Sunday, May 14, 2017

Watching, waking, leaking, planning

Life is busy of late. My reading is very piecemeal. Somehow I've managed to get myself to this point where, unnaturally for me, I'm reading four books or more at the same time. I'm highly distractible these days, and the lack of reading focus exacerbates the feeling of being unmoored. This blog in fact brings some kind of structure and routine to my life, and I miss it when I ignore it. That ends today.

Here's some of what's been going on.

My mother is a feminist, but she doesn't know it. And she's far more open-minded than she believes herself to be.

Thank gawd for television. If it weren't for television, my mother might not recognize Margaret Atwood for the Canadian icon she is. Somehow, Peter Mansbridge and I convinced my mom to give the television adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale a try, arguing that it's deeply relevant commentary on our Trumpian times.

It's dark and riveting, and my mother agrees.

My mom asked me in our first telephone debriefing, "It's almost like... is this science fiction?" I said the only thing I could say. "Ummm, nnnoooo."

Impulse purchase at a checkout counter: We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I was suddenly overcome with the feeling that I should own a copy of this, leave it lying around the house for visitors to pick up. But I don't have many visitors. I thought about wrapping it up for my teenage daughter, but then thought better of it. She'll find her own brand of feminism without my pressing manifestoes on her. So I sent it to my mother.

If you haven't already, watch Adichie's TED Talk. (Or just listen to Beyoncé. See also.)

As part of this year's Blue Metropolis literary festival, Barbara Gowdy was interviewed by Kathleen Winter, substituting for Heather O'Neill at the last minute. I've read only one of Gowdy's books, The White Bone, and it devastated me to the point that I deliberately stayed away from everything else she published for fear of further devastation or, worse, disappointment. But O'Neill was in fact the main draw for me to attend this event; had I known she was absent, I might not have made the effort, but I'm glad I did.

Gowdy's latest is Little Sister, about a woman who through paranormal means ends up inhabiting another's body, but, if I understood correctly, that body is not a mere vehicle (√† la Being John Malkovich) — it's a catalyst for a much deeper experience.

The conversation was fantastic, weaving around this idea of fluidity, that so many boundaries have lost their rigidity, particularly in terms of identity, and everything is leaking into everything else. They also discussed, admiringly, George Saunders' Lincoln at the Bardo, which covers some similar territory (as well as the phenomenon of how similar, or even the same ideas, can crop up independently of one another). I'm very much looking forward to reading both the Gowdy and the Saunders (eventually).

The flights are booked: the kid and I are planning a holiday, splitting our time between Edinburgh, London, and Brighton (with daytrips to the likes of Stonehenge and Oxford).

I'm full up on English literature, but I'd like to read some novels set in Edinburgh. Any recommendations?

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