Sunday 17 August 2014

Books, movies and tea on a sunny Sunday morning

I’m enjoying a cup of chai tea and a delicious Vanilla Scone from Future Bakery this morning as I think about the book I read in the last few days of last week, a book that I couldn’t put down.  I forgot to mention in my post last Sunday that I bought a new mug while I was in Owen Sound, a beautiful piece by Kate McLaren ( that I can now use as an alternate to that special chai tea mug from St Jacob’s I’ve been using for several years now.

After finishing the new Robotham novel on Wednesday, I decided to try a book I’d just picked up at the library by Montreal author Arjun Basu.  In this debut novel, Joe is a successful thirty-five year old advertising copywriter in New York who is beginning to feel dissatisfied with his job and his life.  A year later, his dissatisfaction deepens, and he begins to "float" – he sees his life from above, and suddenly he feels better, new, improved.  And then he begins to dream... in his dreams he sees the Man, a thin black man with a floppy hat who looks like a 70's pimp, sometimes riding a horse.  Sometimes the Man speaks to Joe in his dreams, offering words of encouragement, telling him “things will get better”.  Joe begins to long for sightings of the Man, once these visits start occurring during waking hours.  The Man tells him to "wait", so he does just that, waits for direction while sitting on the front steps of his apartment.  As his story reaches a larger audience than just his immediate neighbours, so too does the crowd of individuals who wish to be part of and possibly profit from Joe's unusual experience.  He manages to attain a certain minor celebrity status, literally by doing nothing but waiting.  When he is instructed by the Man to "go west", a minivan is provided for him, and he sets off with a large media entourage to search for answers from somewhere, without knowing where he is headed.  It is really about the American Dream, going on a road trip to find happiness, but a 21st century road trip that is documented by the minute and broadcast around the world for all to see and follow.  The absurdity of this scenario is not lost on Joe, and yet he is reluctant to leave the comfort of his entourage. When he finally lets go, this reader was left with a feeling of peace and a sense of freedom from life’s pressures.  Whether he was happier in the end was not terribly clear, but perhaps he managed to reach the extent of happiness one can reasonably expect in this world. The novel is told in two voices from different points in the story, one as he searches for something more meaningful in life, the other from the Ranch and Spa in Montana where he has ended his journey.  This short novel has very little in the way of plot, but I couldn’t put it down and read it in two days.  The writing is amazing, and so very insightful.  Basu presents so many life truths that nearly every page had something on it I wanted to underline (which I would never do!!) Darkly humourous, yet deeply philosophical, it is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year, despite a rather weak final chapter.  Think Will Ferguson’s Happiness meets Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimmage of Harold Fry.  I would probably recommend it to most readers, especially males of a certain age (I’ve already sent a personal recommendation to a friend in Toronto who I think would really enjoy this novel).  I enjoyed it so much that I’m planning to buy a copy for myself – yes, buy it, new, in hardcover, not even discounted!  I can’t remember when I last did that – then I can underline as much as I want!  Anyway, excellent book that I would definitely recommend.
I also wanted to talk about books and movies.  My husband and I are planning to see the film, “A Most Wated Man”, sometime next week.  This film is based on a novel by John Le Carré.  I was on the bus one day last week and I saw a guy reading this book, with a movie cover, so it was a new edition, and I wondered if he had already seen the film or wanted to read the book first.  In my opinion, the book is nearly always better, so reading the book first with the intention of seeing the movie shortly thereafter is probably a bad idea, as it will likely lead to inevitable disappointment with the film.  When I went to see the film version of Life of Pi, I did not reread the book, as I wanted to be able to experience the film and judge it on what it had to offer in terms of story, character, setting – in short, on its own merits, separate from the book.  Film and books are different types of media, and rely on different strengths and ways to reach the audience, so comparing them is not really fair.  I read an article recently by an author who was talking about having her book made into a film and what that experience was like for her.  She said something like this:  When an author sells the rights to a director, he or she must allow the director to create a work as they see it.  The author gives up control of film version, and has to let it go.  Of course we understand this, but imagine how difficult it would be for an author do to such a thing.  I can think of times when I’ve seen a film version of a book I loved and have been outraged by the treatment the film gave the story – and it’s not even my book!  So kudos to authors who are willing to sell the rights to their books, as they don’t know what will become of their stories once they are on screen.
That’s all for today.  Get out and enjoy the sunshine!

Bye for now…

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