Saturday, October 17, 2020

And Thereby Hangs a Tale by Jeffrey Archer - Collection of Short Stories


And Thereby Hangs a Tale is a collection of 15 short stories by Jeffrey Archer.  Each story is unique as it picks up on simple situations that unravel into brilliantly written stories. The author captures these situations while travelling to different parts of the world. The settings include India, Germany, England, the Channel Islands, as well as Italy. 

In each of these stories, Archer succinctly captures the culture, time and place that keeps the reader captivated through the meanderings of each story. The author's style of writing brings out various emotions ranging from sheer sadness to delirious happiness that brings out tears and laughter. 

And Thereby Hangs a Tale is an excellent read.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday - Fiction

N. Scott Momaday, author of House Made of Dawn, narrates this story in the oral indigenous tradition. There is a strong presence of the characters communing with nature. He elevates the beauty of our landscape while highlighting the strong human connection to nature. 

The reader can see and feel the power of absorbing our natural surroundings through the author's vivid descriptions.  In some instances, there are illustrations of how this connection can make or break the human soul.

The characters intertwine with each other in varying situations; they appear and disappear as the story unravels in a work place, a social setting or in the safety of home. The reader is enticed to engage with each character through the excellent narration of the many different scenes in the story. Sometimes it is heart breaking while at other times it brings joy and hope. 

The story moves within each scene as it observes and reflects on each incident with flashbacks to another time and another story as it relates to the present scene. It is fascinating to keep up with the story that brings intrigue and suspense. 

House Made of Dawn is an excellent read. The author successfully takes the reader on an emotional journey with each particular character in this novel.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Body by Bill Bryson - Non-fiction

The Body by Bill Bryson takes the reader into the discovery of the parts of the human body in graphic biological details. There are descriptions of each organ and how each operates within the body. 

Bryson, with his characteristic writing style, injects humour where appropriate. The reader has to be aware that this is a deliberate  study of the human body. Hence the references and footnotes are immense. They validate every fact and examples incorporated in this book.  

The reader is provided with the nuances and dedication of the researchers who go above and beyond to improve human living. They have that burning desire to aid in finding cures and treatments for various ailments and diseases. Some are successful while others are not. Bryson provides the scientific data to validate the results of the laboratory testing and experiments. 

There are captivating descriptions of various historical virus and bacterial outbreaks that have spread throughout the world. Bryson examines how the scientists and medical experts worked with these pandemics--sometimes with success and other times with devastating results such as deaths and more deaths. 

The author outlines the role of the population during these past pandemics; how some people, at their own peril, did not follow the advice and regulations provided by the medical experts. These incidents are appropriately outlined as they illustrate how individuals express the infringement of their freedom and liberty and hence their rationale for not following the regulations given by the authorities. Today, the world is experiencing the pandemic of Coronavirus-19 and it appears that history is repeating itself as it relates to the actions of the population. 

The Body is a fountain of knowledge for anyone to absorb and to be aware of how our bodies function with true appreciation for all the scientific researchers and medical experts who do much to save lives and promote healthy living.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Truth About Stories A Native Narrative by Thomas King - Non-Fiction

In The Truth About Stories A Native Narrative as conveyed by Native novelist and scholar, Thomas King examines stories as an integral part of indigenous culture and the human spirit. He informs the reader that stories embody the human experience; they can be revealed in print or performed orally as these stories live on from one generation to the next.  King brings in the indigenous perspective as the reader is engrossed in his childhood memories in California or while living in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. 

Each chapter begins with the turtle story; this part is recounted with that subtle sense of humour that brings in a deep meaning. And each ending has the following advisory: "Don't say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You've heard it now." Each story puts the reader in touch with nature through stunning expressions of responsibility and profound messages of love for the human spirit. 

The Truth About Stories A Native Narrative is a pure joy to indulge in. Each story makes the reader reflect and, more importantly, encourages one to take action.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The End of October by Lawrence Wright - Fiction

The End of October captures the essence of what it means to live through a pandemic.  It is a timely piece of writing that delves deep into the realities of plagues, pathogens and viruses that spread and infect the population causing serious illness and ultimately deaths in great numbers. These sections educate and inform the reader on the science of the microbes that infect the human body.

Harry Parsons, a microbiologist and epidemiologist working for WHO travels to a remote camp in Indonesia, and then onwards to Saudi Arabia in an attempt to contain the spread of infection with little to no success. After many months, he returns home to America via a military submarine. It is no better in America as the virus has permeated his family, neighbourhood and friends. He copes in that stoic and down to earth manner.

Amidst this health crisis, Wright highlights the life and death of the family that Parsons has left behind in order to fulfill his duties as an official of the WHO organization. It is a gut-wrenching account of how the family copes without Parsons.  The story switches from the world of pandemic chaos abroad to family uncertainty and despair at home in America.

The End of October is a timely and excellent read as it not only provides the value of becoming more knowledgeable on the science behind pandemics, but illustrates the truly sad impact on the people going through this health crisis. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Educating the Imagination Edited by Allan Bewell, Neil ten Kortenaar, and Germaine Warkentin

My personal comments are at the end of this overview sourced from McGill-Queen's University Press website

Northrop Frye recognized the imagination as a window opening onto literature, society, and the human spirit.

Frye's long career made him Canada's most creative public intellectual. A century after his birth, his many books demonstrate a powerful vision of the resources of the human imagination. Frye's critical theory sought the continuities linking human creation in all spheres of life, trusting in the idea of a single human community sharing myths, stories, and images that express shared visions and desires.

The essays in Educating the Imagination illustrate the extraordinary range of Frye's ideas. Robert Bringhurst examines how Frye mapped the mind, Ian Balfour considers what "belief" meant for Frye, and Gordon Teskey re-examines two of the critic's great subjects - Blake and Milton. Michael Dolzani and Thomas Willard discuss Frye's symbolism, and Robert Tally looks at his utopianism. A strong thread running through all the essays is Frye's interest in the Romantic era, as Mark Ittenson shows. 

Three essays pair Frye with other titans of the time: Fredric Jameson, Paul de Man, and Jacques Derrida. Troni Y. Grande examines a gender issue in Frye's theory of tragedy, and J. Edward Chamberlin concludes by relating Frye's writings to songs, ceremonies of belief, and the common ground that they represent across cultures.

Engaging with significant matters of contemporary concern, Educating the Imagination provides a renewed understanding of Northrop Frye and the fertility of his ideas about the imagination and society.

Contributors include Ian Balfour (York), Robert Bringhurst, Adam Carter (Lethbridge), J. Edward Chamberlin (Toronto), Alexander Dick (British Columbia), Michael Dolzani (Baldwin Wallace), Troni Y. Grande (Regina), Mark Ittensohn (Zurich), Garry Sherbert (Regina), Robert T. Tally, Jr., (Texas State), Gordon Teskey (Harvard), and Thomas Willard (Arizona).

My Personal Comments: Upon reading through the essays I was enlightened and curious about Frye's views on the necessity to educate the imagination. These essays presented effective arguments on critiquing Frye's writings that determined his intellectual capacity with no bounds in the literary art form. I was intrigued by Frye's concentration on the Bible as a literary guidepost as well as his notions on symbolism and mythology. 

Educating the Imagination is an excellent read as it imparts the strong points as well as the flaws of Frye's writings. And in many ways, Frye left an enduring mark on defining and engaging in the works of literature.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Angel on the Roof by Russell Banks - Short Story Collection

The Angel on the Roof is a collection of stories by Russell Banks.  These stories depict the lifestyles of those struggling to survive. And yet some stories illustrate the abilities of these characters to accept and continue to live through mayhem despite their dreams of a better life. 

There is a sense of realism in some of the stories, while others appear to have that obvious fictional component to them. These two factors make for an engrossed reading through each story.

Banks, the author, deftly and appropriately describes with significant details of the scene and situation as the story unfolds.  The physical descriptions of each character supports the entity of their being.

The ending of each story is a cliff hanger that leaves the reader to speculate on the possible end result. 

The Angel on the Roof is a long, long read and because of the suspense created in each story, the reader can be motivated to read the next and the next.