Monday, March 27, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Enchantments by Linda Ferri

Enchantments, originally published in Italy (1997) under the title Incantesimi, is Linda Ferri’s debut novel. Told in a series of 25 short vignettes, it is narrated by an unnamed Italian girl in the style of a memoir, from the toddler to early teen years. The narrator and her family move from Italy to Paris during the opening scene of this small novel. What follows is an intimate tale of a family whose dynamics are illuminated through summers in Italy, a visit to America and winters in Paris.

Making a cohesive whole out of such a small book is a challenge for any author, but to carry it out in a debut novel and have it result in such a strong voice is a trademark of a gifted new author. Everything about this book is intimate, from the size of the book (measuring only 7.4” x 4.7”) to the length of each vignette to the fact that the narrator is never named, although the reader learns the names of all her family members.

Ferri captures the dreamy sense of wonder that permeates a child’s life. She uses language to tantalize the reader, drawing one into the world she has created. “…so the fear dissolved, reduced to a bit of a mystery I carried in my pocket when I made a foray up to the attic or down to the cellar.” Alone the words don’t have much meaning, but the feeling they evoke is of being privy to a private world and language, one inhabited by a creative child who enjoys making words dance and play.

The distinct chapter titles also add to the dream-like state engendered by this novella. Titles such as “the castrator,” “perfidy” or “dame dame” add to the mystery, impelling the reader to journey with Ferri just a little longer until, suddenly, the narration ends and the reader is shaken rudely awake.

Woven throughout the vignettes is the narrator’s dynamic relationship with her father. She loves him, fears him, is embarrassed by him, and even though she is fond of him, she “would like him better if he were a woman.” Here too, in describing these moments of tension, Ferri’s masterful use of language is present. “…and I know the chain has snapped: he’s not barking anymore, he’s ready to bite.” Seen through the eyes of a child, this novel provides masterful insight into a marriage created by two volatile personalities.

Originally published in Italian, Linda Ferri did her own translation for the French edition. For this English edition she called upon John Casey, one of the pupils she tutored in Italian. Casey (whose first translation was Alessandro Boffa’s You’re such an Animal Viskovitz! - Knopf, 2002) is a gifted translator – he has maintained Ferri’s distinctive voice and playfulness of language yet provided a work that flows as gracefully as if it was written in English.

In her other life, Ferri writes screenplays and this has definitely influenced her stylistically. Her use of language in Enchantments has a cinegraphic quality, painting pictures in the mind of the long, hot summer days of childhood when the worst that could happen was stubbing a toe.

See the review as it appears at Curled Up with a Good Book - Enchantments.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Spring is finally here

Well I've been silent quite a few days but I have a good reason - a new job. I'm doing some consulting for a few weeks and that is keeping me very busy.

So to celebrate spring - and at least give people something new to look at until I can do a decent post - here's something I wish I was seeing now. This is a picture I took several years ago at the floating flower market in Amsterdam.

Friday, March 17, 2006

It's going to be an interesting election

Impeachment Talk Reaches the Mainstream

What took them so long? Now I need to get a copy of William Goodman's book Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush.

(Thanks Bookslut for pointing this one out! I had missed this article.)

It finally all comes together

Thank you The Bookish Girl for finally helping me pull together what knitting brings to my life (and for the rockin' image)! I have many dear friends who live nearby but sometimes you just need to send out the call to the knitters in your life - to have them be with you and knit in the same room, even if you don't say a word. There is something about the sound of knitting needles that soothes like no other.

To my dear knitting pals Heather, Alana and Christiane - a heartfelt thank you for responding to my knitting signal.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Today I'm embarassed to be Canadian!

Canada is one of three countries (with the United States and Argentina) that has refused to sign the UN's Biosafety Protocol. WTF?!? I'm going to send letters to my politician about this one.

From Organic Bytes Issue #77 - Organic Consumers Association
Biotech corporations are facing off against developing nations and most of the world this week in Brazil in a debate over the United Nation's Biosafety Protocol. The precedent-setting treaty is an international agreement signed in January 2000 by 132 of the world's nations. But the three main countries that grow genetically modified crops (the United States, Argentina and Canada) refuse to sign it, because the international law would require that countries be notified if the grains they are importing are genetically modified. Biotech companies want that language removed from the treaty, saying that developing nations and anti-GMO consumers in industrialized nations are not entitled to know whether their food is genetically engineered or not. From a press release on March 10, 2006.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Olympic Knitting is finally completed!

I'm so excited to report that my Olympic knitting has finally been completed. It is being blocked and as soon as I can grab a camera, I'm going to post a picture!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

And this rant basically sums up my feelings about the situation

Rant on the best picture nominations leaving out the highest grossing films.

Don't even get me started on Crash winning.

This made me laugh and then start to worry...

Reading The Bookslut generally has me laughing loud and long but then I read this entry from Jessa Crispin and after the first outburst of laughter brought on by the phrase "Time to hang up the heels and bring on the chocolate," I began to join Jessa in her concern. (perhaps it's that ever-looming 40th birthday?)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Big Girl Knits: 25 Big, Bold Projects Shaped for Real Women with Real Curves by Jillian Moreno & Amy Singer

After many years of waiting, a knitting book geared to plus-sized knitters has arrived. Jillian Moreno, knit-wear designer for Acme Knitting Company, and Amy Singer, editor of and regular columnist for Interweave Knits, have created Big Girl Knits: 25 Big, Bold Projects Shaped for Real Women with Real Curves. This book is both a style guide and a pattern manual, collecting knit-wear patterns designed by twenty-one leading knitwear designers, specifically with the fashion-conscious, curve-endowed woman in mind.

What sets this knitting book apart is the style guide that comprises the first fifth of the book. Designed to help women with curves learn the best way to dress their body by determining which of the three “Bs” best describe their body type: boobs, belly or butt. Using cleverly designed icons, each pattern in the latter part of the book is coded with appropriate icons, making it easy to determine at a glance if a pattern works with your body type. Each body type is then broken down and the best necklines, shaping and sweater lengths for each is described.

If the authors had stopped there, this would have been purely a helpful guide with some great patterns; however they took the style guide a step further by outlining yarn types and weights that flatter bodies with curves - including gauge guidelines. An extremely helpful section on accurate measuring and pattern adaptation is also included, to help plus-size knitters overcome their fear of approaching their own bodies with a measuring tape. Altogether this invaluable style guide makes Big Girl Knits an indispensable aid and a must-have for every knitter’s reference section.

The patterns themselves are fashionable, practical and incredibly flattering. Arranged in chapters by pattern category, the designers have not forgotten some of the fashion essentials. Patterns are included for a wide range of tops and coats but also yoga pants, four types of skirts, socks and wraps. Having only seen the uncorrected proof of the book, I look forward to getting a better look at the knitted details in the colour pictures.

See the review as it appears at Armchair Interviews - Big Girl Knits. And don't forget to visit the book's website.

BOOK REVIEW: Mission to America by Walter Kirn

The shrinking population of the Aboriginal Fulfilled Apostles (AFA) has led to a crisis – new bloodlines must be introduced into the community if they wish the community to continue, as it has done for more than 147 year. This isolationist sect has lived apart from mainstream society, tucked into the hills of rural Montana and led by matriarchs, who follow the edicts of their Seeress to maintain a life of modesty and nutritional vigilance called Edenic Nutritional Science. The only wealthy member of the faith, Ennis Lauer, has hand-picked a group of young men to prepare for an unheard-of mission – seeking out “brides” in mainstream America. Mission to America tells the story of one of these pairs of young men, Mason LaVerle and Elder Stark, as they leave Bluff, Montana and travel to Colorado in a decrepit van, bringing their message of clean living and healthy digestion to world-weary Americans.

Walter Kirn’s fifth novel focuses on Mason, a naif bewildered by the choices and depravity all around them as they begin their journey. Dressed to look like Jehovah’s Witnesses’ younger cousins (to take advantage of the good will that group has engendered), they follow the techniques taught by Ennis Lauer – essentially sale closing techniques used by con men and used car salesmen.

Where Mason’s overriding characteristics are naïveté and a calm presence, Elder Stark’s are all sharp edges and chaotic energy. Asserting his leadership in their relationship early on, Stark quickly develops a maniacal appetite for reality television and the worst of America’s junk food. His character soon belies the images created by his name, becoming the polar opposite – a beast controlled by his appetites. These appetites are what make him the natural choice as Lauer’s ambassador in his bid to usurp leadership of the AFA.

When lampooning America’s hunger for spiritual gurus, Kirn is at his best. Using Mason to mirror America’s lack of moral compass works to illuminate the fear and dearth of spirituality at the core of most of the selfish choices made each day. In a post 9-11 world, this novel can be read as an indictment of the spiritual journey upon which many Americans claim to have embarked although in reality, they are caught up in the soulless world of reality TV and idle consumerism. Occasionally he gets bogged down in describing the belief system and mythology of the faith he has created but at its core, this is a strong, thought-provoking and humourous novel.

Mission to America leaves the reader questioning the nature of faith, the quest for understanding and wondering how much of Kirn’s early childhood experiences with the Mormon church are reflected within the character of Mason.

See the review as it appears at Armchair Interviews - Mission to America.

BOOK REVIEW: Johnny Kellock Died Today by Hadley Dyer

Rosalie Norman is facing the summer of 1959 as if she was being sentenced to boredom. Her best friend is away and she is stuck socializing with the boy next door, a strange young man called “the Gravedigger” by the local children due to his job at the local cemetary. Her carelessness with her drawing pencils causes Rosalie’s mother to fall and fracture her ankle and as a result, the Gravedigger is recruited to help the family out with chores. This forced connection is not one that Rosalie wants, fearing the backlash from fellow students when returning to school in the fall. Johnny Kellock Died Today is centred around Rosalie’s hunt for the titular character, her favourite cousin Johnny, whose disappearance her family is hiding.

Hadley Dyer’s first novel pulls from memory the long, hot summers of childhood. Rosalie is the youngest child in a family of grownups, the afterthought baby whose place is never quite certain. Her mother is a true matriarch, ruling the family with the authority of a field general – while her father, the nurturer and comforter, is called only by his surname.

In this family of shifting tensions and dynamics, Rosalie appears to be at sea. Dyer has written a character that lives so much in her mind, and the comics she draws, that she does not appear at all connected to her family. This is exemplified by the fact that she has no knowledge of her father’s first name, in fact wondering to herself at that poignant moment “How is it even halfway possible I didn’t think about this before?”

As the Gravedigger becomes David, Rosalie learns more about herself and her family’s secrets than she ever thought possible. Her household make-up changes yet again and Rosalie is able to finally become one of the adults rather than the afterthought child.

This is a delightful story told in Rosalie’s distinctive voice, wonderfully evoked by Dyer. This reader’s only complaint is that the sub-plot of Martha, Rosalie’s sister, is not more satisfactorily concluded. The reader is left hanging, wondering what has driven her solitary wanderings and tension.

This engaging novel is sure to become the perfect read for a hot summer day, read on the porch with a glass of lemonade.

See the review as it is appears at Front Street Reviews - Johnny Kellock Died Today. Don't forget to check out Hadley Dyer's blog.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Yet another WTH link...

Harry Potter turns kids into Satanists? Huh....

What's with the Vatican?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Another Author Response

I love getting feedback like this, especially when I'm seeing it for the first time in an e-zine.

Dear Armchair Interviews:

RE: SOME LIKE IT HAUTE chick lit review by Janelle Martin.

Thank you, as always! The author (Julie K. L. Dam) is over the moon!

Miriam Parker, Time Warner Books

Writing reviews can feel like writing in a vacuum, so rarely do you hear from your audience and even less often from the authors. I'm glad that I was able to help Julie K. L. Dam over the moon!

Original review is here -> Some LIke It Haute