Saturday, 30 August 2008

Mad Dogs and Ottawans

Anyone who's watched Inside the Actor's Studio knows that James Lipton concludes his interview with a list of questions based on the "Proust Questionnaire" as adapted by Bernard Pivot. Actually, I find the thing to be remarkably unrevelatory (and a wee bit precious), with the possible exception of Anthony Quinn who, when reaching heaven, hoped God would say, "I understand."

Anyway, one question is "What sound do you hate?" No contest for me. I loathe the sound of cicadas (cicadae?). It's a high pitched buzz which intensifies with heat. When I first heard it, on my first full day in Ottawa on September 1st, 2000, I thought it was the whine of the electrical wires as we climbed the long hill up Springfield Road to register elder daughter in Grade Three. Today is my first full day back in Hades after six weeks in Victoria, and as I climbed that same hill en route to the library, the crickets rattled in the bushes, and the cicadas buzzed, buzzed, buzzed in the trees until I thought I would scream. The temperature isn't even that high, but the air is heavy with moisture. Last night, I stepped out on the back deck and felt the wet sock of the atmosphere. It was eighteen flippin' degrees Celsius; in Victoria, I'd be slipping on a fleecy jacket and gulping the cool sea air.

Oh well, at least I managed a few finds at the library. I was looking for audio books, and found a "Shakespeare mystery" by Leonard Tourney entitled Time's Fool, and a series of lectures on Western music (that's classic, not C&W) by a professor at Columbia University. Also a DVD of Shut Up and Sing which should be especially interesting in the light of the upcoming American elections and the possibility of a gun-totin' former beauty queen vice-president.

As I descended the kilometre-long hill, I overtook an older lady walking a small fluffy dog who inexplicably apologised to me. (The lady, not the dog, and why? For being on the sidewalk?) Seconds later, I heard the unearthly liquid snarls of a much larger dog and turned in time to see a black lab lunge from behind a high wooden fence. The lady snatched up mop-dog just in time, and her cloth bag flew into the street spilling her keys and a box of pooper-scooper bags (mercifully empty). The black lab turned out to be on a leash and the owner, a mortified younger woman, apologised profusely in English while the older woman told her curtly in French to control her dog. The other woman said their dogs had met before with no problem, and she couldn't understand her lab's reaction. I quietly collected the strewn things back into the bag. The older lady, still clutching her pet, was groping for the English words to describe the unfriendliness of the lab, and glanced distractedly at me as I handed the bag to her. I left them to it, while the cicadas buzzed unrelentingly.

You know all those brave words I had about living in the moment? Screw it. I want to live in the past for a bit. There. That's Victoria. A summer's evening. The sun is setting through a plant I can't identify in the garden of our house-sit. I have a cool drink, and a good book. The air is scrubbed clean by the sea. Pardon me while I go live there for a bit. I may need to go back there a few times in the next month until the autumn, the one redeeming element about Ottawa, colours the trees and cools the breezes. And sends the bloody cicadas into hibernation...

Monday, 25 August 2008

This scares the stuffing out of me

Got this from the real Persephone's blog, although I hasten to point out that these are my results, not the real Persephone's whose results appear on her own blog. I confess I am spooked. Try it if you dare:

ColorQuiz.comPersephone took the free personality test!
"Longs for a tender and sympathetic bond and for a ..."

Click here to read the rest of the results.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Eternity is Now

Some years ago, I was sitting with my mother at a concert, battling back panic. I was starting a new teaching job the next day, and, as usual, felt unprepared and guilty for doing something as frivolous as listening to music in a place where I couldn't possibly make lists. As the singing flowed over me, a phrase suddenly came to me: Eternity is Now. I knew this as a ballet set to Mahler, but the phrase is far older than that. Fearing the morrow, I wondered how the present could be everlasting (I was much younger then), and had a vision of us all in the concert hall, enveloped in a golden column stretching up to infinity and down to forever.

I have five days left in Victoria. I don't want to go back to Ottawa, to the grit, the loneliness, the smells, and above all, my younger daughter's final year in elementary school and all the stress that implies. So I look out of the window at the rain. (You can actually walk in the rain in Victoria; sometimes you can even step between the raindrops.) And I stand in the doorway gazing out at the garden and gulp in lungfuls of clean air, sweetened by the sea. And I call forth that eternal, vertical, golden column. I am here now. I need to rejoice in that.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

An irresistible meme

This meme appeared in the blog A Gaping Silence, and I just have to do it, knowing that I will be exposed to ridicule if Phil Edwards' erudite crowd ever finds this and discover that I actually like Bill Bryson:

The Big Read (whatever that is) reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you love.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or for whatever reason loathe.
5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I realize that with the background and text I've picked for this blog it's rather difficult to see which ones I've bolded (there are about 37). Actually, there are several books on this list that I probably have read, but don't remember well enough to claim them. And yes, I have read all of Shakespeare and the Bible, even King John in the former and the Apocrypha in the latter. Don't actually remember them that well, but it was required, okay? I have been sparing with the "strike" html, because I hate to say that I will never read a book. All three of those I chose to strike are books I've read enough of to know I wouldn't like them.

Now, tags. Hmmn. Let's try Bluestalking Reader (surely this is the ultimate reader's meme); Maniac Mum (cuz we know Jane likes nothing better than to confronted by a meme after a holiday); Poetry in Motion (because we haven't heard from Jonas in over a month); Stopping to Eat the Roses (because I think Vanessa secretly likes memes); The Woman Who Talked Too Much (because Marie didn't do the last one I sent her); What Possessed Me (because I don't think I've tagged P. yet); and Belgian Waffle (because Jaywalker's blog is fast becoming a favourite).

Update: I've read Possession and A Fine Balance this summer, bringing my total to 39, I think. My reviews are at Goodreads, if you're interested...