D’s Loquacious Heat-of-Summer Reads

Yes, I know, it’s been a while.

But when I haven’t been busy doing what I have to do (which has unfortunately meant an enormous dearth of blogging on my part), I’ve been trying to keep my mind active – and occupied – with the following books.

I’ve been making an effort to mix it up by reading more non-fiction books, rather than just novels. And it’s been an interesting exercise so far.

Every Light in the House Burnin’, Andrea Levy

Levy’s first novel, set in 1960s England, chronicles the Jacobs family, as they tackle living in a cramped council estate home, struggling with the racism that’s rife around them, and – for the children – coming of age as British-born youth under Jamaican parentage.

Angela, the baby of the family, acts as narrator in the novel. The storyline is well-done in the sense that, while it starts out as fairly linear, it does move back and forth, depicting the collision between Angela’s childhood memories and her current life – 20 years later – as she tries navigating a harsh health care system to help her dying father.

Reading the book, I  felt the awkwardness of the little girl trying to grow up in a world where her family still isn’t fully accepted. But I found the battle that adult Angela has to fight even more heartbreaking, especially towards the end.

Having grown up in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s, I’ve largely been spared from what Angela and her siblings endured. But I do have an understanding, from the stories my mother would tell me of her time as a student nurse in the U.K., what they had to do to make it through.

Every Light might seem heavy, from what I’ve just described. But it’s a fairly read – one I’d suggest over a weekend.

Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stimgatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, Bella DePaulo, Ph.D.

Big disclaimer: Icame across this book COMPLETELY by accident.

I read a Globe and Mail article several weeks ago about people who are just too busy with their careers and lives in general for relationships and sex. DePaulo was quoted in the article, and once I read what she had to say – as well as the title of her book – I had to read this for myself.

DePaulo, a psychologist whose area of study happens to deal with singletons, uses studies, anecdotes and even stories about celebrities to address the various myths and perceptions laid out by a society which favours the ideal of a nuclear family above all other types – and to shed a little light on the reality of things.

And it’s not just those never-married folks she refers to. She addresses those who are single due to divorce, and even single parents, who seem to bear the brunt of society’s judgement.

Her message: Believe it or not, there are single people out there who are perfectly normal, well-adjusted, and not biding time until Mr or Mrs Right come along. They’re happy and doing just fine, thank you very much.

As someone who has never been married, while my friends, for the most part, haven’t been the types of friends described in DePaulo’s book, I can relate to the occasional feeling from time to time as if I’m a kid who’s gotten the privilege of sitting at the grown-ups’ table. So while the book can be a little dry in places, I completely appreciate the reinforcement that, hey, there’s nothing wrong with being single and happy with it.

I have nothing against married people or couples with families, but as a single person, the following quote was the one that has stuck with me since: “Married people are on training wheels. Singles are riding the bikes for grown-ups.”

Whale Music, Paul Quarrington

I sadly admit, I knew nothing about the late Mr Quarrington until his death back in January from cancer. But I do remember hearing about the movie adapted from the book. So when I was tooling around the Toronto Library Web site, I decided to give his 1989 novel a go.

Desmond Howl is an obscenely rich, drug-addled, often-naked, alcoholic crazy former rock ‘n’ roll genius who has been living a secluded existence for years, tinkering away at his magnum opus – the book’s title – when he’s not in and out of consciousness.

That is, until one day, 20-year-old Claire appears – seemingly out of nowhere – into his life. And what happens after that forces Des to consider the fate of the Whale Music … and of the ramshackle state of his own life.

The novel also chronicles Des’ dysfunctional family and life on the road with his younger brother as their band breaks into the business and tries to make it big in the 1960s and 1970s. It also sheds a bit of light as to why Des is the way he is.

I found Whale Music tobe funny in places and a surprisingly fast read. However, I wasn’t completely in love with it. I might give Quarrington another try on another occasion – maybe I’ll tackle King Leary before I arrive at my own personal verdict.

Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, Meghan Daum

This is hard to admit out loud, but over the past several months, I probably become a tad more obsessive when it comes to real estate – visiting the MLS Web page, looking through the weekend classifieds, whatever. Then I heard about Meghan Daum and her new book, just released this spring.

The writer and Los Angeles Times columnist takes readers into her inner psyche when it comes to the world of real estate. She starts with her childhood, during which her parents made multiple moves through several states until she was almost nine years old, and introduces us to her parents’ (more so her mother’s) near-obsession for finding the perfect home. These early memories seem to be the basis – and explanation – for Daum’s own decisions to move constantly … first through dorm rooms, then apartments … and then her own obsession with finding the home of her dreams, to the detriment of other aspects of her life.

But while using her life’s experiences as an example, Daum also tries to explain in Life Would Be Perfect what the difference between “house” and “home” really is, and through several turns of events in her life, comes to realize – and express to those of us reading her book – what’s truly important.

I loved Daum’s writing style – although in a different situation, I could relate to her. It also had me thinking about my own mini-mania when it comes to the adulthood ritual of house-hunting. This, combined with her sharp humour, definitely makes for a good read … whether you’re in an obsessive hunt for real estate or not.

And with that, consider another reading post done.

I can’t guarantee when the next time I’ll post will be. Plus, it’s summer. Would YOU stay indoors sitting in front of a computer with all that good weather outside?

Talk to you soon!

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