Friday, June 24, 2005

Nothing to lose but your chains

Karl Marx was a Taurus. That's all anyone needs to know.

"Today 50 of the largest 100 economies in the world are run by multinationals, not by countries. Mitsubishi is bigger than Saudi Arabia; General Motors is larger than either Greece, Norway or South Africa. The combined annual revenues of the biggest 200 corporations are greater than those of 182 nation-states that contain 80 per cent of the world's population." — Wayne Ellwood in The No-Nonsense Guide to Globalization

According to the latest preliminary estimates released by R.R. Bowker, the total title output in American publishing increased 14 percent in 2004/5 to a new high of 195,000 — up from 135,000 titles only three years ago, although the 2004/5 increase is less than 2003/4's 19-percent jump. Source: Publishers Lunch, May 2005

Yes, it's 1:37 AM and I'm wide awake. Sigh. Still reading lots and lots. I believe I will reach my 50-book goal before the end of June, thereby setting me up to read 100 books this year — some of them even big books! Meanwhile, I'm contemplating dyeing my hair dark, dark brown. Hmm. Did I mention that I'm currently the acting chair in my dept? Once again, the key to the executive washroom dangles mere centimetres from my curious fingers...

Eliminate the metaphor of violence. Incense and lollipops. Find a man who is not. Violets and rosemary. Morning glories opening in August. Am I already a ghost? The taste of the wind, the blackberries of memory.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Words, words, words

Just finished Dating Hamlet: Ophelia's Story by Lisa Fiedler, a playful retelling of Hamlet. Most of the action of the novel takes place between the scenes of the play. In this version, Ophelia is an amateur botanist (she calls herself an alchemist) and soon to be Hamlet's wife (in a nicely understated scene, she gives up her "virtue" to him, shortly before he appears mad before the court). The novel reveals a different reason for Ophelia's purported madness (like Hamlet's, it is a feigned "antic disposition") and offers an extended ending to the play's conclusion, beginning once the bodies of Hamlet, Laertes, and the Queen are taken to the castle morgue. Purists would cringe, but I like the more positive re-imagining of Hamlet and Ophelia's fate -- much like Ann-Marie MacDonald's reinterpretation of Desdemona's and Juliet's roles. My only complaint with the novel is the dialogue: it's roundly awful. Imagine, if you can, a California high school as Hollywood has repeatedly presented them to us; then imagine the students of that high school attempting to write Elizabethan conversation without the guidance of an educated adult. "Verily, a few knights short of a crusade," indeed. But that's a small quibble. Female YA readers would likely enjoy this work. It's certainly more accessible than Shylock's Daughter, Mirjam Pressler's serious but thoughtful retelling of The Merchant of Venice.

Earlier this week, I finished The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston. This is an astonishingly well-constructed cultural history of the term wife, ending with a hopeful, albeit less than plausible, call for change to our understanding of one of society's oldest roles. I recommend this book highly.

Over the weekend I finished Isabel Allende's Zorro, her richly developed portrait of Diego de la Vega's youth and education. As with most of Allende's work, this novel is romantic and energetic, with lush, detailed description and clever ties to contemporary issues. Although it's almost 400 pages long, it moves quickly. Excellent summer reading, although perhaps not quite vintage Allende.

Meanwhile, in other news (source: CBC online)

Andy Russell, one of the province's best-known conservationists and storytellers, has died. He was 89.

I remember listening to Andy Russell's series Our Alberta Heritage on the radio when I was growing up. Russell represented a compassionate spirit in Alberta, something too often lacking in our current society. I was sad to hear he had died.

Finola Hackett, a 13-year-old Tofield girl who made it to the championship round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, was stumped Thursday afternoon by the word nisse – a Scandinavian brownie that frequents barns. Before missing her final word, she successfully spelled these other words:

• heterocoelous (a type of vertebrae)
• verticil (parts arranged in a circle around an axis)
• whiffet (a small or unimportant person)
• merotomize (to divide into parts)
• cassowary (a large, flightless, Australian bird)
• fumulus (a cloud that forms over smokestacks)
• blepharoptosis (a drooping of the upper eyelid).

I doubt that I could have spelled ANY of those words. Eeks, what a smart girl!

On the left hand

The Tyee continues to offer provocative alternative media from Canada's West Coast. This week one of their editorialists wrote an article titled "Canada's Stupid Party," about the disaster the "ReformaTories" have revealed themselves to be. Here's an excerpt:

Here’s a party that has serious credibility problems when it comes to convincing women they’re not a bunch of sexist neanderthals. Their most prominent woman walks across the floor and when all the cameras and microphones are pointed at them, the best attack they can muster is that their biggest female star was an ambitious, stupid, heartbreaking whore. Yeah, that’s gonna convince all Canadian women that you’ve got their best interests at heart.

The rest of the article is here. Definitely worth your time. Another article in the same issue, coyly title "Meet the Genitailor," profiles a Vancouver-based plastic surgeon who specializes in gynecological retrofitting. Chilling and disturbing — see it here if you don't mind reading something fairly graphic and anti-feminist. Sigh.

Odds and ends

Some thoughts to fill your mind and soothe your soul. A bientôt!

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. —William Wordsworth

When you re-read a classic you do not see in the book more than you did before. You see more in you than there was before. —Clifton Fadiman

The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow