Monday, June 18, 2012

WildlifeWildlife by Richard Ford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a classic coming of age story, a young man on the cusp of maturity who learns that life is fundamentally uncertain and unpredictable when his father decides to leave home to join the teams of men (and some women) heading off to fight forest fires in the mountains surrounding their town. Ford masterfully conveys Joe Brinson's feeling of being caught somewhere between knowing and not knowing what will happen next as he is thrust into the middle of the fire that is the dissolution of his parents' fragile marriage. This is a novel that derives its power from simple unadorned language and an unstinting attention to detail. The story behaves like the fire it describes, with white hot embers of emotion seething beneath the surface, threatening to flare up and destroy at any moment. And like a fire, once on the surface, it's difficult to control.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A little love for Halbman from my Alma Mater

Sometimes home is not what we think it is, Rotchin tells us, and memory can become a way forward rather than an anchor to the past. These themes will resonate even for those who have never set foot in Montreal. Read more.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rabbit, Run Rabbit, Run by John Updike

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There were times reading this novel when I was reminded of the musician who has great chops but doesn't know when to stop; he plays five notes when two tastefully executed would've sufficed. I guess it should be expected from this early novel in what was to become a long, illustrious and prodigious career. Rare is the talent that charges out of the gate fully mature, and Updike was no exception. I never did develop any sympathy for Harry - which is a major problem for a novel's readability - nor did I ever arrive at any genuine understanding as to why he walks out on his pregnant wife and young son in the first place. And perhaps that's Updike's main point: Harry's ambivalence leads to moral obtuseness. In the context of its publication at the end of the 50s ie. the United State's post-war economic boom and middle America reveling in an Ozzie and Harriet Protestant suburban fantasy, I can see how a character like Rabbit, the ambivalent rebel, might seem outrageous. Unquestionably, the tragic price paid for Harry's ambivalence is heart-wrenching. But nowadays, when thirty is the new twenty, youth are in no hurry to grow up and leave home, and ambivalence is the order of the day, Harry's 'rebellion' strikes me as rather quaint. I'll still read the next book in the series to see if both Updike the writer and Harry mature. 

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