In the News: Red Riding Hood

It’s been a while sine I’ve jumped into the papers and pulled something out of there for discussion.  I’m not sure if that’s because I couldn’t find anything interesting or I’m really slacking here.  But I found something that was really interesting in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.  This one all about Little Red Riding Hood and where fairy tales come from.

The debate, and it sounds like a heated debate, is how did fairy tales originate.  One side of the debate claims that fairy tales were created by a particular author.  The other side believes there is a long oral tradition that dates back much further than the printed sources.  I will say that I side with the second group, most stories have some sort of oral history.  And that group also claims that due to the oral history you can find similar stories with slight twists to suite the region.

Have a look at the article and weigh in on this interesting debate:

Little Red Riding Hood’s not out of the woods yet – debate ensues over origins of fairy tale


Canada Reads – Day 2

When Canada Reads starts up it seems to be over just as quickly. With that in mind I try to savor every minute of the debates. Today, again, I feel that we have a wonderful group of people on the panel and I really like Nicolas Campbell’s strategy.

In day two there seemed to be a lot of discussion about Fruit. Now I don’t have a problem with that but most of the discussion seemed negative. Now Campbell and some others on the panel don’t think Fruit is a book they couldn’t recommend to everyone. This would be a down side to the book, but I think that the Canada Reads 2009 pick should be something that challenges readers in someway, which I think Fruit does. The concept of talking nipples is fantastic and it’s the most memorable part of the novel so I’m not really sure why Jen Sookfong Lee thinks she needs to mention that all the time.

Nicolas Campbell has a wonderful strategy. His strategy, and he’s said it himself, is to draw the panelists attention away from his book (The Outlander). I guess that’s because if you don’t talk about it the negatives cannot come out. But I’m alright with that, from what I’ve heard about the book I’m really excited to read it now.

The first blow came at the expense of David Adams Richards’ Mercy Among the Children. This seems to be getting quite a bit of negative press on Canada Reads, almost as much as Fruit. It has been getting so much negative feedback that I’m not really looking forward to the book, it’s getting to the point where it’s looking like reading it will be a daunting task. I’ll try not to let that bother me when I get to it

So, where does this take us on the Canada Reads 2009 journey? Well, the panelists voted for the first book out. We aren’t going to find out exactly what that book is until the beginning of tomorrows instalment. I’m afraid that the first book out will be Fruit by Brian Francis but I hope it’s not. I really think the panelists need to see the book for what it is and appreciate the quirky qualities it possesses. It also seems that The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant by Michel Tremblay is leading the pack, which is great. The characters are wonderful, and I don’t think Tremblay could write a bad character if he wanted even the worst person he’d write about would have some kind of endearing quality.

It’ll be interesting to see where the panelists take us tomorrow.

Let the Games Begin

Wow, it’s that time of the year again. CBC is gearing up for it’s yearly Canada Reads competition. I always look forward to debates that happen on CBC radio 1 to see what the defenders of each book has to say about the novels. When I get a chance to read the selections I’m often pleasantly surprised how wonderful the books really are.

I must say I wasn’t a huge fan of Canadian fiction until just a few years ago when I took a Canadian Literature course at the University of Manitoba. After reading doing the required reading for the course I couldn’t get enough of the writers from my country. Canada has some wonderful authors and I try to find more of them yearly.

Well, I walked into The Book Vault yesterday to pick up the books that I had ordered for the book club at work (John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines). Before leaving home I took a look at the list of books up for Canada Reads 2009 and decided I would pick up two of the books up for debate:

bookofnegroesSince this book won the Giller prize I’ve been drawn to it. Then the book continued on to win the Common Wealth Writers’ Prize for best overall book. So I thought I would pick up this book and attempt to get it read for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge. The motivation became even greater since it became a selection for Canada Reads.
I must say I’m trilled to be reading this book and without having read any of the books I’m kind of thinking this will be hands down the winner of Canada Reads 2009.

ladynextdoorSince the first time I watched Les Belles Soeurs I fell madly in love with the dramatic writings of Michel Tremblay. And since that first encounter with his work I try as hard as I can to see everything he’s written for the stage. I’ve never read any of his fiction and seeing The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant on the Canada Reads list I couldn’t resist reading this. So I grabbed this one as well.

After reaching for my copy of The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill I looked up and saw another book on the list for this seasons Canada Reads 2009. So, I made the mistake of pulling it off the shelf .

fruitOn my cover of the book just below Fruit it said “a novel about a boy and his nipples” after reading that I knew I had to see what this book was about. Upon turning the book over and reading the very first sentence taken from a review published by Entertainment Weekly I new I had to read this book. The review stated, “Peter Paddington is a 13-year-0ld, fat, gay cross-dresser with two selfish, annoying older sisters and an overbearing mother” nothing more needed to be said I knew right there that I wanted to read Brian Francis’ book.

There are two other books in the contest but I didn’t pick those up so for the time being I’ll just wait to see what the debaters have to say about them before I rush out to pick them up.

Sad News in the Literary World

After jumping from one news sight to the next I didn’t come across this article until got to the Toronto Star.  That’s right CBC and CNN didn’t have this article highlighted.

Author John Updike dies at 76

Jan 27, 2009 02:01 PM


NEW YORK – John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died today at age 76.

Updike, a resident of Beverly Farms, Mass., died of lung cancer, according to a statement from his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.

A literary writer who frequently appeared on best-seller lists, the tall, hawk-nosed Updike wrote novels, short stories, poems, criticism, the memoir “Self-Consciousness” and even a famous essay about baseball great Ted Williams.

He was prolific, even compulsive, releasing more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s. Updike won virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers, for “Rabbit Is Rich” and “Rabbit at Rest,” and two National Book Awards.

Although himself deprived of a Nobel, he did bestow it upon one of his fictional characters, Henry Bech, the womanizing, egotistical Jewish novelist who collected the literature prize in 1999.

His settings ranged from the court of “Hamlet” to postcolonial Africa, but his literary home was the American suburb.

Born in 1932, Updike spoke for millions of Depression-era readers raised by “penny-pinching parents,” united by “the patriotic cohesion of World War II” and blessed by a “disproportionate share of the world’s resources,” the postwar, suburban boom of “idealistic careers and early marriages.”

He captured, and sometimes embodied, a generation’s confusion over the civil rights and women’s movements and opposition to the Vietnam War.

Updike was called a misogynist, a racist and an apologist for the establishment. On purely literary grounds, he was attacked by Norman Mailer as the kind of author appreciated by readers who knew nothing about writing.

But, more often, he was praised for his flowing, poetic writing style. Describing a man’s interrupted quest to make love, Updike likened it “to a small angel to which all afternoon tiny lead weights are attached.”

Nothing was too great or too small for Updike to poeticize. He might rhapsodize over a film projector’s “chuckling whir” or look to the stars and observe that “the universe is perfectly transparent: we exist as flaws in ancient glass.”

In the richest detail, his books recorded the extremes of earthly desire and spiritual zealotry, whether the comic philandering of the preacher in “A Month of Sundays” or the steady rage of the young Muslim in “Terrorist.” Raised in the Protestant community of Shillington, Pa., where the Lord’s Prayer was recited daily at school, Updike was a lifelong churchgoer influenced by his faith, but not immune to doubts.

“I remember the times when I was wrestling with these issues that I would feel crushed. I was crushed by the purely materialistic, atheistic account of the universe,” Updike told The Associated Press during a 2006 interview.

“I am very prone to accept all that the scientists tell us, the truth of it, the authority of the efforts of all the men and woman spent trying to understand more about atoms and molecules. But I can’t quite make the leap of unfaith, as it were, and say, `This is it. Carpe diem (seize the day), and tough luck.’ ”

He received his greatest acclaim for the “Rabbit” series, a quartet of novels published over a 30-year span that featured ex-high school basketball star Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom and his restless adjustment to adulthood and the constraints of work and family. To the very end, Harry was in motion, an innocent in his belief that any door could be opened, a believer in God even as he bedded women other than his wife.

“The tetralogy to me is the tale of a life, a life led an American citizen who shares the national passion for youth, freedom, and sex, the national openness and willingness to learn, the national habit of improvisation,” Updike would later write. “He is furthermore a Protestant, haunted by a God whose manifestations are elusive, yet all-important.”

Other notable books included “Couples,” a sexually explicit tale of suburban mating that sold millions of copies; “In the Beauty of the Lilies,” an epic of American faith and fantasy; and “Too Far to Go, which followed the courtship, marriage and divorce of the Maples, a suburban couple with parallels to Updike’s own first marriage.

Plagued from an early age by asthma, psoriasis and a stammer, he found creative outlets in drawing and writing.

Updike was born in Reading, Pa., his mother a department store worker who longed to write, his father a high school teacher remembered with sadness and affection in “The Centaur,” a novel published in 1964.

The author brooded over his father’s low pay and mocking students, but also wrote of a childhood of “warm and action-packed houses that accommodated the presence of a stranger, my strange ambition to be glamorous.”

For Updike, the high life meant books, such as the volumes of P.G. Wodehouse and Robert Benchley he borrowed from the library as a child, or, as he later recalled, the “chastely severe, time-honoured classics” he read in his dorm room at Harvard University, leaning back in his “wooden Harvard chair,” cigarette in hand.

While studying on full scholarship at Harvard, he headed the staff of the Harvard Lampoon and met the woman who became his first wife, Mary Entwistle Pennington, whom he married in June 1953, a year before he earned his A.B. degree summa cum laude. (Updike divorced Pennington in 1975 and was remarried two years later, to Martha Bernhard).

After graduating, he accepted a one-year fellowship to study painting at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Arts at Oxford University. During his stay in England, a literary idol, E.B. White, offered him a position at The New Yorker, where he served briefly as foreign books reviewer. Many of Updike’s reviews and short stories were published in The New Yorker, often edited by White’s stepson, Roger Angell.

By the end of the 1950s, Updike had published a story collection, a book of poetry and his first novel, “The Poorhouse Fair,” soon followed by the first of the Rabbit books, “Rabbit, Run.” Praise came so early and so often that New York Times critic Arthur Mizener worried that Updike’s “natural talent” was exposing him “from an early age to a great deal of head-turning praise.”

Updike learned to write about everyday life by, in part, living it. In 1957, he left New York, with its “cultural hassle” and melting pot of “agents and wisenheimers,” and settled with his first wife and four kids in Ipswich, Mass, a “rather out-of-the-way town” about 30 miles north of Boston.

“The real America seemed to me ‘out there,’ too heterogeneous and electrified by now to pose much threat of the provinciality that people used to come to New York to escape,” Updike later wrote.

“There were also practical attractions: free parking for my car, public education for my children, a beach to tan my skin on, a church to attend without seeming too strange.”

I’m reading Rabbit Run right now so to say the lest I found this to be of great interest and thought it’s rather sad.  My Thoughts go out to family and friends of John Updike.  So, in light of this new information I invite everyone to join me in reading the Rabbit collection this year.  I’ve started Rabbit Run and will be moving on to complete the other books.  Join me if you’re interested.