my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

October 17th, 2007

And The Booker Goes To…

The Gathering by Anne Enright, only the second Irish woman in the history of the prize to win. I was intrigued by the chair’s description of the novel as “a powerful, uncomfortable and, at times, angry book…”

Who wouldn’t be interested after that?

EDITED TO ADD: I’m actually going to see Anne Enright and Vendela Vida tomorrow night for IFOA. I will report back on the “angry” discomfort found in the book…

September 17th, 2007

Short List, Long List, Any Old List

We’re back from another weekend at the cottage, which starts off an incredibly busy span of time for me: I leave on Wednesday for NYC for work and I’m not back until Sunday night where I’ll be visiting friends, doing other fun stuff like shopping, and hopefully seeing a Broadway show…oh, and attending some meetings too. Then it’s Word on the Street the following weekend, then Thanksgiving, then I think we’re home before going up north again to close up the cottage. It doesn’t leave time for a lot of reading, does it?

Regardless, there’s an incredibly solid Giller longlist that’s just been announced this morning here. This year, compared to most, I’ve actually read 4 of the books on the list so far: October, Effigy, Helpless, and Divisadero. And it’s always exciting to see who actually makes the shortlist.

Anyone pick their front runner just yet?

And while we’re on the subject of prizes, there’s a really interesting article in The Guardian about the ‘tussle’ behind the scenes over the Booker shortlist here. I’m certainly not as prepared to offer an opinion on that literary giant of a prize as I’ve only read one of the books listed, and that’s On Chesil Beach, by McEwan.

It’s such an exciting time of year for books, lots of events, plenty of big tomes hitting the stores, and loads of prize announcements to keep people talking.

September 12th, 2007

#60 – Out Stealing Horses

Norwegian writer Per Petterson’s outstanding work of fiction, Out Stealing Horses, had me enthralled from beginning to end. Having won this year’s most monied international award, the IMPAC Dublin, the novel tells the story of a man called Trond who approaches his old age with one goal in mind: to learn to be alone. And it is in this journey of self-discovery, this coming to terms with spending time completely cut off, in a way, from the society of one’s life, that the story unfolds.

Returning to the county where his happiest memories as a boy happened, Trond slowly lets the reader in on the real reason he decides to retire there (without a phone, without a television, without an inside, working bathroom): he needs to truly understand and come to terms with his relationship with his father. The book meanders as slowly as a seasonal change from Trond’s current situation as a 67-year-old man to the summer he spent at a similar cabin with his father as an adolescent. That summer, marked both by tragedy (an awful accident at the neighbour’s that involved his only friend Jon) and utter happiness, ends up, in retrospect, the moment in time that defined him. To give away more of the plot would not necessarily ruin the novel, but I enjoyed the story as it unraveled so much that I am hesitant to say anything further should I spoil the reading experience for someone else.

The prose, long lavish sentences that flow seemingly endlessly from start to finish, sometimes over half a page, reflects the main character’s voice so utterly that I also had to wonder how different it would have been to read the novel it its native Norwegian. Not that the translator, Anne Born, did a terrible job, just that Petterson’s writing is so lyrical that it must simply read like poetry in his native tongue. For the most part, this is an interior story, with much of the action taking place in Trond’s mind, his memory. But there’s an active core too: the acrid, rich smell of the horses they “steal,” the feeling of the hot sun during his glorious summer, the crunch of the snow fall, it all adds up to an author that has an almost unbearable talent for writing landscape and situation.

For the first time in a long while, I felt like I truly experienced life in the “host” country of my reading travels. The Norway he describes, both in the late 1940s, during the war, and in his modern time, remains vivid all throughout the book, even if the setting (the county where each cabin sits) itself remains unchanged throughout. And for a person who herself grew up at a cottage, understanding the connection to a place that feels like home, means that there’s an added level of emotional involvement for me. Bloody brilliant, there are precious little other words to describe it, well-deserved win, in my opinion.

I know that I’ve only read two of the other nominees (Slow Man and No Country for Old Men [humm, quite a pattern there actually, as each have protagonists coming to terms in different respects with the lives they’ve chosen to lead]), but in terms of my Around the World in 52 Books challenge, I’m so glad this book won so I had the chance to read it. I doubt I would have picked it up otherwise if it weren’t for the short blurb in a Publisher’s Weekly newsletter. Funny, now I can’t imagine a life where I haven’t read this novel.

Time is important to me now, I tell myself. Not that it should pass quickly or slowly, but be only time, be something I live inside and fill iwth physical things and activities that I can divide it up by, so that it grows distinct to me and does not vanish when I am not looking.

People like it when you tell them things, in suitable portions, in a modest, intimate tone, and they think they know you, but they do not, they know about you, for what they are let in on are the facts, not feelings, not what your opinion is about anything at all, not how what has happened to you and how all the decisions you have made have turned you into who you are. What they do is they fill in with their own feelings and opinions and assumptions, and they compose a new life which has precious little to do with yours, and that lets you off the hook.

PHOTO IN CONTEXT: Setting the book down on a messy pile of papers while I cleared off enough desk space to finish up my freelance assignment. The cover’s beautiful, isn’t it?

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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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