Shake Hands with the Devil

It’s been a few years since I read General Romeo Dallaire’s book Shake Hands with the Devil. In this book he recounts his time in Rawanda during the genocide, what it was like being the head of UN peace keeping mission which was more or less used to try and help the western world feel like they are doing something in a vary dangerous part of the world. Since then there has been a documentary about his return to Rawanda ten years after the genocide.

Here is a clip from the opening of the documentary of the same name as the book. I must warn you that there are some disturbing images in the following clip.

Just recently I watched the new movie also called Shake Hands with the Devil. The new movie is based on the book written by Dallaire which stars Roy Dupuis as the general. Watching the movie reminded me of both the novel and another movie in which focuses on the genocide in this country, Hotel Rawanda. Here’s the trailer for the film:

Romeo Dallaire was a huge part of every aspect of the making of this film and it’s interesting to note that the movie was filmed at the exact locations as the original events.

Some of you may recall when I was being hosted at another site the post I made entitled Hero! in which I talked about the great Stephen Lewis. I think Dallaire belongs in the same company as Lewis. Both of which have been given Canada’s highest honor the Order of Canada. I just think it’s unfortunate that their efforts haven’t been recognized on the worlds stage like it should.

Dallaire was vocal about the atrocities that were going to happen in Rawanda if nothing was done and the western world opted to ignore what he had to say. And then didn’t think they should recognize the mass killings as they were happening as genocide because then they would be forced to do something about it. The world is doing the same thing in Darfur and it’s shameful!

The only way governments will do anything to end these atrocities and that is for everyone to stand up and be vocal about it. I want to encourage you to add your voices to those that cannot be vocal and show the people in Darfur that we do care and aren’t going to stand by and accept what’s happening. I would like to encourage everyone to help spread the word. If you need help spreading the world watch either of the movies or read the book Shake Hands with the Devil.

Everybody is part of humanity and by standing up you are showing everyone that all people are human worthy of the life. Please do something now. If you do a post please pass the link on to thatsthebook@gmail.com and I’ll add a link to your post at the end of this post.

Encounters With the Writing Kind

Many of us probably think about meeting a particular author, I would love to meet Douglas Coupland for instance.  And I’m sure if you know of someone that may be in your area you’ll go and meet them and maybe even ask if they’d sign one of their books for you.  I’m sure you could all tell me who that author would be, I’d love to hear you’d like to meet.  Now I’ve had the opportunity to acquaint myself with some writers.

While in elementary school we had some authors come to the school.  The first person I remember meeting was Robert Munch, author of Mortimer and The Paperbag Princess.  There’s nothing like hearing him read these stories.  He becomes very animated and it’s some good entertainment for children.  The other author we had come visit our school was Jean Little.  The one aspect that particularly stands out in mind is the fact that Little is partial sighted.  I don’t know what it was about this point of Jean Little but it’s the one thing that really stands out about my encounter with her.

Later on in life, while attending Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg I heard that Timothy Findley author of two of my favorite books (Not Wanted on the Voyage and Spadework).  I really enjoy both of these books for different reasons.  I love Not Wanted on the Voyage because of the bits about the cat, it just made me crack up so many times.  And Spadework was wonderful because it takes place in my hometown of Stratford.  It’s just so interesting to read a novel that talks about places you’ve actually been to and the images are so clear with you are familiar with the place.  So it fun going to McNally Robinson to get him to sign the book and have a little chat about Stratford.

But that’s not what this is all about.  Yesterday I got to meet two authors, one that I’m not at all familiar with but after her reading I had to purchase her book.  The other I’m sure you all know.

The first author was Linda Spalding author of Who Named the Knife which is amazing, or at least the parts that she read.  Who Named the Knife is all about Spalding’s relationship with a woman that was convicted of murder.  I don’t want to talk too much about it because I don’t really know that much about it but what she read really made me want to read it so I went to the lobby and purchased it.  I’ll be using it as one of the selections for The Canadian Book Challenge 2.  Spalding was wonderful to listen to, she had a great clear voice and I could tell that she enjoyed sharing this story with everyone because when people came up to get their books signed she exclaimed, “Oh good you got one!”  It was wonderful to be around someone that was excited about sharing their story with old and new readers.

The second author that did a reading was Spalding’s husband.  When he was introduced and older gentleman came out.  He looked like a professor of Chemistry or some other science with his puffy white hair and a snow beard.  He was rather soft spoken but you could periodically catch hints of his accent.  This was Michael Ondaatje.  The line to get his autograph was crazy but well worth it, not only did he sign my copy of Divisadero (again originally purchased for The Canadian Book Challenge 2) but he was also kind enough to sign Running in the Family for Susan (Naked Without Books) which will be part of the Canadian book package I’m sending.

It was interesting meeting Ondaatje but he didn’t look like what I thought he might.  I was half expecting someone that was pompous but he was really friendly.  And when you meet the author of The English Patient you seem to be incapable of decipherable speech.  I don’t know why but the words just didn’t want to come out of my mouth, which usually dose not happen.  But I was thrilled to meet him and really glad that he signed the book for Susan.

This was a great way to start a very busy day.  After I finished with Ondaatje I had a day of theatre.  First I saw Romeo and Juliet and that was followed by There Reigns Love with Simon Callow (written and performed by him).  But I shall save that for a later day.  Until then happy reading.

Booking Through Thursday #15 – Beginnings

Well my friends it’s also been a long time since I’ve done a Booking Through Thursday but I’m back and I’m really excited about this Thursday’s topic.  This week we are talking about first lines in novels we’ve read.  The question is thus posed to us:

Here’s another idea about memorable first lines from books.

What are your favourite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?

I will begin by saying that I don’t think I’ve read a first line and then not enjoyed the whole book.  It’s typically that first line that gets things moving and draws you into the novel…or not.  But there are a couple of first lines that I’ve really enjoyed.

The first opening line that I’ve loved was in one of the Christopher Moore’s novels.  You Suck is a novel about vampires in modern day America and the struggles they have to survive, it’s a comedy so we aren’t looking at an Anne Rice vampire novel here.  You Suck starts with the line (I’m going from memory here), “You killed me, You Suck!”.  There aren’t many novels that get right to the point as this one does and it’s done in a humors way.

The other opening lines that I’d like to mention are from Douglas Coupland’s latest hit The Gum Thief.  I just began reading this one so I don’t know how it’s going to end or progress but I must say that I just cracked up with the beginning of this novel.

A few years ago it dawned on me that everybody past a certain age — regardless of how they look on the outside — pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives.  They don’t want to be who they are any more.  They want out.  This list includes Thurston Howell the third, Ann-Margret, the cast members of Rent, Vaclav Havel, space shuttle astronauts and Snuffleupagus.  It’s universal.

Another wonderful opening by the great Canadian author Coupland. It’s a beginning that just made me laugh and want to dive head first into the novel.  Happy Thursday all!!

Graphic Novels Challenge – Mail Order Bride

This is a review that has been long in the making.  I’ve tried writing it several time but to no avail.  So it’s not due to lake of trying that this hasn’t been done yet, it’s that bad case of writers block I’ve been having.  I hope it’s gone now and posts will be happening more regularly.

Mail Order Bride was one of the best graphic novels I read for the graphic novels challenge.  The simplicity of the images on the page and the basic story and minimal dialogue really kept the story moving.  I found myself drawn into many of the details on the page.  The images were simple in that they were black and white and only had what was need to help move the story forward.

As one may guess the story is about a North American that gets a bride from Asia (Korea to be specific).  The problem that arises in this particular tale is that both have a different prospective on the relationship and each had a different hope for the outcome.  Monty Wheeler is looking for a stereotypical Asian woman to be his wife, he wants a woman that will do everything for him; his cooking and cleaning and be ready for his every beck and call.  His mail order bride is looking for a way out of her cultural heritage and ends up feeling the same restraints she had in her native country.

I really enjoyed reading this and the Korean cultural aspects were of great interest to me as I was there when I read this graphic novel.  I haven’t done any research on Mark Kalesniko so I don’t know what other work he has done but this has definitely piqued my interest and I’d been really interested to find more of his work.  If it’s as good as this one it would be devoured in a few hours.

Since I’ve read this book I’ve wondered how much of this is autobiographical which has somehow seeped into my sub-conscious and I think have begun wondering the same thing when I read other novels, particularly classics.  I wonder if that’s something that is normal, do any of you wonder how much or which parts of a novel are biographical while you read them?

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

Since being back in Stratford I’ve been to see many shows at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. My first introduction to this season was Joe Masteroff, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Cabaret staring Bruce Dow as the Emcee and Trish Lindstrom as Sally Bowles. Since being home I’ve already watched Cabaret twice. Needless to say I loved the show from Wilkommen to the finale.

This is not the Cabaret of Liza Minnelli this is a Cabaret that is both fresh and exciting.  It’s a show full of energy and sexuality.  And it’s the kind of musical that I love, one that makes you think.  Not many musicals are thought provoking, they are rather a toothy all is happy and wonderful with the world.  It’s not very often that you see Natzis in a musical.  The Stratford Shakespeare Festival has done a wonderful job bring the pre-Nazi era to it’s stage.  The Nazis are even more disturbing in this production as you cannot see their faces, they covered with a black cloth.

I cannot leave this post without talking about another amazing set design by Douglas Paraschuk.  Every time he does a design you know you’re in for a treat and have a lot to take in.  With the simple yet complex design of Cabaret Paraschuk has out done himself.

Cabaret is an amazing production and it was an amazing way to start the start my first season at Stratford. It’s true what the Emcee says to open the show, ” So – life is disappointing? Forget it!  We have no troubles here! Here life is beautiful…The girls are beautiful…Even the orchestra is beautiful”

Non-Fiction Five – Book One

As part of the Non-Fiction Five Challenge I decided to start with my latest book obsession…graphic novels.  And my “first selection” was actually it was two books that I read and will be reviewing as one.  Art Spiegelman has been talked about for some time now and particularly his Maus books.  I must add to the growing list of admirers of the Maus stories.

The first book Maus A survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History introduces the reader to the Spiegelman clan and the unique way of tell the story of World War Two.  As many of you are already aware, I’m sure, the Jewish community is represented by mice and the Germans are represented by cats.  With a host of other animals including frogs and pigs.  This first part is all about the Spiegelman’s rise and fall from wealthy shop owners just prior to the second world war.

The second book Maus A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began starts where the second book ends with there entrance into the concentration camps started by the Nazis.  There are parts of the story I found necessary but disturbing.  I don’t there is a better way to tell the story and make it accessible to the masses.  I think this way of telling the story of a Jewish family during the second world war to younger generations because it’s told in a way that they would enjoy.

The World War Two story is intertwined with stories of Art Spiegelman obtaining the details of his mother from his elderly father.  I found the interaction between him and his father just as interesting as the bits about the war.  The starkness of the black and white images are perfect for this tale.  I like to find colour in graphic novels (part of the reason I loved Fables: Legends in Exile so much) because too many of them use only black and white when colour would work just as well.  But for Maus I think the use of colour would be a flaw as you wouldn’t get the same contrast as you do with simple black and white images.

I adored these books so much and would strongly suggest that you read them.  I think this may even be the best graphic novel I’ve read, or it’s at least tied for first with Fables.  The fact that this is really the story of Art Spiegelman’s father helps to make this the splendid story it is.  This is one book, and I don’t usually do this, that is a must read.  Take the first opportunity you can to read these two Maus graphic novels, you won’t regret it.

Even though I don’t usually give a must read to a book I’m sure some of you have a book you would say are must reads, what book would you say is a must read?  Also I want to remind you that if you have read these books please send me an email (thatsthebook@gmail.com) letting me know you’ve read these books and have posted a review of them and the link.  I’ll place the link at the end of this post once I’ve received your email.

The Classics Challenge

Well, I’m so excited about The Classics Challenge I have a few books that I’ve been wanting to read and need to get to. This will definitely help me dive back into the classical book world. I decided not to go into this challenge with a list but let the list build as I go along. There are a couple books that I will definitely read for this challenge. I’ve been reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for a while now and will be using it as one of the books for this challenge. I also plan to read String of Pearls for this challenge. String of Pearls was a find while in Korea, I did talk about it in an earlier post. It’s the story that helped to propel the Sweeney Todd story, it’s actually the first story about Todd that later because a musical, which in turn became a movie staring Depp. Finally I plan to read Moby Dick by Herman Melville the reason I’ve selected this novel is because Stratford Shakespeare Festival is putting on a production of Moby Dick by the same people that did The Overcoat. The other two books will come as I go along.

In the next little while I plan to post reviews on this site of the productions at the Festival as something a little different. I’m a huge fan of the theatre and have read many plays and I thought this would be a way to bring my love of theatre and love of books together.

I look forward to reading these books and the adventures that come with them. Because this is a new foray into literature for me it would be interested to hear from you any books that would be good for me to look into.

Orbis Terrarum Challenge – Germany

Well, this has been long in the works, thanks for everyone that gave me the tips on how to over come my writers block. It feels good to finally be able to sit down and update this site again. I’m almost as behind in my reading as I am in my writing but I hope that will turn around soon.

The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear is the second novel I read for the Orbis Terarrum Challenge. I’m still really excited about this challenge and it really is helping me to expand my reading, in that I typically only read novels from Canada or America. It was a lot of fun reading something from Germany and reading a genre that I typically don’t read.

This is the story of your typical bluebear growing up in a not so typical way.  Each chapter is dedicated to one of Captain Bluebear’s lives.  The art work by Walter Moers adds to the story, this isn’t a graphic novel but author added his drawings to enhance the tale being told.  The story is full of fanciful characters and the time could be used to describe them is shorted because of the drawings.

The story was good but became very predictable after the first few chapters.  Bluebear would get into difficult situations and when it looked like he wasn’t going to get out of them he did exactly that.  And the escapes were not very practical and made to sound like a simple solution.  Aside from this little fault the book was quite good.  Throughout his travels Bluebear is guided by the Encyclopedia of the Marvels, Life Forms and Other Phenomena of Zamonia and its Environs’ which is being relayed to him in some telepathic way.

In Need of Help!

So, it’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything here and believe me it’s not for lack of trying.  I seem to have hit a rather large and hard mental block.  I have a lot that I would like to write about it just not coming out.  This is where you can step in and be a hero!  I don’t know how to break this mental block so I would to get ideas of from you.  What do you do when you experience mental blockage?  All you’re tips will of great asset, not only to me but others when they have the same difficulty.