Old ends, new beginnings, and so long Bookrock!

Well, hello! It’s certainly been a long while since we’ve seen each other. The reason for that is sad but inescapable: I stopped blogging. I never made a conscious decision to stop, but a combination of a tightening schedule, looming thesis deadline, and a certain unavoidable lack of inspiration meant my posts slowly petered out and quit appearing entirely. Although I acted on this decision a long time ago, I’m finally making the decision now: Bookrock is dead. Bookrock is dead!

But never fear. I’ve also made another decision, which is to start a different blog and keep doing some bookish things over there. In fact, you should head over there now! It’s called NEW BOOK IN THE HOUSE and I am extremely enamored with it.  Continue reading

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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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Grief and transformation: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

didion

What is grief?

Joan Didion’s husband slumps over the dinner table. Heart attack. They’ve been together for four decades. She can’t imagine life without him. Now she doesn’t have a choice.

Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity. 

So begins Didion’s year of magical thinking – a time in which grief digs its fingers into every part of her being and changes the way she thinks, the way she reacts, the way she perceives the world and herself.

What is transformation? What is the power of a wish?

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Root and tendon: the connective tissue of Lisa Moore’s short stories

Open

Lisa Moore reminds me of Thomas Pynchon, and at first I thought this was because I had just finished my first Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49, less than a day before beginning Open. But the longer I spent with Moore the more the comparison seemed to stick: hyperreal images, objects infused with surreal and sinister meaning, vivid colours and descriptions – like an image in Photoshop with the contrast and saturation turned all the way up. The result is something carnivalesque, a world that seems to spin like a drunk man. Moore has an almost obsessive eye for detail, for hidden meaning, for things that lurk beneath the surface.

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Grief, history, and metaphor: The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

high mountains_2.jpgYann Martel’s newest novel unfolds like a flower: subtle, delicate, and intricate.

I’ve been looking forward to reading The High Mountains of Portugal for a long, long time. It’s one of those books I greeted with a sort of wary anticipation – after all, what could possibly live up to Life of Pi? 

But I am so, so, so happy to say that this novel is so, so, so good.

The High Mountains of Portugal takes a form in three parts, each connected to the next by the fingertips:

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Classic Canadian literature and the sexual being: Bear by Marian Engel

Bear… she was still not satisfied that this was how the only life she had been offered should be lived.

I often see this novel dismissed as ridiculous and racy in the wrong way; after all, bestiality is one of the sexual taboos that has retained its power across time and cultural difference. Whenever I mention reading this book, I’m met with the same snide response: Isn’t that the book about the woman who has sex with a bear?

And I mean, that’s not wrong. It is, in fact, about a woman who has sex with a bear.

But to stop at that description does the novel an enormous disservice. Bear is a parable of female sexuality – an intense and shocking allegory, sure, but there is so much more you can do with this novel than read it as a literal account of bestiality.

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Canadian apocalypse and the Re-read Challenge: Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland

Girlfriend in a comaThis is my first instalment in the Re-read Challenge since signing up or it in January, and here’s what I’ve learned through this challenge so far: I am great at rereading books and terrible at writing about them. I originally committed to 12 books, but I think I’m going to scale back to 6, which puts me at least a little bit more on track…

But anyway. Let’s talk about Girlfriend in a Coma. It’s a weird one, but a good one.  Continue reading