Navigating family, history, and the outside: If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

if-i-fall-if-i-dieI picked up If I Fall, If I Die for two reasons: its great title, and its Giller longlist nomination in 2015. Considering its dark cover and title, it turned out to be a lot “cuter” than I expected – which is both a good and bad thing.

The plot: Will and his mother live in a house in Thunder Bay, and it’s been a decade since they’ve stepped outside.

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From paper to screen: The Magicians as a novel and The Magicians as a show

magicians show.jpgI was excited but also apprehensive when I learned one of my favourite books was going to be reimagined as a SyFy series. On one hand, what could be better than seeing the characters come to life? But on the other hand, what could be worse than seeing other people messing around with my favourite book?

The first season is now finished and it’s looking pretty likely that it will continue on into a second one. I’m happy with the show, but also disappointed in some ways. For better or for worse, the TV show incorporates a series of additions, subtractions, and transformations – a couple of which I want to talk about here.

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Gritty magic: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

the-magiciansI’m weirdly fond of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and I can’t quite put my finger on why. It’s campy, and self-aware, and god help me I love it.

I first picked it up because I liked the look of it – one of those judge-a-book-by-its-cover situations that works out surprisingly well. Since then it’s become one of my favourites, and one of the few books that I actually reread on a regular basis.

The plot: Quentin Coldwater is a genius – at school subjects, at magic tricks, and especially when it comes to remember details about an old series of children’s books about a magical land called Fillory. He masters calculus and classic literature with an aptitude bordering on boredom – and can’t help feeling that there must be more to life than this.

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Where have I been? What have I read? Part II!

My last post (Where have I been? What have I read?) apologised for a couple weeks of silence and promised regular posts in the future. Next thing you know, three months have passed. In other, happier news, I’ve finished my MA thesis – which also explains what I’ve been doing for the last three months.

I’ve also been doing some reading for fun, if not exactly a lot of it. But here are some highlights of my summer reading – in tiny, one-sentence reviews. (And this time I really do promise this signals a return to my old book-reviewing ways.)

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Where have I been? What have I read?

You may have noticed that I’ve been MIA these last few weeks. Let’s call it a summer break: after finishing up the 80 pages of academic writing I had due in April, I didn’t have too many words left in my brain for book reviews. But don’t worry. I’m back, and I’m going to tell you all about the books I read while I was away – in tiny, one-sentence reviews.

You’ll probably see longer reviews of some of these pop up in the next few weeks – let me know if there are any that you’re particularly interested in hearing about, and I’ll move them to the top of the pile.

Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? / Jean Baudrillard
This book is the result of an old, grumpy, slightly terrified French philosopher thinking a little too hard about contemporary life, and it’s both really right and really wrong about a lot of things.

The Magicians / Lev Grossman
Dosed with unabashed nostalgia for the Narnia Chronicles, Grossman reimagines what it might mean to attend a school for magicians – and still find yourself disappointed at what the world holds.

In the City of Lost Things / Paul Auster
I first read this novel in the first year of my undergrad, and it’s weirdly stuck with me – and weirdly proved impossible to find in bookstores. Strong female protagonist journeys to the (apocalyptic, chaotic, decaying) city of last things to look for her missing brother – and learns too late that the city proves just about impossible to escape.

The Vegetarian / Han Kang
A Korean woman gives up eating meat after a series of unsettling, cannibalistic dreams; this small act of resistance quickly snowballs – producing social, familial, political, and artistic ramifications.

Spill Simmer Falter Wither / Sarah Baume
Okay – stop what you’re doing and get your hands on a copy of this book, because it’s easily one of the best I’ve read this year. The old, suspicious anti-hero at the centre of this novel can’t put his finger on why he’s suddenly possessed with the urge to get a dog, but once united, the two prove oddly and inseparably similar – wounded and muddling along as best they can.

All the Birds, Singing / Evie Wyld
The best way to describe this novel is as a weird one. Sheep? Sex workers? Australia? Arson? Mysterious beasts ripping apart lambs?

The Mirror World of Melody Black / Gavin Extence
The back cover makes this sound like a fun and unsettling romp through parallel worlds, but the truth is this novel is a beautifully frank look at the inside of mental illness.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing / Alan Moore (et al)
I’ve read four of the six volumes which chronicle this version of the Swamp Thing, and even though I’m not generally a graphic novel / comic sort of person, I weirdly and truly dig the trials and tribulations of this unlikely, plant-based superhero. Apocalypse! History! Memory!

A Complicated Kindness / Miriam Toews
A Mennonite girl in small-town Canada slowly and surely comes to grips (or else to no grips at all) with the fact that her gentle religion has torn (and continues to tear) her family apart. (It sounds inane but it’s not. It’s brilliant, and heartbreaking, and clever, and hilarious.)

 

So there you have it – that was how I spent my May. What have you read this past month that you loved / hated / felt unmoved by? Is there anything on my list you want to hear more about? Let’s chat!