tripping the life unbalanced

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

#44 The Time In Between

Now here's a novel I fell into, and absolutely loved. Here's a novel that gives good metaphor AS WELL as good story. This 2005 Giller prize winner won me over, and how. The Time In Between by David Bergen is the story of a man who returns to Vietnam where he fought years before. It is also the story of his daughter Ada's search for him when he goes missing, and her subsequent discovery of who her father really was. It's a novel full of overlapping memories and internal conflict, and ultimately is a story of a daughter's search for herself among her father's personal demons. Sad, yes. Depressing, yes, But totally fulfilling.

I love Bergen's prose - the simplicity of it. Probably not for all readers, as its nakedness will probably bother some. (if that makes sense). But this appeals to me, as I love when an author can cut to the chase. Take this paragraph (page 167) near the end of the novel, where Ada is coming to terms with her father's legacy of fear and anger:

They drank warm beer and watched the sun set. It went down orange and then red. Beyond the palm trees in the courtyard, down the lane, Ada saw a woman riding her bicycle, her back straight, one arm steady at her side. Vu said that it was important to live without hate and bitterness and fear. "This is possible" he said.

I like the cadences here, the rise and fall of the sentences as they convey such a simple idea. It seems effortless, even though I know it couldn't have been.

Totally recommended.

#22. Kafka On The Shore

I must admit, I am hitting a snag with my 50 book challenge. I have about 5 or 6 titles on my bedside table that have been waiting for my attention. They are almost all award-winning novels, by renowned authors. I was getting about half-way through all of them, and then I would put them down and going on to the next. Not engaging or fully immersed in any of them. Which is weird for me, as I love to feel absorbed by and completely addicted to a novel. I finally made a deal with myself and hunkered down to finish one of them. Which is how we come to #22 on my list - Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami. On many of the must-read lists of 2005, this novel managed to hold my interest long enough to dive in with both feet.

I won't go into the plot of this novel, because truly its plot is not that important. It's the tone, rather, that moves this book along. Filled with dream-like narrative, Kafka On the Shore follows two people whose lives intertwine in a sometimes paranormal - and downright freaky - story. And while I can appreciate a picnic of metaphors as much as the next girl, I also found myself growing tired of the falling fish, ghosts, and magic stones that hijack this book. I found myself aching for the STORY in it all - the beginning, the middle, the end. The dramatic arc and then the explanation at the end.

In the television world, we are always talking about the "reveal" in the story: the part of the half-hour lifestyle series where the people walk into their newly-made over living rooms, exclaiming "oh my GAWD, look at the wainscoting Henry!" It's the part of the story when the audience is rewarded for sticking it out. And that's exactly the part of this story that I thought was missing - the reveal. Where's my wrap-up, my sum-up, my clap on the back for making it through achingly-long passages about a mysterious stone and whether or not the two main characters are connected? Maybe I've become lazy in my expectations of a story, but I want the linear story dammnit! Maybe I've become one of those people I hated in university - the ones who rolled their eyes in literary theory class and asked the professor if we could just read The Great Gatsby just one more time "'cause at least it's an easy story to understand..."

Other than the lack of a solid story, however, this novel is one of beauty and skill. Like a really long poem that you can read in bits at a time, savouring each word. Now if only I had the patience to stick around...

Monday, June 26, 2006


Alice's daycare invited me to their "graduation" celebration last week. She is not even really "graduating" to kindergarten until next year, but the daycare were also celebrating the movement of the "sophomores" to the next year up. I kid you not.

So I arrive at the celebration, all sarcasm and rolling eyes. Right. This is what the world needs. Another reason to eat copious amounts of cake and buy expensive photo packages. And as if these 3 and 4 year olds can really understand the pomp and circumstance of the whole event.

The parents were ushered into the gym, where a large banner reading "CONGRATS GRADS" was hanging over the stage. I think I had the same banner at my high school graduation. I could not believe the hoopla over (what I thought) was such a minor event. These are THREE year olds, people. I searched the crowd until I found the other parents who obviously agreed with my jaded view of the whole event - we shared some smirks. The lights dimmed and the slide show began, to the tune of the perfectly awful "That's What Friends Are For." I tried to control my giggles at how very very ridiculous it all was, how very over the top. And then, by the time we reached the 2nd verse of that awful song, it happened...I got sucked into the whole thing. The pictures on the screen showed my daughter a year ago, all baby-like with her toothy grins and chubby hands. I found myself reaching for the conveniently-placed kleenex at the end of every row, trying unsuccessfully to cover up big heaving sobs. Good god I was an embarrassment to myself. It was just that there she was - all big girl and no more baby. And there she was - playing a game with kids I don't know. There she was, having an experience totally outside of anything I know about her, creating her own memories away from me.

So I let myself get into it. You know, rituals can be good. And a year of Alice's life, at this point, is a huge huge deal for her. While I can do without the gowns and hats and photo shoots, it made her feel very special about the year she just had. She felt celebrated and cherished. And that's enough for me.

So, with that, I present to you: my sophomore of 2006!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

H to the izz-O, M to the izz-E

Lame. Yes I know. Capital L Lame. But can't a girl love her some Jay-Z just once in a while? Can't I throw around these lyrics like I'm not the whitest mama on the block?

I'm home now from a week-long business trip in Banff. It was hectic and busy and productive and a bit too long. There is only so much talking about television I can do. 'Cause that is virtually what I do all day long. Talk about tv, think about tv, pitch tv shows, listen to tv show pitches, and on and bloody on. Most days I love what I do and do it well. But there are some days when I feel like if I have to hear "OK, there's this makeover team, see?" I will shoot myself and those around me in the face. Or I will just lose my shit and start freaking out about the amount of useless tv shows that are actually currently on the air and how we could all benefit from other activities like, oh I don't know, reading?

I'm not sure which reaction would be worse for my career, actually.

Alice spent the week at my parents up north and had a great time. I think she might have worn them thin by the end of their time together, though. They looked pretty happy to be driving away from her instead of rushing out of the car like they usually do to see who will get to her first. She looked about two years older and actually got taller in the week we were apart. Seriously, the child is almost half my size and I ain't no shorty. I look at her sometimes and think "wow, she is going to kick ASS when she is a teenager." And then other times I feel bad, because I know her fate: the tallest girl in the grade eight room with a bunch of boys who seem a million years younger and much more immature and who act like little fuckers really. Um yeah. I think I have some leftover resentment.

Anyway, I gotta get back on this blogging horse. How does one get her momentum back after a week of listening to many pontifications on the "future" of the Canadian television industry??? She plants her ass in front of the PVR'd episodes of fantastically non-Canadian programs like Entourage and Big Love.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

from bliss to barf

I want to say right upfront that I would never try and topple Marla's current reign as gross-out queen. But people, I am warning you now: if you have a weak stomach or possibly are above listening to people talk about barf or have an aversion to listening to ME bitch about anything, move right the fuck along. Like, now.

This past weekend we enjoyed two blissful days on Lake Huron, where my parents have retired. Beautiful sun, cartons of potato salad, other people to look after my child - what could be better? I got a chance to finish a book and eat my face off and watch my daughter soak up the attention of her grandparents, and generally felt much rejuvenated by the time we started the 3 hour drive home. Even Alice cooperated for most of the ride, and I felt like everything was right with the world.

Until about 30 minutes from Toronto where the sun started to turn into a giant ball of smog and the QEW was packed with stupid fuckers on motorbikes and my daughter started whining about "getting out of this car NOW!" And while I tried to close my eyes and go to my happy place of beach and beer and potato salad, she started kicking my chair and shrieking. And of course instead of offering a comforting "we'll be home soon!" I whined right back at her "stop kicking my chair, Alice, and just try to be patient! Remember we talked about PATIENCE??" (I said, barely hanging on myself). Her kicking intensified and when I whipped my head back intending to go all mommy dearest on her, she coughed once and barfed all over herself, the car seat, and my friend sitting in the back seat. I felt terrible, of course, because the poor thing was terrified and feeling sick and all I did was yell at her. And of course I couldn't get to her because of the stupid carseat.

At this point we were only about 15 minutes from home so it wasn't so bad. Matt started accelerating to get us home faster which put us all more on edge. So I alternated between trying to soothe Alice from my seat with "it's OK sweetie, everything is going to OK" to "good LORD Matt, slow the hell down!" The smell of barf was so intense, and because our luxury 1990 Honda has a) a broken air conditioner and b) windows that are broken and won't go down, it was not pleasant. As soon as we got home I immediately threw her in the bathtub, cleaned her up and hugged her a lot. And after some soup and gingerale, she was good as gold.

I, on the other hand, had lost all memories of the blissed-out weekend. Funny how that happens. You'd think that 15 minutes of pure hell and chaos still couldn't hold a candle to 48 hours of relaxation and rest. But apparently, barf still trumps a holiday anytime.