The Gift of Rain, by Tan Twan Eng. Oh dear: a book that I could not get very far into, although I tried more than once. Excerpts that may indicate why I couldn’t read it:
His eyes glittered, throbbed with a cosmic energy that seemed to reach into mine.
At the end of the meal, she held up her wineglass and made a graceful gesture to the island. “To Endo-San,” she said softly. I nodded, “To Endo-San.”
“Listen,” she said. “Do you hear him?”
I closed my eyes and, yes, I heard him. I heard him breathe. I smiled wanly. “He’s always here, Michiko. That’s why, wherever I go, I always yearn to return.”
And that is the point of life itself, I whisper into the night, hoping my grandfather has heard me.
I will say no more about the quality of the writing. Maybe I get too easily irritated by people saying things “stiffly” or “softly” or having their eyes “harden.”
For me, the plot had too much in the way of pseudo-Eastern mysticism with far too many martial arts scenes and heavily meaningful silences.
Bizarrely, this was on the longlist for the Booker Prize in 2007.
A production of Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros at the Telus Studio Theatre (in the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of BC). The intimate space of the Telus Studio Theatre was the perfect setting for this Theatre-of-the-Absurd play, in which, gradually, the citizens of a small French town all turn into rhinoceroses until only the main character is left. Actors move in the shadows around the spaces behind and between the seats on the three tiers of seating, adding to the sense of growing menace.
Ionesco’s vision of a world in which the things you take for grated are slowly withdrawn until you are the only one left is disturbing but hardly one that any viewer could see without relating to it. Things that have happened in our lifetimes or the recent past, where a new regime has swept away all certainty — not to mention all humanity — come flooding in as soon as you start to think about it. Ionesco said that it was an anti-Nazi play, but also “an attack on collective hysteria and the epidemics that lurk beneath the surface of reason and ideas but are none the less serious collective diseases passed off as ideologies.”
Heavy ideas, but the play is not without humour and all aspects were done well. Directed by Chelsea Haberlin, an MFA Directing candidate in UBC’s Theatre and Film department, the production was highly professional.
Some desserts suitable for a Robbie Burns Day celebration — that is to say, desserts that call for a fine single malt as an accompaniment. In the foreground, Chocolate Whiskey Cake, which of course has a decent amount of good whisky in it. Other main ingredients are butter, chocolate, and coffee.
The dish in the back is an Apple Cranachan, involving poached apples, whisky, cream, honey, and oats. This can only be described as food of the gods.