"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Munro's fine work held back by audio format

Audiobook review: Runaway
Kevin Wood Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
By Alice Munro
Read by Kymberly Dakin
Audio Editions
9 CDs, 11 hours (unabridged)

Alice Munro's 10th collection of short stories, the Giller Prize-winning Runaway, shows both the form and writer at their best.

As always, Munro's short fiction reads like a series of compressed novels, delving deep into her characters' memories, thoughts and circumstances, dealing always with the personal rather than the political as she spins her small, psychologically compelling tales of ordinary life.

Like Raymond Carver and Ernest Hemingway, other modern masters of the short story, Munro rarely strays far from her own life experience, but still manages to speak to universal themes. Munro's work generally concerns a bright young woman escaping her rural Ontario, Canada, background, often through education or marriage that takes her west, only to mourn the passing of the world she grew up in when she eventually returns to her roots.

A common but nonsensical criticism of Munro is that all her main characters are women and her tales often center on women who waver between domesticity and independence, their lives changing drastically through chance or whim. Like calling Carver preoccupied with love and drinking or Hemingway obsessed with machismo, such a critique misses the point of her work entirely.

Like Hemingway and Carver, Munro's prose style is spare, deceptively simple and packs an emotional wallop. Of the eight stories here, three deal with Juliet, a classics scholar we first meet in "Chance" when she begins a love affair with Eric, a man she meets on a cross-country train trip. "Soon" sees Juliet return to her rural Ontario hometown with her year-old daughter to bid her ailing mother farewell. The third in the trio, "Silence," shows us a much older Juliet struggling with her grown daughter whom she fears has been ensnared by a cult.

The title story is that of a young woman presented with the daunting choice between being ground down in a comfortable self-delusion of innocence and faith or being forced to confront the world on its terms, find her true self and become independent. The strongest story in the collection, "Passion," concerns a young resort waitress who is suddenly thrust between two wealthy brothers.

While the reading by actress Kymberly Dakin is largely faultless, sensitive and restrained, Munro's writing suffers from the audio format, mainly because of its quality and seriousness. Munro's flawless prose deserves to be savored, and the printed form allows the reader to more easily go back and reread her seamless sentences and paragraphs, whereas the audio does not allow the listener to linger and bask in Munro's subtle art.

While the immediacy of suspense fiction or lighter comedic works is often enhanced by a dramatic reading, Munro's writing seems a bit beyond the spoken word at times, being more suited to contemplation than instant reaction.

Copyright 2005 The Yomiuri Shimbun

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Closing in on visitor 1,000
Well, according to the counter I'm getting about 25 hits a day - as compared to the big boys like Atrios and Kos who get a few hundred thousand a day - but we all gotta start somewhere. If you are the 1,000th visitor - post a comment and claim your mystery prize! If you are not the 1,000th visitor, screw it, post a comment anyways. Nobody ever posts a comment and the blogosphere gets lonesome without comments.

Where would Jesus find the WMD?

Thanks to Atrios and Billmon, among others, we have a Wanker of the week: Bill Tierny, a former weapons inspector in Iraq who knows where the WMD in Iraq are 'cause God told him and who enjoys torturing prisoners of war, sorry "enemy combatants", because its fun -he even worked at Gitmo. And of course he's a devout born again Christian who felt that God had called him to join the Army and got kicked out for praying with the people he was supposed to be interogating.

"Tierney's methods of ascertaining this location were rather unconventional. "I would ask God and just get a sense if something was valid or not, and then know if I needed to pursue it," he said. His assessments through prayer were then confirmed to him by a friend's clairvoyant dream, where he was able to find the location on a map. "Everything she said lined up. This place meets the criteria," Tierney said of a power generator plant near the Tigris River that he believes is actually a cover for a secret uranium facility. "

Monday, March 28, 2005

Mark Twain - Still da man!
How I edited an Agricultural paper

"I tell you I have been in the editorial business going on fourteen years, and it is the first time I ever heard of a man's having to know anything in order to edit a newspaper.

You turnip! Who write the dramatic critiques for the second-rate papers? Why, a parcel of promoted shoemakers and apprentice apothecaries, who know just as much about good acting as I do about good farming and no more. Who review the books? People who never wrote one. Who do up the heavy leaders on finance? Parties who have had the largest opportunities for knowing nothing about it. Who criticise the Indian campaigns? Gentlemen who do not know a war-whoop from a wigwam.... Who write the temperance appeals and clamor about the flowing bowl? Folks who will never draw another sober breath till they do it in the grave.

...You try to tell me anything about the newspaper business! Sir, I have been through it from Alpha to Omaha, and I tell you that the less a man knows the bigger noise he makes and the higher the salary he commands. Heaven knows if I had but been ignorant instead of cultivated, and impudent instead of diffident, I could have made a name for myself in this cold, selfish world. I take my leave, sir. Since I have been treated as you have treated me, I am perfectly willing to go.

But I have done my duty. I have fulfilled my contract, as far as I was permitted to do it. I said I could make your paper of interest to all classes, and I have. I said I could run your circulation up to twenty thousand copies, and if I had had two more weeks I'd have done it...."

yes, the media has changed since Twain's day. Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose!

(thanks to the Americanist over at Orcinus)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

NRA argues for more guns in schools
Further proof that the NRA are a bunch of complete fruitcakes. Their answer to the Red Lake, Minnesota school shooting? Arm the teachers