Late Nights on Air

Popular literature at its best, this novel (set in Yellowknife in the early 1970's) tells the story of a small outreach radio station of the CBC and its late night denizens. The simplicity of this book highlights the incredible insight of the author, who with deft ease drops piercing pieces of truth seamlessly into the narrative. Highly readable and entertaining, Hay manages to keep pace with the characters she creates, stretching and growing the story in truly spectacular fashion. There are several stories happening here, and the most singular thing about the book is how she manages to maintain the simplicity of the plot while incorporating so many intricacies on both the conscious and metaconscious level.

Of all the books I have read over the past few months this is the first one I would recommend without hesitation to the family. It is enjoyable, unpretentious and enriching - in short, deeply satisfying.

On Beauty

I was saving this one for a day when I needed a bit of a pick-me-up. I'll admit, I had some idea of what the covers of this book contained - but didn't expect the close-to-homeness of the setting. Yes, the Art History department of a small but prestigious American university (I cheered for the secretary - obviously). And set among this unfortunate setting are the equally unfortunate intellectual creatures and their torturous affairs. In one single great literary thrust the author offers forth the emotionally mangled lives of otherwise brilliant people, proof that the intellect is a gawking younger brother to matters of the heart. There's something for everyone here, all the forms of shame (sexual, intellectual, emotional) that follow affairs, humiliations and awkward failings of the the same. The sexual infidelities take a backseat to the crushing emotional entanglements that seize upon these relationships like cankers, infecting and slowly disintegrating the lives they touch. Nice!

The human story of this book was well done, but lacked balance. I found the setting off-putting, in a strongly American Liberal sort of way. It tried just a little too hard to be fair to everyone politically. I felt pandered to. Luckily, the political aspect of the book is told both explicitly and implicitly. One can ignore the more amateurish brush strokes of the explicit plot while enjoying their mirrored retelling in the personal lives of the characters. I felt at times out of my depth in this book as well, some of the aspects of marriage and 50+ life were simply beyond my meagre experience.


The Gathering

Incredible in a twisted and dark way, Anne's book is the dark sister to books like the Mermaid Chair. Brutally honest and deliciously interwoven, the story moves back and forth through the past and present, and from created and remembered memories in a fluid and simple way. While this book is not written in glowing prose, the effect is nevertheless engaging and immersive. There are numerous points of connection throughout the story that help to draw the reader in to what is otherwise an (arguably) tragic story. Yet at the same time, the unreliableness of the narrator encourages a detachment in the reader that compliments the overall mental state of the main voice. The result is both moving and dramatic, making this one of the few books that I felt deserved a standing ovation when I was finished.