Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Joy from me to you

As a girl I have wonderful memories of singing carols in St. Paul's Anglican cathedral in Toronto with the Havergal choir. One of my favourites was Angels We Have Heard on High. I remember how our voices seemed to rise and collect in those towering, vaulted ceilings, creating a sublime resonance that could bring tears to the most arctic of hearts.

In tribute to that memory, but with a fresh, modern jazz vibe, I thought I'd share with you a music video by the hugely talented group, Pentatonix.

Wishing all of you joy.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Review: Was, by Geoff Ryman

WasWas by Geoff Ryman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Geoff Ryman clearly demonstrates his prowess as a writer with his novel Was. This is a tragic exploration of the Dorothy/Oz culture of L. Frank Baum from both an historical and modern perspective.

Ryman chooses the voice of a fictional inspiration for Baum's story, that of Dorothy Gael, who is orphaned due to a diphtheria epidemic, and is sent to live in Kansas with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. That story explores the benign neglect of Dorothy and the eventual destruction of what had been an innocent, intelligent, creative soul under the weight of religious zeal, ignorance, and the inability to control primal needs.

As a counterpoint to that tragedy, Ryman also introduces the character of Jonathan, with whom we journey from his boyhood struggle with autism through his tragic demise as an AIDS sufferer.

The story is told with an honest, compelling narrative, beautiful in its delivery, rending in its simplicity. Highly recommended.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Review: Keeper'n Me, by Richard Wagamese

Keeper'n MeKeeper'n Me by Richard Wagamese
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is difficult to offer literary comment on a novel which is, in fact, the first published by Richard Wagamese, and second all but autobiographical.

Certainly if one were to study Wagamese's work it would be easy to identify the promising talent of an emerging author with this his first published work. Keeper'n Me offers a great deal to the canon of Canadian literature. There is a deft handling of the idiom of language and dialect. He does create evocative images and settings. Wagamese certainly is capable of drawing emotional response from his readers.

However, as compared to his later work, in particular Indian Horse (in which Wagamese demonstrates an author come to maturity and comfortable with his craft), there is a naivete to Keeper'n Me which does discredit to the very real issues that form the foundation of the novel, and the talent of the author.

In telling the story of an Ojibway boy who is seized by Children's Aid authorities and raised severed from his heritage, Wagamese ends up portraying the return of a lost soul to his remote, reservation community. There, he finally comes to accept his birthright.

It has the makings of a moving and profound tale. In its own way the novel is. But it could have been more. Had Wagamese refrained from sketching life on a reserve without water facilities, hydro, sufficient housing as one virtually without hardship, where the people are generally content, relatively well-adjusted, in constant laughter, and all pursuing the path of their ancient paradigms, there would have been a greater ring of truth. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a feeling of Disney in the background, of rainbows and chattering, befriended wildlife.

And that is very sad indeed. Still, Keeper'n Me is worth reading, if for no other reason than to further discover Wagamese's later work and come to understand the profound development of an emerging Canadian author.

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