I Don’t Remember What Happened in the Books I’ve Read, and I Don’t Care

Since I started reading more than 50 books a year I stopped remembering what actually happened in them. Character names, plot points, who did what to whom and why, these things float into the ether within weeks of finishing a book.

Every single time. Without fail.

I read The Orenda when it came out a few years ago and absolutely loved it. I mean, I loved that book. It’s one of my favorite pieces of Canadian fiction. Now, I can’t even tell you the names of the characters. Not a single one. I could pick them out of a lineup, sure, but as for instant recall, I got nuthin’.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay is my third favorite book of all time. I can name two characters in it off the top of my head. That’s insane.

This is something that’s bothered me for quite a while. Am I reading too many books? Am I not absorbing them the way I should be? Do I need to read fewer books, more slowly, to really squeeze the juice out of them? I was starting to think so.

And then I listened to the August 21st episode of The Watch podcast, “Critiquing ‘Game of Thrones’ and Previewing the Fall TV Season”. On it, TV critic extraordinaire Andy Greenwald talked about how the details of a piece of art aren’t important, or, at least, they’re less important than the feeling that piece of art leaves you with.

Instantly, I felt better.

Continue reading “I Don’t Remember What Happened in the Books I’ve Read, and I Don’t Care”

Advertisements

Who Would Be On Your Country’s Literary Mount Rushmore?

Mount Rushmore was sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln, between 1927 and 1941. It features four of the most well-known American Presidents of all time — Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt, and Lincoln — and is probably the coolest thing about the United States (ranking just ahead of rock n’ roll, Mark Twain, and alley-oop dunks). The four men depicted were chosen because they represented, for Borglum, the four most important events in the history of the country (the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, the construction of the Panama Canal, and the Civil War).

While thinking about who would grace Mount Rushmore if it was constructed today, I started to think about other theoretical Mount Rushmores: the Mount Rushmore of the NHL (Gretzky, Orr, Lemieux, and Howe), the Mount Rushmore of One Direction (Zayn left and I’d still kick out Louis), and, naturally, the Mount Rushmore of Canadian Literature.

If we were to carve a bunch of giant literary luminaries into, say, Mount Robson, who would those four be? For fun, I thought I’d take a stab at it.

Continue reading “Who Would Be On Your Country’s Literary Mount Rushmore?”

The (Un)Official LiveBlog: After Canada Reads

If you’re a fan of the Canada Reads “battle of the books” debates, if you’re not a fan of them at all, or if you just can’t get enough of great book discussions with great people, head on over to the WriteReads blog (or download the WriteReads podcast) for the latest and greatest book battle: After Canada Reads.

After Canada Reads is a two-part podcast that does much of what Canada Reads does: it pits five Canadians against one another as they argue for and against some of our country’s greatest pieces of literature.

The big difference is that After Canada Reads features five people who actually know what they’re talking about.

Originally, I was asked to be a part of the program but declined due to some unforeseen circumstances. That doesn’t mean I’m any less invested, though! So I thought that, rather than participate in the show itself, I’d hang back and callously judge them all from the safety of my relative anonymity. Just like Canada Reads.

Continue reading “The (Un)Official LiveBlog: After Canada Reads”

This is 33: Growing Older with Nino Ricci’s Testament

I’ve been stressed about turning thirty-three since I was about twenty-five.

You see, thirty-three is largely considered to be Jesus’ age when he died. This was the year he established his ministry, rebelled against the Romans, rose from the dead, and laid the groundwork for Dan Brown to become the most unlikely gajillionaire the world has ever seen.

In short, he crushed it. He fulfilled his destiny and became the man he was meant to be (however horrid that destiny may have been).

Thirty-three has since become synonymous–insofar as the Christian zeitgeist is concerned–with a person’s figurative death and resurrection. A precedent has been set for thirty-three being the height of one’s powers, the year we tear down the walls that surround us and rebuild ourselves into something better.

It’s a testament to my Catholic upbringing and its particular brand of “gee shucks” brainwashing that I’m still so affected by its laws, taboos, and beliefs more than twenty years after I left the church for good.

Classical conditioning is one hell of a drug.

Continue reading “This is 33: Growing Older with Nino Ricci’s Testament”

When Books Fail Us

There’s a sacred, unspoken expectation among Readers that the right book will come along at the right time. In fact, as Alain de Botton wrote, “Most of what makes a book ‘good’ is that we are reading it at the right moment for us.”

Often we aren’t aware that the right book is needed until providence has placed it in our hands. Then comes that moment–that chapter, that sentence, that word–that reminds us why we’re Readers in the first place: because literature is transcendent; restorative, even.

Inevitably, Readers learn to rely on this moment. We put our trust in it, and expect the right book to always come along at the right time.

Then, on the day when we need it most, it doesn’t.

Continue reading “When Books Fail Us”