Friday, February 1, 2008

So, having no social life I read

...or, having so much to read I have no time for a social life.

Been reading a lot. Since moving to Toronto I've started ordering books and CDs from Amazon. It's not particularly rational but for some reason I've given myself the green light to start accumulating books again. The last time I felt like I could do that was when I lived in Wolfville, over 20 years ago!

In addition to buying books I am taking full advantage of the Toronto Public Library's very generous Holds policy. I can put holds on as many books as I please. I've had as many as 37 holds on at once and I keep adding to it so I always have at least 20 on hold at a time. They keep trickling into the local library for me to pick up. Right now I have more than 15 borrowed books in stacks around my bedroom and living room. The TPL does not have a Central Library as in Vancouver, the closest thing to a central library is the Reference Library, which you cannot borrow books from. Everything else is a branch library. My closest branch is the Parkdale library which is pretty small. The next closest is High Park which is a bit bigger and has a really comfortable feel to it, but at this time of year I am reluctant to walk that far.

The book I am most enjoying right now is Sara Davidson's Leap! (What Will We Do with the Rest of Our Lives? -- Reflections from the Boomer Generation). It's a collection of interviews with aging baby boomers and some of her own experiences as well at the ripe old age of 59. Her style and attitude immensely appeal to me. She has chapter titles like "Change is Gonna Come, or, Another Fucking Opportunity for Growth". Now don't you like her already?

Also trying to read The Toe Bone and the Tooth by Martin Prechtel, something I heard about from one of my guild associates. It's a strange book, a mix of Mayan folk tales and one man's experience living and travelling in Mayan lands. Not sure what to make of it but in leafing through the book I got hooked on the title story itself. A Mayan tale about a young man who falls in love with a goddess, and all the things that befall him as a result. I am totally fascinated by mythology, and this particular myth has echoes of myths from all over the world. At one point the young man must descend into the Afterworld for a particular task and then return to the upper world carrying the results of his journey, and what befalls him as he attempts to return. There must be hundreds of stories like that around the world, it is so archetypal.

I borrowed the biography of Sir John A Macdonald by Donald Creighton as well. It's a huge two volume work, considered the final word on Sir John A. I borrowed that because I heard an interview with someone on CBC, I forget his name, who wrote the same biography recently. Too recent for the TPL to have it so I got Creighton's version instead. What tweaked my interest was the writer who was being interviewed saying that Sir John A was absolutely fixated on creating Canada, as his life's work. And if we ever wonder where our typical anti-Americanism comes from, we can thank him for it. That was his number one motivation to persist in his monumental task, that he abhorred all things American. This writer was talking about Macdonald's personality and character and mentioned his renowned drunkenness. How Macdonald was absolutely unapologetic about it. At one point when questioned about his fitness to be prime minister he said he was a better man drunk than his most significant opponent was to run this country. I keep this book on the couch and just dip into it randomly from time to time. I have no hope of reading the whole thing, not right now at any rate.

I got the not so big life: making room for what really matters by Sarah Susanka, which sounds like a pretty good book, but I am not nearly as taken by it as I am the Davidson book. It has some good stuff in it though. Susanka is an architect whose previous book is called the not so big house in which I gather she describes how to design a home that feels really comfortable and right for you, as opposed to being big and modern and having all the latest in features and furnishings. So this book is a sequel to that in which she counsels people on having a satisfying life as opposed to keeping up with Joneses. Her answer to "is this all there is to life?" Um, I think from that you can pretty much guess the rest of the content of the book.

But enough about borrowed books! I bought The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom, by Angeles Arrien. I only ran across this book in searching for something else, and I had to buy that one on spec because the library didn't have it (I like to read things before I buy them, I really only want to buy books I know I'll pick up again). The title interested me at the time. I leafed through it briefly and it is on the back burner for now, simply because there is no time limit on it, no due date for returning it. Another book I bought a while ago and have only half-read for exactly the same reason is Blessed Unrest (How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being, and Why No One Saw it Coming) by Paul Hawken. I want to read it but it has no due date so it sits at the bottom of the heap.

For my writing course I am supposed to be reading short stories, so I have a stack of anthologies to pick through, I find them of variable quality so I am not terribly motivated to read them. But one anthology is Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, that one I did read all the way through. I was particularly interested in the story at the end, which is about a character in his novel American Gods. This story is based on the Beowulf legend, and it was interesting to read, imagining that he was probably working on the screenplay for the movie Beowulf when he wrote that story. He sure has a way with mythology!

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