Saturday, August 05, 2006

"When I was Young and in my Prime" Alayna Munce

My friend Kristine has been going on about this book for months now. Apparently a close friend of her sister's, Alayna Munce is a Torontonian who, after reading this book this afternoon, I believe to be one of the most atmospheric Canadian writers on the market. She captures Parkdale and its usual, eccentric, awkward bustle quite acutely.

Our nameless narrator is spun into a world of nostalgia and inspiration as she sorts through her grandparents' timeless letters, diaries and memorabilia. Her grandmother has alzheimers; her grandfather weakens physically the moment they put his spouse in a home. This disintegrating relationship mirrors the narrators' own.

I don't usually enjoy books where poetry is interspersed and breaks the narrative flow. However, Munce is far from overpowering. I found her a little pretentious at times ( a phrase involving Tolstoy and moralistic romanticism comes to mind as a springboard for a thought that is left fragmentary ) but more often that not the narrator's observations ---at No Frills or on the street car --- are a welcome antidote to any Torontonian stuck thinking they live in merely a static, smelly zoo.

This was a good read for someone who has just left the city and is trying to piece together her own reminiscences. What parts and neighbourhoods will stand as the defining ones? What ones make me cringle and crackle: "God! I'm so glad I'm gone!"

When I was Young and In my Prime is a book of love but it is also a book of regret. The prosaic timbre of the book echoes Anne Michael's brilliant Fugitive Pieces and I was grateful for a relapse into that beautiful weaving of poetic realism.

Moving has forbidden as much reading as I would have liked but I have fallen hard for Ellen Kushner author of a series of novels set in the fantastic albeit Regency-esque realm of Riverside. I was captivated most by The Privilege of the Sword which follows a female swashbuckler-to-be, Katherine Talbert and her new status as protector of her eccentric and flamboyant uncle, Alec Campion. Kushner is a painter of words and she has a luscious canvas to embroider. Every salon and every rampant, risque party is a treat. The interweaving metafictional story of The Swordsman whose name was Not death is an ironically witty treat. I was most taken by the character of St.Vier who, to my utter delight, figures prominently in Kushner's Swordspoint. Kushner is the kind of author that makes me want to genre hop and spend more time reading fantasy novels. She is literate and humorous and has a huge heart. I love authors whose personality shines into their work. Kushner delighted me and I hope she does not stop there.

Now having moved, painted and unpacked I hope to be spending more time reading. Reading all of the time is preferable but I am sure there will be moments lent to other activity ( quel dommage ).

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