Some things changed when I turned 30. I started using “who” and “whom” properly, purchased sensible shoes, and I became ready to appreciate The Great Gatsby.
I really don’t think it’s a novel for teenagers, or at least it wasn’t for me as a teenager. It’s probably true that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best-known work is on most every approved high school reading list. And certainly my own grade 12 English teacher thought it an appropriate book to assign our class. The language itself is easy enough; even the story is relatively straightforward.
But I couldn’t find myself enjoying any aspect of it. Just another over-rated novel they make us read for no reason, I thought. It didn’t occur to me at the time that the failure might have been mine, rather than Fitzgerald’s. I just hadn’t had enough life yet.
But I’ve wanted to re-read it before seeing the movie, so I cast about for a copy.
(Sidenote: Winnipeg Public Library, how is it that you don’t have more copies when every high school must have several dozen? A 17-person waiting list? That’s a year not counting renewals! (Side-sidenote: I also decided to read April Raintree, this one for the first time. My verdict: it’s deservedly a Winnipeg classic, but holy cow this has been a depressing reading month for me. (Side-side-sidenote: The Winnipeg publisher of the first edition, In Search of April Raintree, was, until recently, just down the hall from my office. Local history! Let’s get some Nutty Club pink popcorn!)))
One thing that surprised me was how distinctive Fitzgerald’s voice turned out to be, and yet how utterly familiar. I already knew that he was one of Haruki Murakami’s major influences, but wow! For a long-time Murakami fan, Gatsby is like coming home.
Is Jay Rubin, the Japanese author’s most frequent translator, responsible for the Fitzgeraldian flavour of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka by the Shore? Or is the resonance deeper than language?
Can DiCaprio capture that same essence? I daresay he can. But I’ll be finding out soon enough.
In four books Schroeder has had four completely different main characters, in four completely different locales within Virga, with four completely different (immediate) plots. There’s a larger story, but Schroeder has almost been building it up by sonar. We’ve been getting a sense of larger, looming events by a series of glancing blows — collisions between our many protagonists and the greater story, as they pursue their own ends. But with Book Four, The Sunless Countries, one gets the distinct impression that we’re almost at the main event.
Read all about it at AE. One more Virga book to go.
It hasn’t really been weekly in a while, has it? Anyway, I’ve finally written some new stuff at Care2. Here’s from the last two weeks:
. . .I love these weird, out of the way places. It’s kind of like ecology. Every crack in the sidewalk, life takes root, plants find their tiny patch of soil and sunshine. Small business does that, too, finding economic niches in the oddest spots. Perhaps no species is more versatile than the pizza delivery place.
Fresh, oven-baked copy over at the Spectator Tribune. Get it while it’s hot.
As part of a new series, I’m reviewing Winnipeg restaurants at the Spectator Tribune. My second one has just gone up and I’ll point a link to it next week. The series is entitled, “All I have is a twenty”, and is themed on affordable (but not cheap) eats.
Today let’s look at Lao Thai.
When Alexander Morgan Woods was 10 years old, he was hit on the head by a meteorite. It passed through his roof as if it were papier-maché and split open his skull like it was a soft-boiled egg. But that’s not the most important part of the story. What matters is what came after.
Because after any tramautic event, life goes on and we keep pushing forward, bearing every bruise and scar we collect along the way. Read the rest of my review at the Winnipeg Free Press, and perhaps you’ll decide you want to read the book as well.
Alas, the time commitment at Library Journal has become just a bit too much, and I’ve had to step down from my post. Since not every review I write makes its way online in any form, I don’t know if my final review for them can be expected to turn up.
My review of The New York Times Book of Mathematics is long out, however, and can also be seen at the Barnes and Noble page here.
“They had provided him with two torturers today.” With this, probably one of the greatest opening lines in literary history, Schroeder sets the stage as quickly as possible, and then we are right in the thick of it. An action-packed jailbreak precedes a novel-length journey for home, through foreign lands, an ongoing war, and the machinations of a larger extra-terrestrial plot the Admiral’s only seen hints of.
My full review of the third Virga book is up now at AESciFi.
A Mathematician Goes to the Beach: Topology and modesty.
Semicolon (Lonely Island): Some inappropriate lyrics and some questionable punctuation advice.
How to Brand a “Useless” College Degree: It’s education puff piece season. Stay tuned for September when we learn how (North American) college students can’t spell and don’t know math.