Current Distractions, September 2015 Edition

Because it's after 9 p.m. as I prepare to post this, and I'm super tired, I'm going to focus on two main things from this month:


Here's the website. I don't have a lot to report from this con other than that it had a lot of the problems I keep complaining about lately, i.e. lack of creators and fan panels. I ended up putting my money where my mouth is a bit more this time, though, and bought some actual comics. The first was the first volume of Shelter, by Ed Brisson and John Christmas. Both of them were at the show, although I saw the book on Christmas's table and bought it and got it signed by him. I have heard nothing about this book except what the artist told me, which was awesome. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I caved to the hype and bought the first volume of Rat Queens, by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch.

Word on the Street Saskatoon

Here's the website. This basically solved all of the problems I had with SaskExpo. Authors! Everywhere! I only ended up buying two books. The first was Indian Ernie, a book by one of the first aboriginal police officers in my city, which I've really been wanting to read. The second was Horror Story and Other Horror Stories, mainly because of the title. I probably shouldn't've bought it because I'm only supposed to be buying books that are already on my list of stuff to read, but OH WELL. Better yet, I went to a panel on modern horror featuring Nick Cutter (aka Craig Davidson), Gemma Files, Derryl Murphy, and Rio Youers, hosted by Sandra Kasturi (I'm just name-dropping at this point). Best of all Wab Kinew was at the event too and I went to his talk, which was so good. I actually wanted to sit down and blog about it right away, and failed to do so, but basically he was a smart and funny dude and I've been thinking really hard lately about being a white person in Canada, and he made me think about it even harder.

If I were a good blogger I'd have photos of all of these books, but instead it's two weeks since I bought them, I'm a hundred miles from home as usual, and here we are.

Instead here's a picture of the tree outside my front window. All these gorgeous leaves dropped off at once over the course of the past week.

R35. The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy

Year Published: 1947 (1945 in French)
Pages: 274

First Sentence: Where was the young man who had given her so many admiring glances yesterday?

I wasn't sure whether I would review this book because I put off writing anything about it for a long time, and I generally prefer to write my reviews when the books are still fresh in my mind*. But there's been a dearth of CanLit on this blog so far (I'm not sure if any of the List books are by Canadians) and women writers have been underserved as well, so I might as well say a thing or two about it.

The Tin Flute (a poor title compared to the original French one, Bonheur d'occasion—and speaking of that I'm getting more and more determined to stop reading French books in translation) is about a bunch of working poor people in an impoverished Montreal neighbourhood at the tail end of the Depression and the early days of Canada's participation in World War II. It's centered on the Lacasse family: eldest daughter Florentine, mother Rose-Anna, and father Azarius. There are seven other Lacasse children, and one more on the way. They seem to live in about three rooms. Azarius is a dreamer and schemer who can't hold a job, Rose-Anna has her hands full with her kids, Florentine works as a waitress to help support the family.

The narrative structure of this book is extremely bizarre. The arc of the story follows Florentine as she tries to make a better life for herself and find love, but the bulk of the book jumps through different point of view characters willy-nilly, in order to access the most profound and affecting insights. The effect is both extremely touching (depressing) and disjointed. I'll need to read more of Gabrielle Roy's writing to see if it's always like this or if this structure was deliberate.

This book was heartbreaking and thought-provoking, about poor, uneducated people, but it was a lot more kind than Tobacco Road, and I think that made it considerably more effective. Roy is much kinder to her characters than Caldwell, not in terms of what she puts them through (which is hell), but because of how she portrays their humanity.

There's no exception here to what I've come to expect from CanLit, which is sad people living in a particular place, and the book is short but sufficiently crushing that I had to take it in small doses. Worth a read if you're feeling like things are hopeless in the present, though, because presumably at least you're not giving birth alone in a terrible shack or shipping off to join the war effort because that's literally the only job you can get.

* My terrible memory means that this is mainly just for the first hour or so after I've finished the book.

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Sam Latour was not grouchy or pompous, but like most French Canadians he disliked waiting on table, which calls for a deference quite foreign to their nature.
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Five Years Ago This Month: September 2010

Five years ago this month...

...I reviewed The Old Wives' Tale. I'm already predisposed to love books about sisters, and this one was no exception. I liked it a lot.

...I officially switched to a two-reviews-per-month schedule. I don't think it lasted long.

...I reviewed the Earth's Children series. That is to say, I reposted and expanded on an old review of the first five books of the series. Little did I know, a sixth book was just around the corner to ruin everything.

...I was distracted. In my first ever Current Distractions post, I wrote about The X-Files and some other less important stuff.

...I reviewed Ragtime. Perhaps the most perplexing book I've ever found likeable, but it's really hard to say.

Proof that I was still reading slightly ahead at this point.