52 weeks – September 9, 2012

book

Read The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes. Because of the title, and because it was published a few years after Nothing to Be Frightened of, Barnes’ musings on the end of life, I expected the subject matter to be similar. But instead it is more of a discourse on the difficulty of communication and the unknowableness of others, wrapped up in a short novel with a mystery at its heart. I found it somewhat cold and unsatisfying. While recognizing that it is well written, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about Tony, the protagonist. Tony’s life is a rather boring one and he is only interesting at all because of the friends he had in his youth and the things that happened to them. He is a witness to their lives, albeit an unreliable one.

In Part I, he and his friends are shown at their shallowest time, though we can probably all relate to being pompous and self-important in youth. His girlfriend, Veronica — seen through his eyes, at least — is a mysterious and rather unpleasant character. Their friend Adrian leaves him the mystery to solve.

One of the oddest moments in the novel is when the measured recounting of Tony’s early life ends with a quick biographical sketch of marriage, child, separation and a leap forward to the present day and Tony’s later life alone. It is, I suppose, poignant in its ordinariness and lack of meaning.

Tony plods through Part II, attempting to find the solution to the mystery, and it is at the end of the book when light of a sort dawns.

The Sense of an Ending won the Booker prize in 2011.

food

The Omega muffin and Honey’s Blend coffee on a cool September morning in Deep Cove. Trees starting to change colour, a coolness in the air, people wearing jackets: there will be warm days still, but this is the turning point.

movie

Watched Another Thin Man, with the polished and perfect William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles: the plot is wonderfully silly and convoluted, but it’s hardly necessary to try to follow it as you can just enjoy the appearance of the dapper Nick and the elegant Nora and absorb their quickfire dialogue.

The resolution is a Poirot moment, as Nick gathers everyone together for a recreation of the crime and the camera pans over each shifty-looking face in turn before Nick demonstrates how the murder was done and by whom. Light, witty fare for an evening when you want uncomplicated nostalgia.

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52 weeks – August 5, 2012

book

Oleander, Jacaranda, by Penelope Lively. A memoir of her life growing up in pre-war Egypt. The book describes her childhood impressions of times and places and fills those out with what she came to know as an adult:

I have tried to recover something of the anarchic vision of childhood – in so far as any of us can do such a thing – and use this as the vehicle for a reflection on the way in which children perceive. I believe that the experience of childhood is irretrievable. All that remains for any of us, is a headful of brilliant frozen moments, already dangerously distorted by the wisdoms of maturity.

The impressions of Cairo and Alexandria are glorious and romantic, albeit seen from the perspective of the privileged child of an expatriate family:

The Alexandria of the 1930s and 1940s survives now only in my mind, and in the minds of others. Most of whom knew it a great deal better than I did. For I did not know it at all, I realize, more than I knew Cairo in any real sense. Much of it I never even saw — the densely populated slum quarters to the west of the city, the labyrinthine streets of downtown Alexandria, tucked behind the boulevards and shops. It was not one city, but half a dozen, in which people moved on different planes, segregated by class and culture. And for me there was the further segregation of childhood. My Alexandria was a sybaritic dream. Peanuts in a paper cone, eaten on the Corniche. The suck and whoosh of the sea at the Spouting Rock. The milky-green curve of a surfing wave. The cool grip of a chameleon. Pistachio ice-cream. Macaroons. A medley of allusions, which add up now to a place which no longer exists in any sense at all.

food

Pesto goat cheese panino at The Outpost Café on Fraser Street. With the homemade unsweetened iced tea.

music

Three Row Barley, a lively Celtic folk group, playing the Friday night concert in Deep Cove. Hear them here.

The Concerts in the Cove are a series of free outdoor concerts through July and August. There are similar summer concerts at other locations in North Vancouver, but you can’t beat the Cove backdrop.

Were you ready for Street View?

Cove

Now that the Google car has been to our neighbourhood, we can — almost — see our house on Google Street View. For some reason, the view switches over half a block when you get to our cross street. But all these little glitches will get worked out eventually.

The whole thing is sort of cool and sort of worrying at the same time. Fortunately, our provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner, David Loukidelis, is on it.

My daughter and her friends have been captured walking down a nearby road,  their faces obscured; our car has been spotted, with the licence plate ditto. But people are clearly identifiable to their friends and families: it takes more than blurring features to make people unrecognizable. I am taking a wait and see approach before I decide whether I like it or hate it.

I know that I really like the sentiments expressed by letter writer Roger Barany in the weekend Vancouver Sun:

How was I supposed to know Google’s sneaky street crew would come unannounced to sweep my block, snap my filthy car sitting outside my residence and post the image on its planet-wide social mapping site? When picture day is coming, can’t they send an advance note, the way my kid’s school does, so I can jazz up my crate a bit? When’s retake day?