Thursday 4 December 2008

Curious/Creepy: 50% more creepiness at no extra cost!

Oy, lots of book-spying today on the TTC so this installment of C/C could be a long one. I'll try to keep it light and fluffy but I've got the stamina to go the distance if necessary - I'm eating the world's best white bean hummus with rice crackers so I could do this alllll day.

1) A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. This and the following four books were spotted by yours truly (henceforth to be referred to as Y.T. in homage to Snow Crash) on the westbound subway line today.

The reader of this newly paperbacked tome was a youngish woman with black hair and black fingernails. That's all I can tell you about her because in this case, which is not normally the case, I was literally looking over her shoulder. Normally, I sort of walk by readers while making surreptitious glances into their books. I don't know which method is closer to the full-creepy line. That's a philosophical debate for another day!

Not a happy book A Long Way Gone, telling as it does just how spectacularly shiteous it is to be a child soldier in Sierra Leone. My husband's read this book and says it's just as hard on the head and heart as anything on this topic should be.

But as I recall, there's been some controversy surrounding Beah's claims about how long he was a soldier and some apparently key aspects of the historical record that he gets wrong. I haven't heard news since of Beah being deemed the child soldier's James Frey, however, so I'm going to assume/guess/hope that it's blown over and he's got his credibility firmly in his pocket.

2) Blood Bank by Tanya Huff. The reader of this classic example of Can Lit was sitting almost back to back with the reader of Beah. I'm going to guess that in spite of the cover's promise of a lurid combination of sex and violence, this novel isn't as gripping as Huff's lesser-known but Giller-prize winning prequel, The Lucid Wing of a Lost Bird Singing My Heart Song - she read approximately 3 pages and then curled up against the window for a nice nap.

According to Amazon, Huff is from Nova Scotia but has lived in Ontario since she was 3; nonetheless, she considers herself a Maritimer. Does she now? Gettin' a bit above herself in't she? Wonder when she'll be moving back home then, where she belangs? Does she still say "caaaar" properly, or like one of them Upper Canadians, with only one "a"?

Question: as part of the NS diaspora, I understand that there aren't many jobs down east - but does writing shitty romance/detective novels really require moving away? Maybe her fambly just didn't understand her art.

3) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. No, I know I'm not a very nice person. If I were, probably no one would read my blog. Do you know anyone who's so nice that they don't have one drop of mean in them? I do - THEY'RE BORING - so a pox on your moral condemnations.

The young lady in possession of this Christie book was reading it out loud to herself, very slowly. You're assuming that I'm going to mock. Wrong. Wrong. I may mock people's choice of books, but I NEVER mock people who are working at reading when it doesn't come easily to them. So, to you, young "it doesn't come easily to me" reader - keep going! Soon, you'll be setting your library card on fire! Go, go, go!!

I haven't read any Agatha Christie books. Shocking, I know. I will likely remedy this gaping hole in my reading history one of these days but right now, I'm taking The Wodehouse Cure, thank you very much.

4) Phantom by Terry Goodkind. It is my personal opinion that there are too many mass markety writers names Terry. What really is the difference between Terries Goodkind and Brooks? If I hadn't read any Pratchett, I'd have to include him in that rhetorical question too.

This Terry, like the other 2, writes fantasy and so not surprisingly, Phantom appears to be part of some kind of series. If series were banned, I think all the fantasy writers in the world would disappear in a blinding flash of light and the Jedis among us would have to sit down because they'd felt a large disturbance in the Force, as though millions of people had cried out at once and then were suddenly silenced.

What I love about this sighting is how the book didn't obviously fit the reader. In my C/C adventures I've seen almost no book/reader combinations that surprised me but this one did: the woman reading this tome (in hardcover no less!) was a late-40s office workery-looking mom type who very closely resembled any random member of an Oprah's book club audience. But she wasn't reading an Oprah book! She was reading fantasy, which I will assume was her symbolic kick in the face to Oprah's book club books - ROCK ON!!!

5) Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich. I, of course, wanted to make fun of this book because I assumed it was some New Age bunk, but it turns out that Tillich, who died in 1965, was a widely respected Theologian.

Because I will not be making fun of the book, I am going to chide the reader of the book (a young women in her early 20s) for making it too obvious that she was being forced to study this volume for a course.

Girl, it's just low class to be snarking (in this case silently, but no less expressively) about the rigours of attending university when so many people don't get the chance to go. I pronounce a plague on your house, thou thing, thou bull's pizzle!

6) American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. This book was being read by a teen of dubious intelligence on the east-bound train that brought me home to write this wordy C/C post. (Sorry! As a result of grad school, I'm no longer capable of even writing my name in 10 pages, so this had no chance of being short. Sorry for the false promises above!)

The reader was in the 16-18 years old range and had on a winter coat but no socks with her cute little flats. (No, she wasn't a sad case, her clothes were pricey, her hair a well-dyed red, and her skin healthy.) This girl appeared to be convinced that socks are the anti-Christ, for she wasn't wearing any even though it's -10C out.

I thought about saying something but didn't. As an old lady in my 30s, wearing sensible shoes and a parka that looks like a 1980s sleeping bag with a hood sewn onto it, it seemed unlikely that she would appreciate my fashion advice, even though I would have prefaced it by saying "When I was your age, I also had fewer brain cells than years on this planet and likewise wouldn't wear socks no matter the weather. Now let me tell you about the consequences, to come in 10 years or so, of your foolishness..."

No, I remained silent and scornful. You see, I'm shaping up to be one of those curmudgeons who just mutters quietly about those damned kids instead of shaking my fist at them and heaping verbal abuse upon them.


Unknown said...

Dream Queen, I love the idea of spying on readers but it wouldn't be much fun to do in Ottawa.

Nobody reads. We're all too busy trying to overthrow the government or struggling to stitch it back up.

But I think it would be a neat social experiment to sit in the caf on the Hill see what books folks want to be seen reading.

Kathleen Molloy, author - Dining with Death

Anonymous said...

Kathleen . . .

Unfortunately, you'll be very disappointed with your cafe spying here in Ottawa. No-one reads books in Cafes here - too . . . well . . . too something.

Instead they all sit at their own little tables with their laptops, madly clicking away and ignoring everyone around them, except to glance around surreptitiously every now and then to see if anyone has noticed how cool and important they are.


Anonymous said...


Kathleen,I just re-read your post, and realized you were talking about parliament's caf - someplace I have never been, and don't really wish to find out about.

Carry on . . .

Bookphilia said...

Hey Kathleen and Dietrich: People really don't read in Ottawa? What about on public transit? Are there good bookstores in Ottawa? I find many more people reading on public transit in Toronto than in cafes, where the laptops and shrieking teenagers definitely predominate.

Yuri... said...

Hey Colleen :) Let the creepiness continue - I love these posts!

Since you often comment on my movie review posts with comments about the book the flick is based on, I shall return the favor with a comment about the film based on the book...

I recall really enjoying the film American Psycho, which is disturbing but compelling - I am fuzzy on this, but I believe that I wore socks during the viewing ;) I hadn't seen much Christian Bale at that time, and it was a good introduction to his intense acting (he is, after all, the actor that Keanu Reeves thinks he is/really wants to be)...

So if you ever feel like staring at a glowing TV screen...

Unknown said...

I know that this was written ages ago (and, therefore, that commenting is pointless), but I have been having my own issues with people who want people to be nice, so I share your pain; it's good to be cruel when it's necessary. Now I must go and slag off some more stupid books on Facebook, just to annoy a couple of po-faced Americans who are offended by my lack of respect for people who somehow managed to get something slightly less interesting than a shopping list released. Has to be done.