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All reviews - Movies (25) - Books (38)

[Book] Sexing the Cherry

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 30 December 2007 02:48 (A review of Sexing The Cherry)

There are many quotable passages in this beautifully written and poignant novel, which at first read like a fantasy or a fairy-tale, but the novel complicates the stereotypes and blurs the line between reality and fantasy. Time and space, history and geography have different meanings in Winterson's vision of the world, and it is in her world that dwells the lovable characters such as the giant Dog-Woman, the boy who doesn't need a boat to sail the seven seas and the eleven dancing princesses who fly out of their window every night to dance in a floating city. Behind the fantastical characters, however, are the very real environmental and feminist issues that the novel is really concerned about. In the end, Winterson's tales are about what is means to be a woman, a man and a human being in the world that is corrupting and decaying every day. Winterson seems to say that it is only through imagination that we can be saved.


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[Book] Native Canadiana

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 30 December 2007 02:47 (A review of Native Canadiana: Songs from the Urban Rez)

It's hard to enjoy a book of poetry when you rushed through it, but I liked several poems in this collection. Scofield's poems are aggressive, that is, they are in-your-face angry and very graphic. Drawn from personal experience, his poems are full of depictions of violence, sex, drugs, poverty, AIDS and basically the worst elements of downtown eastside that can make a reader uncomfortable, but his poems are significant in that they are about a part of our reality the middle-class white Canada has long refused to acknowledge or understand. "The Indian problem" and the other social problems of the underprivileged are too often swept under the rug of capitalism. Being a urban aboriginal homosexual, Socfield is alienated in more ways than one, and his poems reflect his alienation from various communities as well as his struggles with identity and spirituality.


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[Book] The Remains of the Day

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 30 December 2007 02:46 (A review of The Remains of the Day)

A deeply moving and beautifully constructed novel, The Remains of the Day tells a story of a perfect English butler who, at the twilight of his career, goes on a road trip through the English countryside and an internal journey of revisiting/remembering his past in an attempt to find his place in the world and justify the choices he has made in his life. The novel is set in post-WWII England during the time when the country has undergone many changes; the butler, who epitomizes the "old" England and its glorified traditions, finds himself increasingly out of place and out of time. The novel, then, is partially about English national identity, but it is also about an individual trying to hold on to a tradition and a belief that is quickly losing its meaning and significance. It is a sad journey of a man who tries to reconstruct history and his memory in order to cling to his old identity and "the dignity in keeping with one's position." As a journal form, the novel calls into question the reliability of one's memory in relation to story-making and identity. The protagonist Stevens, even in his private space, is a split subject, as indicated by the different uses of pronouns referring to himself in his own journal. Beneath the calm and reserved language of a butler there is always the current of quiet desperation and volatile emotions that are inexpressibly violent and ultimately sad.

The Remains of the Day is a powerful and haunting novel. Its complexity is often disguised in its simple language, but the sadness is literally heartbreaking and resonates to the core of one's being. An unforgettable book.


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[Book] The Comfort of Strangers

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 30 December 2007 02:44 (A review of The Comfort of Strangers)

The major theme of the novel is sado-masochism in the context of sexual fantasy, so there is a lot of twisted stuff going on in the book. The writer McEwan explores the dark side of sexual imagination and the roles of gender in the sexual games of the predator and pray. The book has a gothic undertone and the chilling aspect of the story is gradually and subtly developed and eventually comes to the climax (no pun intended) at the end of the novel.

McEwan's writing is definitely good but not to my taste. The story is interesting but again not really my thing. I also have mixed feelings about his take on sex, violence and gender relationships.


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[Book] Dwelings

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 30 December 2007 02:40 (A review of Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World)

A beautiful book.

Dwellings, as its title suggests, is about the living world - about nature and its inhabitants. Writing from the native perspective, the author encourages her reader to experience her vivid descriptions of nature and animals intimately, to see the world from a different angle, that is, to see us as part of the living world rather than apart from it. The book, which is a collection of writings, is beautifully and sincerely written; Hogan's love of the natural world permeates everything she writes, and her love would move anyone who cares to "listen" (reading is a listening) to what she has to say. I have to admit though that I couldn't get into her writing in the beginning, mostly because the first pieces in the collection were rather mythical. My defensive wall went right up when she started talking about magical eagle feathers. However, the book is really about our connection to the rest of the world, which we tend to forget in our anthropocentric and materialistic world.

We are of the animal world. We are part of the cycles of growth and decay. Even having tried so hard to see ourselves apart, and so often without a love for even our own biology, we are in relationship with the rest of the planet, and that connectedness tells us we must reconsider the way we see ourselves and the rest of nature.


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[Book] Monkey Beach

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 30 December 2007 02:39 (A review of Monkey Beach)

The book has it all - an enthralling story, interesting and complex characters, haunting atmosphere, beautiful writing and amazing images of the Northern Pacific coast. It is a weird bland of the real and the mythical, of reality and spirituality. Robinson effortlessly weaves the unusual into the usual by creating a world where the line between the spiritual and the physical is blurred through nature, animals and Haisla lore. The novel can be a bit unsettling as its language navigates between violence and tenderness, darkness and humour. The ending might also be disappointing to some since it is kind of left unresolved. There is no sense of closure, nor a definite happy or tragic ending. I have to admit I'm a bit baffled by the ending, which I haven't had time to think about further. I might re-read the book (or parts of it) in order to see how I really feel about it. The book, however, is definitely worth reading.


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[Book] The Homecoming

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 30 December 2007 02:37 (A review of The Homecoming)

A very weird play in the tradition of "[Link removed - login to see]">Theatre of the Absurd." Have no particular thoughts about it except that I couldn't really relate to the themes of the play, whatever they are. There is not much of a plot or character development, and the interactions between the characters are simply absurd. The lack of explanations for the characters' behaviour is disturbing and uncomfortable for the reader, but maybe that's the point. The play invites one to construct one's own meaning out of the play. I just didn't find it particular inspiring.


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[Book] The Truth about Stories: A Native

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 30 December 2007 02:36 (A review of The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative (Massey Lectures))

I love this book.

My previous experience with Thomas's King was his popular novel Green Grass, Running Water, which I enjoyed tremendously. This non-fiction, like most of King's works, is also concerned with the issues of Native culture and First Nation people. The Truth about Stories consists of "lectures" on the nature of storytelling in relation to Native and Western culture, but the lectures are stories themselves, consisting of anecdotes from King's personal experiences and the collective experiences of the Native people. King's narrative bears his trademark humour and fragmented style of storytelling. His intentional 'digressions' within the narrative is a conscious effort on his part to imitate the style of Native oral storytelling. He raises some interesting questions about the differences between Native creation stories and the Western/Christian creation story, such as the dichotomy of the Christian narrative in contrast to the more fluid and flexible oral storytelling tradition of the Natives.

King touches on politics, culture, religion, history, literature and popular culture in both the Native and North American contexts and asks profound questions in the disguise of humour and the casual writing style. This book was an education for me. It made me laugh at the same time it made me cry. It opened my eyes to the possibility of looking at stories from a different perspective and made me consider "the truth" about and of stories. It is a book that can change, if not your life, at least your perspective on the world.


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[Book] Spring Tides

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 30 December 2007 02:29 (A review of After the Red Night)

Spring Times, which has been translated from the Québécoi novel Les grandes marées and apparently has won the Governor-Generalès Award for Fiction, was a pleasant surprise. The book opens with a man, code named Teddy Bear, living on an island retreat in the St. Lawrence River all by himself and his cat, Matousalem. He works as a translator of comic strips and gets a visit from his boss every week. As the book progresses, the boss starts bringing people to the island, and the presence of the increasing number of islanders starts to have subtle and gradual effects on our solitary hero. Touted as a "thought-provoking fable of man and society," this book at first seemed like a funny and quirky easy read to me. I liked the weird characters on the island as well as their quirky dialogue and strange interactions. However, it soon became clear to me that the book was full of symbols and underlying meanings that frankly I didn't quite get. It's the kind of book that reminds me of Nightwood and The Sound and Fury, although the writing is pretty simple and straightforward compared to those books. I sort of wish I'm taking a class on this because it'd be fun to study the book in depth and talk about all the symbolism, but since I had no lecture or cliff notes, I was left a bit confused about what the author is really trying to say. Is the book about happiness, meaning of life and work or loneliness of man? The trouble with fables is that it is sometimes hard to see the parallel between the fable and reality, and this book gets a bit too abstract for me in the end. I did enjoy it quite a lot still and would probably re-read it sometime. It is a "thought-provoking" (and head-scratching) book all right.


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[Book] Bridget Jones's Diary

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 30 December 2007 02:25 (A review of Bridget Jones's Diary)

Hilarious. It made me laugh out loud many times. Although I couldn't really relate to the book's heroin Bridget Jones as I'm not a 30-year-old weight/men-obsessed British yuppie, I found her brutal honesty and borderline insanity quite lovable. Also as a woman, I can definitely relate to her insecurity. What makes this book more than just a chick lit is the writer's poignant and biting observations about relationships in modern times as well as the inner psyche of most women. For example:

Being a woman is worse than being a farmer - there is so much harvesting and crop, spraying to be done: legs to be waxed, underarms shaved, eyebrows plucked, feet pumiced, skin exfoliated and moisturized, spots cleansed, roots dyed, eyelashes tinted, nails filed, cellulite massaged, stomach muscles exercised. The whole performance is so highly tuned you only need to neglect it for a few days for the whole thing to go to seed. Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if left to revert to nature - with a full beard and handlebar moustache on each shin, Dennis Healey eyebrows, face a graveyard of dead skin cells, spots erupting, long curly fingernails like Struwelpeter, blind as bat and stupid runt of species as no contact lenses, flabby body flobbering around. Ugh, ugh. Is it any wonder girls have no confidence?


The book is definitely better than the movie, which was Hollywoodized into a mere "funny chick flick". Without the inner monologues of Bridget Jones, the silver screen Bridget Jones is merely the butt of jokes and appears rather superficial. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie because it was entertaining, but the book offers more than just comedy or clichéd romance and is much funnier than the movie itself. Although there are many British pop culture references and slang that went right over my head, I still found the book quite funny and witty most of the time. It trails off a bit near the end, however, and the ending is kind of an anti-climax (and quite different from the movie), but overall, I enjoyed reading it. It's been quite a while since I read anything humourous. After reading consecutive plays of Shakespeare and 'literary' books, it was quite refreshing reading something light and was written after I was born.

Oh, and I want Bridget Jones's friends. They are the coolest!


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