the creator of the mysterious "footage" - bizarre, surreal, and non-sequential clips of film that have appeared on the net to become the obsession of internet addicts everywhere. No one knows who filmed this, where they were filmed, in what time period, or how, but the people at Blue Ant believe that the attention and press they've been getting around the world would make for killer advertising, so, rather mysteriously, they hire Cayce (who is also a "footagehead" aka someone who is very interested in the footage and posts regularly on messageboards about it) to find out who's making it.
And the story goes on from there - it was actually rather rote. Not too much action, a lot of talking, describing politics both corporate and international, a lot of it very difficult to keep straight. Cayce spends most of the book either reeling from jet lag (from jetting from London to Tokyo to Moscow) or sleeping off said jet lag. Every other page, the main protagonist has to take a break because she's so exhausted. Enough, already!
Plus, the ending was anti-climactic, and didn't live up to the hype that the book feverishly generated. I dunno, maybe when I try reading "Neuromancer" I might have a better experience.

Adventures in Reading

I'm almost done, folks.

And by done, of course, I am referring to all the reading I'm supposed to do for the rest of the semester. I just finished Pattern Recognition by William Gibson for my Science Fiction Comparative Literature class, and have just started in on Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Already I'm enthralled by the concept of a guy named Hiro Protagonist who attended Pizza University to learn the subtle arts of delivering pizza on time.

After Snow Crash, will come A Tourist's Guide to Glengarry, by - I forget who, but once I've finished that, I'll have nothing else to read except for the poetry for Canadian Lit, and the Shakespeare plays for Shakespearean Lit. After that, I can finally start reading the Entertainment Weeklys that have started piling up on my desk, as well as February's issue of Locus magazine, which has the Recommended Reading list for 2005.

And after that, I can finally go back to reading the books I got for Christmas from my friends and relatives, and then I can start reading the books I've bought myself. Heaven.

Lately I've been trying to be more social. I'm not a social person by nature, I'm extremely wary and self-conscious - if not outright terrified - when I find myself surrounded by a large group of strangers in a social situation. Of course, when I'm terrified, I'm often jumpy, thoughtless, irritable, and bitchy, and can't resist complaining and making snide remarks, which understandably offends some (okay, many) people.

Being more social means apologizing (in person and in writing) to the Soprano II section of the University Mixed Chorus. I was a total ass for six months. Everyone at the choir was so nice and thoughtful, that it really threw me off. I'm not so pathetic that I'm unused to people being kind to me, but I was unused to complete strangers going so entirely out of their way to be kind to me. In return, I bitched when I couldn't get copies of the sheet music on time, kept to myself, and complained whenever the Soprano II choir director made a mistake in teaching us something. Of course, in my dull, oblivious mind, I sort of forget about other people when I'm off in a rant, so when I come back the next week in a better mood, after having forgotten everything the week before, the others haven't forgotten anything, and are certainly not in a better mood, at least towards me.

When I was rather suddenly made aware of this by the Head Choir Director (who told me in no uncertain terms, that no one, in the twenty years he's directed choir, has ever spoken to him the way I have, which makes me feel absurdly special), it came as a complete shock. I was so sure I'd make friends in choir, that I sort of took their special kindnesses for granted and assumed they were always nice, and always happy, and always ready to forgive.

So, now I'm all social, or trying to be social, in order to make for past mistakes. This means going to Karaoke with the choir after Wednesday practice, a tradition that involves drinking a lot of beer (this I did not do), and howling into a microphone while the infantile DJ makes crude sexual jokes (this I did). I'm not good at Karaoke myself - I always imagine I will be, but my Soprano II range makes me uniquely unsuited to singing pop music - the girl songs are too high, the guy songs are too low, so I'm always stuck in some sort of neutral, toneless middleground that isn't horrible but doesn't really show up my voice, either.

Aaaanyway, if I'm under the right circumstances, the experience can be good. The best thing to do is to meet up with a group of friends (or people who remain friendly towards me) BEFORE going to Karaoke. Its much better to travel to the bar with friendly people than to go up alone, and have to search for them in the dark, loud, crowded bar later and have them juggle seats to find a place for you to sit. I'm not going to go every week, but I will go more than once, and sing at least one song before leaving. So far, on 2 1/2 Karaoke excursions (the 1/2 was the time I went up alone, and sang Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" before a group of strangers, and felt so embarassed I left right away, passing choir members in the elevator who'd arrived later), I've sung the Beatles "Can't Buy Me Love" (I'm still in the Dempsey phase) Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire", and "Ghostbusters".

I'm not going today, because I'm already meeting a friend for coffee after class, so that already fills up my social quotient for today. At least for me. I'm tired, okay?

Monday, February 06, 2006

I Don't Like Poetry - A Poem

I don't see what's special
About creating without
Without boundaries or
Anyone can do it
It's easy.
Noun noun verb adjective noun,
Forget syntax! Banish grammar!
Poetry has no
Use for punctuation.

Poetry is the crazy grandmother,
The one who wears
Young-lady perfume
Hoop earrings
Bright shirts you're
Too embarrassed to wear,
Who lets you eat
Cake for breakfast
Jump on the featherbeds
Until the springs shriek,
Rollerskate across
Clean white floors
And stay up all night.
You come home from
With bright memories
Of boundless freedom
But with drooping eyes
And a stomachache,
Eager for broccoli again.

The older poems
are alright.
The Victorians,
Women with romantic
Names and romantic
Words arranged in perfect lines
With rhyming ends.
The modern stuff
Is too tenuous,
Too-general words
That could mean
Are meant to mean
Because I think the poet cannot decide on
Black is white,
Love is death,
Meaningless (snap, snap).

I suppose
If there's a narrative,
A straight line
The words are drawn to,
Instead of tumbling
Of nouns and adjectives
Tossed together,

I suppose
A narrative
As a magnet
To keep the words
From wandering where they please
Would be acceptable.

Give me a story,
Words undisguised,
Just beautiful in themselves.
Isn't that better?
To build beauty with logs
That remain made of wood,
Blocks that are still
Numb stone and concrete,
Than materials varnished
With ambiguity,

I'd rather a
Red scarf
Be a
Red scarf, something that
And not a symbol of
Death (it strangles the neck)
Sexuality (its colour is red)
Freedom (it flaps in the wind)
Lies (it hides the bruises)
Or perfect truth (you tell me).

I don't like poetry.
I'm meat-and-potatoes,
With walls that are solid,
No hidden compartments
Secret doors
Primrose paths leading off
To gardens of verbose confusion.

I like novels,
Slabs of pages, hard covers
Resting heavy in my hand
Neatly on my bookshelf
Nestled in my purse.
Books I swim through
With the knowledge that
The shore on the other side
Will be one I can hold on to,
Pull myself onto,
Dripping and finished
And on solid ground.

Poetry itself is easy to read,
I slide down words
Polished smooth
With significance,
Greased with meaning,
Faster and faster,
Until I land with a bump.
I've come to the bottom
But my hands hold nothing
I remember nothing.
Meandering through novels
I can pick things up
Take them with me.
Orphaned children destined
For heroism,
When I come to the end
I've a sackful,
And I am pleased.

Is easy to write
And easy to read.
I suppose the reason
Must be
I prefer challenges
With a prize at the end
To simplicity
That leaves me

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Review, "Autobiography of Red", Anne Carson

Now, this was a weird little book.

Normally I don't like weird little books - oftentimes I can't understand how they end, and this usually renders me belligerent and negative towards them because they make me feel stupid for not catching the nuances and symbolism and great revolutionary literary ideas that all the high-and-mighty book critics whose positive blurbs are pasted on the back covers seem to find.

I didn't quite understand it, and I didn't have a working knowledge of the particular Greek legend that provided one of the sources of the story, but I did come through the book feeling relatively together and with a vague, blurry (but still present) idea of what happened. The main character is Geryon, a creature who is red, sees red, and has bony, fluttery wings (that actually work - although he only uses them once). He does have to hide his wings when in public, but other than that his appearance doesn't seem to bother anyone else, despite the fact that he is supposed to be brilliant crimson. While at first, I was at a loss to decide Was he really a red, winged monster? Or just imagining himself a red-winged monster? eventually it is revealed a shade less ambiguously than at the start.

The very beginning of the book is something I can barely describe or comprehend. It begins with an explanation that Geryon the red monster was, as found in fragments of writing attributed to ancient writer Stesichoros, Herakles' 10th labour. He lived on an island with red cattle and was killed by Herakles, as was his little red dog. It then goes on through three appendices that describe inane things about how Stesichoros was blinded by Helen (of Troy), because he called her a whore. It reminded me, of all things, of my Symbolic Logic classes, because the body of Appendix C ("Clearing up the Question of Stesichoros' Blinding By Helen") is "1. Either Stesichoros was a blind man or he was not. 2. If Stesichoros was a blind man either his blindness was a temporary condition or it was permanent"...and goes on and on in "either it was or it wasn't" scenarios.

After the puzzling appendices comes the main body of the book, which is more straightforward and is one long poem. It's divided into chapters that are one to four pages long, and follow Geryon from when he was first sexually abused by his older brother at five, to his homosexual relationship with a young man named Herakles (the name is significant) at fourteen, to his trip to South America as an adult of twenty-two where he sees Herakles again with another guy and is forced to re-evaluate his feelings for him, feelings that unfortunately still exist.

The myths explained in the Appendices don't really have any bearing on the main body of the story. I'm sure it must be a metaphor, but not one that I, at present, can accurately evaluate. For instance, in the main body, Geryon is a photographer, not a keeper of red cattle, and so on and so forth. However, as it was one long poem, I read it very quickly and it allowed for some very beautiful turns of phrase that really made the adventures and feelings of Geryon come alive. It got me under Geryon's scarlet skin, where everything was hot and tight and hurtful. I empathized deeply with his character, and that's why I enjoyed this book and didn't throw it aside right afterwards, dismissing it with a mouthful of sour grapes as "a ridiculous artsy-fartsy novel".

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Review: "The Last Crossing", by Guy Vanderhaeghe

Read it: For Canadian Lit.

The Last Crossing started out as something really straightforward, but then spiralled off into another story entirely. It started out as a suspenseful murder mystery/quest, then ended up as a sad reflection of fatherhood, brotherhood, and the eventual destruction of the livelihoods of Canada's First Nations.
In Fort Benton, abused-and-abandoned wife Lucy Stoveall and horse-dealer Custis Straw are shaken by the gruesome rape and murder of Lucy's little sister Madge. Lucy is convinced that Titus and Joel Kelso, two ne'er-do-well brothers, are the perpetrators, and makes it her mission to track them down and get revenge.

When two brothers from England, cruel Addington and weak-willed Charles Gaunt, arrive on a quest to find their lost brother Simon, she teams up with them to leave Fort Benton and hopefully find Titus and Joel on the way. Custis, who is in love with Lucy, follows, and the entire group is reluctantly guided by half-Indian, half-Scottish Jerry Potts.

While the quest for Simon, Titus, and Joel is certainly significant to the story, the book is drawn together by the characters that inhabit the story, and the changes they undergo, rather than the destination/goal they originally set out for. Lucy, abandoned by her abusive husband and now deprived of her last vestige of family, has to find something to live for. Charles, an initially spineless but earnest young man, finds himself in an uncertain place in life - as a mediocre artist, the only thing that currently offers him any drive is the quest for twin Simon, and to redeem himself in his brother's eyes. Jerry Potts is a border-line alcoholic (but then again, nearly everyone in this novel is one as well) who has found himself eternally divided between his First Nation and white heritages.

Addington, on the other hand, is a repulsive, impulsive, hyper-masculine creation who lives to hunt, fight, drink, screw, and eat. He already believes Simon dead, and is only leading the expedition to experience fresh air and adventure, and hopefully find a cure for his nagging venereal disease, and while he isn't redeemed at the end, we do become more enlightened of the darker, inner recesses of his nature.

Eventually, both goals are ambiguously fulfilled. The murder of Madge is solved, indirectly, but it comes as a complete surprise and actually had me thumbing backwards through the pages to see if the timeline of it fit. But by the end of the novel, it becomes clear that finding Simon and the person who murdered Madge was never the point. I hate to resort to this cliche, but in this book, the destination wasn't so much the heart of the story as the journey itself. To me, it appeared to be more of a study of characters under stress than a quest or an adventure.

I enjoyed the reading of it, but it didn't evoke any particular emotions in me. Fort Edmonton gets a location cameo, and Calgary has a brief mention, and we are treated to marvelous descriptions of rugged Canadian scenery, but the hills and valleys of the human mind are more closely examined here.