D’s Loquacious Long Winter Reads

I’ve been meaning to write this and have kept putting it off for various reasons. But better late than never, I say.

Here’s my latest list of books I’ve read over the past few months …

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, Immaculee Ilibagiza

The book chronicles the author’s harrowing experience as a young Tutsi woman trying to survive Rwanda’s bloody 1994 genocide – hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven other women for three months – as well as her miraculous escape to freedom, unscathed.

I want to describe this book as simultaneously horrifying and astounding. But I’m not even sure those words do it justice.

Obviously the underlying story is how Ilibagiza found God during her time in that tiny bathroom, and how that she was going survive that hell on earth. But it doesn’t even matter whether you hold religious beliefs or not. To read how Immaculee managed to survive – physically, mentally and spiritually – for so long while sheer horror took place outside that bathroom window – is perhaps reason enough to tackle this book. 

Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

Not a new book, but one I’ve never read. Rushdie’s novel chronicles the lives of “midnight’s children” – those born at the moment of India’s independence in 1947. What isn’t immediately known is that these children have been born with unusual physical characteristics and special gifts or powers.

Narrated by the main character, Saleem Sinai – among those who hold the strongest powers because they were born precisely at midnight – the book follows the twisted history of Saleem’s family, and the act which determines fate, intertwined with fledgling India’s numerous conflicts and political struggles.

Of all the authors on this list, Rushdie has been the one I’ve wanted to read for the longest time, out of sheer curiosity.

Unfortunately, of the books on this list, this one took the longest to read – about two or three months. Not because of its size. At roughly 530 pages, it’s hefty, but not insurmountable, for an adult novel.

However, for someone not used to Rushdie’s way of storytelling – such as myself – some points along the story’s path were a bit too winding for my taste, even a bit too slow. Even trying to imagine the various scenes in my mind took some doing.

I can’t say I hated the book. But I found it a tad underwhelming, and it left me a bit disappointed.

Corked: A Memoir, Kathryn Borel Jr.

After such a long slog through Rushdie, I happily turned my attention to a book patiently sitting on my bedside table for weeks.

The first book from brand-spankin’ new memoirist (and colleague) Kathryn Borel, Corked is the story of Borel’s wine trip through France with her father Philippe, a hotelier and wine connoisseur.

As the trip winds through France, the book also takes us into Borel’s deepest thoughts about love, her attempts to learn about wine, and death. The trip is also opportunity she seizes to hash things out with Dad over a life-changing event five years earlier.

Having gotten flashes of Borel’s off-beat personality in real-life, I could hear her voice loud and clear as I turned the pages. I also recognize a couple of the people she talks about. Yes, I snickered here and there (hopefully where appropriate). But even though I can’t say I know her very well, Corked helped me understand a bit more about her. I appreciate who she is because of what she’s written.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

My personal goal for Black History Month was to take on a what was considered a classic novel – although acclaim at the time it was published was heavily divided, and then it fell out of sight until it was rediscovered again in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The novel follows the life of Janie Crawford, who transforms from girl to woman (through the course of two marriages) in the Southern U.S. of the 1930s.

The book is supposed to be an ode to African-American culture and heritage (so says the explanation on the inside front flap of the jacket). It was a bit of a challenge to me, navigating the dialect, and trying to imagine what the characters were all thinking and doing. The male-female dynamic between Janie and her husbands was certainly something interesting. And ever-present were some the issues, such as class and skin tone – something that seems to be around, even in this day and age.

I wasn’t bowled over, but I’m glad I gave it a read anyway. It’s not a long book, so I’d recommend anyone to give it a go.

C’est tout, y’all. Maybe I’ll find some meatier morsels to tackle for the spring.

Happy reading!

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My Winter Cocoon

Nothing like winter to bring out the recluse in even the most gregarious person.

If you’re wondering why this blog has laid dormant in well over a month, well … I can’t give you a good reason, really.

I’ve been feeling a bit defeated lately. And uninspired. I suppose that’s what January does to some people.

But here’s what’s new with me as of late (although not much, I’m afraid) …

At the end of December, I got a spontaneous proposal from a friend to travel to South Korea with her in February for two weeks. I was taken aback – and instantly excited. Visions of plane tickets danced in my head. I even bought a travel guide …

Which turned out to be premature, since the trip fell through.

While in conversation with another work-mate, she’d mentioned possibly going to Cuba at the end of March, which once again stoked the embers of my wanderlust. That would also turn out to be short-lived.

My continuous condo hunt brought me very close to putting an offer in on a property. But that, too, didn’t materialize. I’m presently without an agent – I ended things with her about a couple of weeks ago.

Compounding said fruitless condo hunt, was unwanted mail from the taxman … which (a) resulted in a small financial setback (about five months’ worth, if my shoddy math skills are correct) in the life savings I’d steadfastly been squirreling away and (b) squashed out any possibility of going to Cuba like a helpless ant into the pavement.

So, I decided to call a time out and take a break until that issue was dealt with.

I’m also taking an indefinite hiatus from the online dating site. I can’t deal with that right now. It would probably just get on my last nerve.

So I’ve simply taken to living inside my own head, the way a crab might adopt an abandoned shell or tin can lying on a sea bed, and just curling up inside. All I do is think. About nothing. About a lot of things.

I could just let it ooze out somewhere. Write it down, like I’m supposed to. But I feel as if I’d just present the same song and dance, play the same record over and over. And you’ve all heard it before, so why bother hashing it out again without sounding like a do-nothing whiner?

Amid all this, I quietly marked my 33rd birthday a week and a half ago.

There was no fanfare, no dancing on the table. Just a small gathering of close friends (the ones who happen to have Mondays off, anyway) over a healthy lunch at a Bloor Street West cafe. I wasn’t disappointed at all about the low-energy festivities. Frankly, I was tired from the gruelling work-week I just had.

I don’t know what, but I felt something was missing. So I didn’t feel like trying too hard.

(I guess that’s the downside of having a winter birthday … unless you put forth the energy, it’s very easy to forget about it.)

I did end up going ice skating the day after, which was a bit of a pick-me-up.

But – fingers crossed – the dreary fog might be lifting a bit.

There have been a few microscopic movements for me within the last week. So perhaps while January has been lost, February could make up for it. We’ll wait and see.

But in the meantime, I’ll do my best to leave the tin can behind.

Maybe this month I’ll aim for two entries instead of just one 🙂 .