The lilacs are once again blooming, bringing into sharp focus the swiftness of Time’s passing from year to year. Another spring – how can that be? Wasn’t it just yesterday that the lilacs faded away…? (And is it symbolic that this photo was taken in the fading light of evening, after I’d made my way past the fragrant clouds of bloom all day long, too busy to stop and appreciate their so-brief perfection? Oh my, did I just really write that?! Sounds a bit pathetic, doesn’t it? <sigh> Spring makes me just a tiny bit sad…)
It’s certainly been a while since I last posted, or at least it feels that way. The Annual Spring Crazy-Busy Time has completely taken over my life, and though I’ve been reading in snippets here and there the time to write about the books has been impossible to find.
As some of you know, I operate a small plant nursery, and the month of May is peak season in the green world. Added to this, my teen daughter, a dancer, has one more competition coming up in a very few days, and then, with only an afternoon and morning to catch our breath, a whirlwind trip to the provincial performing arts festival, so the juggling routine is in full hectic form. I barge around madly, from greenhouse to garden to prep area and into the car for chauffeur duties. It’s all getting done, but the extras are most definitely on hold. Like the book blog. Which is a shame, because I’ve read some good stuff lately, and I know by the time I can sit down to talk about it too much time will have passed for fresh and in-depth reviews.
So I’ll just mention a few of the highlights – both excellent and not so much – here. I think the theme for May might well be “eclectic” – these are coming from every direction!
The Menace from Earth by Robert A. Heinlein – science fiction short stories from the 1950s. Heinlein at his vintage pulp fiction best. Some dark, some funny, all tremendously dated, but every one with the expected Heinlein twist. Most enjoyable! I do believe I have a review started, which I might get completed and posted at some point in the near future if I find myself in a hotel room with an hour or two to spare, which may well be the case as the dance road trip is looking good to go.
I Married the Klondike by Laura Beatrice Berton – an excellent memoir of the shadow side of the Klondike Gold Rush, of what happens when the boom fades away, and the people leave, and the once seething-with-life buildings start to collapse under the weight of winter snows. Why have I not read this before? It was very good reading indeed, both from a historical and a personal perspective. Laura Berton’s clean and concise style and her well drawn and frank descriptions of her twenty-five years in the north were fascinating. Reading this book helped to explain where the iconic Canadian writer Pierre Berton got some of his writing talent from; Laura is Pierre’s mother, and she was an aspiring writer long before her much more famous son ever came along. This one definitely deserves a proper review, which I hope to give it one day.
The Big Red Train Ride by Eric Newby – I’d tried hard to get into this one, but it felt way too much like Theroux-lite. Newby is full of snide little comments about pretty well everything he encounters in his 1970s journey into Russia, but can’t quite pull of Theroux’s trick of combining blatant bitchiness with fabulous writing. Newby’s literary talents are iffy at the best of times, but adequate for his more compelling memoirs, such as A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, and When the snow comes, they will take you away, but in Train Ride and the recently read Around Ireland in Low Gear the contrived tone dominates. So why did you make these trips, Eric? Merely to provide frameworks for new books? Tough to pull off, and with these two Newby quite frankly doesn’t quite do it.
Roman Spring and other stories by Edith Wharton – a range of short stories, most with Wharton’s trademark poignant sadness. Some forgettable, some brilliant. Just the right thing for bedtime reading; a mix of engaging and soporific – a true lucky dip!
Mexican Days by Tony Cohan is a recent travel memoir, which started off reasonably well, but which deteriorated into the kind of navel gazing “what is my life all about anyway” stuff which I really can’t get my head around when all I really wanted was witty and thoughtful observations on the country and its people. A bit self-indulgent, I felt, though parts of it were excellent. I won’t write this author off by any means, but he has garnered a nebulous question mark in my brain. His other books could be more typically “travel writing”, in which case I’m all for him, or they could be all angsty and personal, in which case I’m not all that interested. His personal “problems” – a complicated marital arrangement and the intrusions of other expatriates into his private Mexican paradise – are rather unrelatable to me. But I’m interested enough in him as an author to add him to my library list. A reserved “not bad” is what I’ve settled on. For now.
And right now I’m engaged – in 15 minute intervals, which is all I can mange before my eyes lose focus and I drop into that sudden sleep of the completely exhausted, waking briefly to remove my glasses and click off the light as the book drops from suddenly limp hands onto my face – in Laughing Gas by P.G. Wodehouse. I think I’m on page 65 or thereabouts, or about 3 nights worth of reading – rather pathetic for this usual book-a-dayer, isn’t it? – and I’m liking it. A lot.
In other news, the Fraser River reached an apparent 10-year-high water level (for this area of the province) just a few days ago, and we were modestly inundated on the lower level of our farm. The fields are suddenly full of Canada geese – complete with several lots of adorable brand-new goslings – and an assortment of wild ducks, all dabbling happily in the-muck-that-was-the-horse-pasture. The water has receded a bit since this photo was taken, and we’re hoping this was it for the year’s high water. The field’s-edge erosion does not bear thinking about; the downside to living beside the relentless Fraser. Last year’s high water came a few week’s later, and was quite a bit more severe, so I’m rather bemused by that “10 year high” designation, though I know it varies by how much run-off is swelling the many side rivers, creeks and streams that feed the arterial Fraser, and at what point in region the water level measurements are taken. (Does this picture look familiar? If so, it’s because I posted a similar one in this space a year ago, to mark the 2012 high water episode. This is definitely not the every-year norm, so two years in a row is rather noteworthy, though we’re getting increasingly casual about it after so many years here. It comes up, it goes down. How much property are we the poorer this time? Oh well, no sense to get too stressed out about it; the river does what it does and nothing we can do will change it!)
Oh! – one more thing. The Folio books from the anniversary book give-away are IN THE MAIL, so the winners should be receiving them fairly shortly, if they haven’t already.
Happy reading, all!