Archive for July, 2013

They Are Everywhere

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

sandwich boardIt’ll come as no surprise to regular readers of my blog that I’m fond of those quotable quotes.  Pithy pearls of wisdom and insight, often packaged in humour or, at the very least, good writing – what’s to not like?  So I’m very pleased with the trend of the last few years of shop and café owners everywhere putting up quotes on sandwich and chalk boards in and outside their stores.  There was one coffee shop in Toronto that I used to run by practically daily that would have a quote of the day conveniently placed along the sidewalk.  A terrific start to the day and I don’t even drink coffee.  A sandwich board I ran past the other day had this to say: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”  (Marcel Proust)  The shop was an optician’s.

The Modern Age

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

I am the proud new owner of an e-reader.  To mark this moment in the electronic age, I have been

Turns out when you type in "prudish", "timid", "shy" or "conservative" female image in the internet, that's not what you get.

Turns out when you type in “prudish”, “timid”, “shy” or “conservative” female image in the internet, that’s not what you get.

busy downloading “classics”, books whose copyright protection has long since passed and so, thanks to the modern age, are free.  In practice this means that I’ve been reading a lot of Henry James.  I’ve also picked up a Jane Austen I’d never read before, Mansfield Park.  Oh sure there was the inevitable BBC miniseries of the book but there is good reason this one never had a big Hollywood version.  The heroine of the novel, Fanny Price, is way too irritatingly timid and priggish for modern sensibilities.  So it was with great interest that I read that Jane Austen’s own mother found Fanny “insipid”.  La plus ça change…

In Translation

Sunday, July 7th, 2013
Obama surprise

That’s the reaction I would expect.

There’s the old adage that the more familiar you become with other people from around the world, the more you realize that we’re all – deep down at any rate – the same.  I’m probably not digging deep enough because my experience has often, if not always, been the opposite.  I’ve also been finding that recently with books.  The novels written by the usual mix of Canadians, Americans, Brits, Australian and Kiwis may surprise me with a plot turn or delight me with a turn of phrase, but I can’t remember the last time one of them stopped me in my tracks with a “Really?  Who would say that, think that in the normal course of life?”  Two books I’ve read in translation of late have.  Granted The Dinner by Herman Koch is written for just such an effect so that assessment may be wholly unfair, but The Weekend by Bernhard Schlink struck me in exactly the same way.  And, no, I don’t normally (that is, never) hang out with ex-far left terrorists (read Red Brigade types) and sympathisers, but I do not have socialist rants and murderous mindsets in mind here.  Rather it was the father’s reaction to his teenage daughter’s attempt to seduce his former friend, a fifty some year old terrorist recently released from prison.  It wasn’t the supressed desire as he placed his coat over her naked body (icky but not necessarily surprising), but the indifference to her action.  Which was shared by everyone.  It wasn’t a case of vain attempts to convince all there was nothing to see here, but that there really wasn’t.  Wouldn’t happen in my hometown.