The Reading and Procuring of Books

Currently Reading
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Singing Innocence and Experience by Sonya Taaffe

Purchased Yesterday at Borders

Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Books That I'm Expecting in the Post
Moonwise by Greer Ilene Gilman
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
The Sensualist: An Illustrated Novel by Barbara Hodgson
Alabaster by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Daughter of Hounds (Pre-order) by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Only Revolutions - By Mark Z. Danielewski

These should keep me busy for a while.

Sad and Disturbed

Yesterday, there was a shooting in my hometown at the high school that I graduated from, and the hostilities occurred in the classroom of a teacher who profoundly influenced me during my teenage years.

The news is still coming in as the investigators feel comfortable with revealing certain details, and I must admit that I'm rather shocked that something like this has occurred in Bailey. I'm relatively certain that my response is naive, but it's difficult to imagine something so terrible happening in the small town that I know so intimately.

I'm sad for the community, and I can't get the sick feeling out of my stomach that tells me that something is terribly wrong with humanity. It's the same feeling that I get nearly every time that I read the news, but this time it's a bit more personal and thus, a bit more hard hitting.


Check out this video of the lyrebird from a David Attenborough nature documentary. It's fascinating.

One More Day...

The autumnal equinox is in the vicinity, and from the corner of my eye, I'm getting the vaguest impression of long, wild strands of russet hair blowing in the wind (which has been rather brisk these last two days, I must admit). Additionally, I think I just glimpsed a pair of amber eyes quietly peering around the corner. It was slightly unsettling, but I understand that Autumn is waiting for her allotted time before making a full appearance. It makes the humans feel more comfortable when everything is properly scheduled.

The other flora and fauna...well...they already know about her majesty's arrival, and they're doing all that they can to tidy up their homes and stock their pantries with food for the festivities. The leaves (foppish little things that they are) are beginning to dress themselves in their most colourful finery, and the royal detractors among them have sadly plummeted to their deaths littering the landscape with their brittle corpses. It's a pity, really. Her majesty is a much more benevolent ruler than Lord Winter.

Me? I'm a royalist at heart, and like the critters of the forest, I'm beginning to prepare my home for the coming of Autumn. I made a big pot of pea soup, an Indian recipe with lots of coriander and cumin and heavy cream. There are apples to be made into apple crisp, and there have been many pots of warm red-tea or coffee.

I've also been window shopping for warmer clothes and a pair of new boots but without much success... Parting with my sandals is the most difficult part of welcoming Autumn. Everything else comes absolutely naturally to me. She's such a beautiful entity, and this year, she'll be arriving with a gift. My soul sister in California is due to have her baby on November 11th, and I'm beyond excited. I've never wanted any children of my own, but I'm exhilarated by my friend's pregnancy. I get to play the role of aunt, which will be loads of fun. :)

India's Widows

Watching the film, Water, has inspired me to seek additional information about the current state of India's widows. Here are several interesting links that I found:

The Living Dead
Rhadika Chalasani (Photojournalist)
India's Outcast Widows Have New Havens
Tewfic Al-Sawy (Photojournalist)
The Greying of India

Water (2005)

Deepa Mehta was born and raised in India before emigrating to Canada in 1973. She has long been one of my favourite film directors, specificially because of her three elements trilogy.

A brief description of the first two films:

Fire, released in 1996, is a controversial exploration of marriage and traditional gender roles in India. It tells the story of two women who, for varying reasons, experience frustration within their arranged marriages and eventually turn to each other for romantic companionship. Upon its release, Hindi fundamentalists attacked the theaters where the film was being screened, and as a result of that, the film was banned in India for a period of time.

Earth, released in 1998, is based on the novel "Cracking India" by Bapsi Sidhwa. It is the story of the partition of India as viewed through the eyes of a young Parsi girl living in Lahore, which was historically a multicultural city where Parsi, Sikh, Hindi, and Muslim families made their homes. Via a story between the girl's Hindi Ayah and the competing affections of two Muslim men, Mehta effectively portrays the rising religious tension that was present during the time of partition. This is perhaps the strongest film of the three.

I'm pleased to have been able to view the final film, Water, after being unsure of whether or not it would ever be completed. I've been waiting eagerly for many years, and it was well worth the wait.

Water takes place in 1938 before the partition of India, and it is the story of a young girl who is widowed at the age of seven and sent to live in an ashram for the remainder of her life. Traditionally, it was believed that a woman was half comprised of her husband, and when he died, a part of her died as well. Her choices at the time of his death were to burn on his funeral pyre, to marry her husband's brother, or to live all of her future days without pleasure in an ashram where she would make amends for the sins of her past lives which were said to be the cause of her current husband's death.

In addition to the young girl's story, Mehta also tells the stories of the other widows in the ashram, primarily, Kalyani, a young woman who has also lived in a house of widows since she was a very young girl. Unlike the other widows, her hair has not been cut, because she has been forced into prostitution as a means of supporting the head widow's ganja habit. It is her attempt at finding happiness despite the religious politics of India that acts as the catalyst of the film.

In 2000, Water was originally scheduled to be filmed on location at Varanasi, India where there still exist houses for widows, but the day before the filming began, there were sudden difficulties in obtaining the proper permits. A day later, thousands of Hindi Fundamentalist protesters stormed the set, burning it to the ground and throwing the remains into the Ganges. Mehta also received threats against her life, and at this point, it was clear that the filming could not continue in India. Eventually, the director, was able to continue the production in Sri Lanka, but because of the length of time that had passed between permits, she was forced to recast the film with younger actors. Water was finally shown in theaters in 2005, and it was released on DVD in late August of 2006.

The Dancing Girls of Lahore

I've been reading The Dancing Girls of Lahore by Louise Brown, a teacher in the sociology department at the University of Birmingham in England.

Over a period of more than four years, Brown documented the lives of several individuals living and working in Heera Mandi, the red light district of Lahore. She interacts with many people in the community, and she describes their lives in vivid detail, but the author's greatest focus is on one middle aged dancer and her female children who are destined to follow in their mother's footsteps because of culturally imposed restrictions on class and gender. This is initially written with the eye of a scholar, but as time passes, Louise Brown becomes more personally attached to her subjects which lends itself to a more emotional and compassionate telling of their lives, culture, and historical role in Pakistan.

There is also quite a bit of information regarding religion, particularly the Shia branch of Islam. It's a fascinating and important book, particularly for those who are interested in gender studies as they relate to the Middle East.

Wishing on Stars

Ask and you shall receive. Blogger now has categorization support. This is excellent!


I don't watch much television. I don't have reception in my apartment, and I refuse to pay for cable when there's very little worth watching. When I'm interested in a series, I order it from Netflix, which leaves me waiting for a significant period of time between releases.

This week, Christoph and I have been watching the second and final season of Carnivale after waiting eagerly for more than a year. I was riveted by the series up until the very last episode which was unable to provide significant closure to a story that was initially scheduled to run for six seasons. I'm extremely frustrated by this, and it further compounds my distaste for television.

I understand that entertainment is a business based on money, but what happened to the art of telling a story? Isn't that equally important? It seems to me that allowing for quality television would actually increase revenues, but I guess my tastes just don't coincide with the majority.

At the very least, I'd like to see a mini-series that wraps up the loose ends of Carnivale. It's not the most favourable option, but at least its something.

Oryx and Crake

The front flap of Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood reads:

As the story opens, the narrator, who calls himself Snowman, is sleeping in a tree, wearing a dirty old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beautiful and beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. In a world in which science-based corporations have recently taken mankind on an uncontrolled genetic-engineering ride, he now searches for supplies in a wasteland. Insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the Pleeblands, where ordinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extradordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly! Why is Snowman left with nothing but his bizarre memories—alone except for the more-than-perfect, green-eyed children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster? He explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes—into his own past and back to Crake's high-tech bubble dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

When I first began reading this book, I wasn't entirely taken by the author's use of language, but the further that I read, the more infectious the language became until I found that I couldn't put the book down. Atwood takes current societal issues and extrapolates on them, presenting one possible future in a witty and satirical manner.

The first thing that the reader understands is that the climate has changed drastically, obliterating once coastal cities and warming the Earth to such a degree that living in the open air is unhealthy and uncomfortable. A small number of priviledged families have escaped this discomfort by existing in self-contained compounds while profiting from those less fortunate and less esteemed than themselves. This larger portion of the population lives in the “Pleeblands,” an uncontrolled area riddled with crime and poverty.

Another major theme of the book is the negative effect that bioengineering could potentially have on the ecosystem and society if driven only by profit and without ethical consideration. There are several instances where the reader views scientists inflicting greater harm on the system in an attempt to right previous blunders or to “improve” the lives of human beings. Atwood's dialogue can be heavy-handed at times, but I didn't find it at all off-putting. In fact, I found that she often did well in pointing out how convenience and a situation where demand is greater than supply can lead to some rather absurd ideas on how to “fix” things.

One complaint that I initially had regarding this book is the lack of discussion of some of the characters' motivations, but the more that I think about it, the more that I feel that it's not important to Atwood's message. I'm not going to go into detail, which would result in spoilers, but I will say that I don't think it really matters if the intentions are good or bad when the result of an act destroys the entire world... I mean really, at that point, it's a little late to determine whether or not something was a good idea. Snowman certainly didn't get the chance to fully understand it, and this is his story.

Wood Troll

As I was walking through the park, I came across this interesting wood formation.

Magic can be found in places that are easy to overlook if you don't take the time to stop and appreciate the beauty of your surroundings.

Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion

This weekend, I stayed in and finished reading Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons. Both were wonderful, and I intend to continue on with the series, but I think I'll take a break before starting the next novel. I'm too tired to give a detailed synopsis, and I'm not sure that I could do it well. I find it increasingly difficult to write about writing. It requires a sort of reductionism that never does justice to the actual work in question, and the Hyperion Series has an intricate plotline that makes it all the more difficult to reduce down to a simple blog entry. Instead, I point you to the Wikipedia entries for both Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. Today, I'm content with allowing someone else to do the work, and I'll just provide the recommendation.

I did go for a much needed walk in the park, and I nearly found myself covered in massive quantities of bird dren. There was a big splat several feet in front of me, and when I looked up, there was a beautiful hawk perched on a limb. I stayed and watched him in all of his elegance for quite a while before returning to my apartment, and now I'm here trying to decide what to do with the rest of my evening. It's exceedingly hot in this little box, and my ambition is not very high.

I was thinking about walking to my office to pick up an Amazon order that appears to have arrived on Saturday, but I'll probably wait until tomorrow to venture out again. I'm expecting Singing Innocence and Experience by Sonya Taaffe and The Dancing Girls of Lahore: Selling Love and Saving Dreams in Pakistan's Pleasure District by Louise Brown.