On this rainy Friday morning, I wanted to write a short post for a few reasons. The weather forecast is for sunnier days over the weekend and early next week, so I’d probably prefer to be outside on those days than inside writing a blog post. I’m also going to the big CFUW Annual Book Sale today, which always seems significant for me, as it marks a “birthday” for this blog. Julie’s Reading Corner is two years old! Happy Birthday!
I was thinking of making a list of books in which birthdays are significant, but I could only come up with a few titles. The Slap by Australian writer Christos Tsiolkas begins with a BBQ arranged by his wife Aisha to celebrate Hector’s birthday. During this event, his cousin Harry slaps the spoiled child of another couple who is threatening his own child with a stick. This slap sets off a whole series of responses from each individual, within and among the group, some of which could have life-altering consequences. I really enjoyed this sprawling, ambitious novel, although it got mixed reviews for the use of raw language, racist comments and graphic sex scenes. I remember thinking that it could have been shorter, or a bit less ambitions, but it was still a satisfying read.
Another book in which a birthday is significant is Stray Love by Canadian novelist Kyo Maclear. As Marcel, born of ethnically diverse and often absent parents, approaches his fiftieth birthday, he reflects on his life growing up with his Caucasian father, Oliver, a foreign correspondent in Vietnam, who often left him in the care of unreliable neighbours and friends. Marcel has never really belonged anywhere. As he cares for his friend’s eleven-year-old daughter, Iris, while her mother cares for her own ailing parent, he is encouraged to share stories of his life with Iris, and to find some sense of meaning and belonging in his life. I really wanted to love this book, but I just couldn’t do it. I finished it, but it was a disappointing reading experience for me.
The only other work I could come up with was “The Birthday Party” by Harold Pinter. I read that play many, many years ago when I was studying English Literature at Wilfrid Laurier Universy in the early 1990s. I should reread it, as I’m sure I would enjoy it. It relates a scene in a British boarding house where the owner’s wife plans a birthday party for her husband. Two strangers show up looking for one of the boarders, and turn the party into a nightmare. I rarely read plays any more, but I remember enjoying them in the past, particularly those considered as part of the Theatre of the Absurd (examples: “Waiting for Godot”, “Rhinosceros”, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”, and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”).
Anyway, that is my “birthday” book list. I also read a “required reading” novel this week, A Beautiful Truth. This novel by Canadian novelist Colin McAdam tells the parallel stories of a childless couple in Vermont in the 1970s who adopt Looee, a chimpanzee, whom they raise as a child, and the experiences of various apes at the Girdish Institute, a primate research facility in Florida. This novel was definitely interesting, and heartbreaking at times. Some of the scenes were very disturbing, but I was not as distraught as I would have expected to be, given that I am a serious animal lover and there were parts of the novel where terrible things were being done to these poor animals, page after page of experiments. This tells me that the author handled this difficult subject matter with intelligence and sensitivity. If I were to recommend it, I would certainly caution potential readers of the disturbing animal scenes.
That’s all for today. I’m looking forward to a fabulous used book shopping experience today.
Bye for now!