Saturday, April 30, 2005

April random reviews


Books in brief:
  • The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville. I bought this - again - after failing to realize I'd read it before. Which isn't to say it's not a fine novel, with quirky characters in small-town Australia that I enjoyed spending time with, but it was forgettable enough that the descriptive prose and quiet character studies didn't stick with me for long.
  • The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald. She could probably write about paint drying and I would find her fluid prose fascinating. Fortunately, she also chooses involving stories with a central mystery about the protagonist, and her characters are wonderfully flawed and complex. With this and her first novel, Fall on Your Knees, she demonstrates a darkness that could be overwhelming, except that it's tempered with humour and fine storytelling. The story loses its punch when we follow the main character to adulthood, but what comes before is gripping.
"We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Spanish dilemma (aka Le Dilema)

In two weeks, I'm off to Spain for two weeks, and the anticipation is killing me. I love travelling. I do not, however, love flying. I'm not scared of it, exactly, though during take offs and landings I have a slightly obsessive need to stare at the wings and will them not to fall off. But I find flights painfully boring, and this one is a mind-numbing 12 hours long, not including stopovers. I hate being trapped in those seats designed for people with retractable legs, and I can't sleep, and there's only so much staring at the wings I can do before I feel silly. Since my travelling companion has the ability to become comatose at will, I have to find other ways to amuse myself. You can't rely on the in-flight movies – the last one I saw was Biker Boyz, which I could have happily lived the rest of my life without seeing. I get queasy if I concentrate on reading or doing crossword puzzles for too long, plus the stale cabin air turns my normally calm self into Attention Deficit me. I need an entertainment plan.

I have a couple of hefty paperbacks to bring and a gorgeous wood-bound notebook I can use as a travel journal. Tonight I ventured into my closet to dig out my first-generation Discman, which I haven't used since, oh, 1990, when I realized that I really, really want an MP3 player. I just got my brother one for his birthday and he's tormenting me with stories about how much he loves it. It would take up no room at all in my carry-on. I could listen to it at work. I could take it to the gym (assuming I can drag myself there). I could find all kinds of uses for it in my everyday life, so I can absolutely justify buying one for the trip. But. When comparison shopping, I realized that I could pay just slightly more and get a portable DVD player, which would also play MP3 discs. I could get through my backlog of movies and bring one killer music disc instead of a sad little selection of CDs for the Discman. Two entertainment birds killed with one stone. And yet, I cannot even slightly justify the purchase of the DVD player apart from this trip. A few times a year, maybe, I would use it. Plus I would still want that MP3 player when I got home.

Hmm ... DVD player or iPod? Or – here's a crazy thought – I could save my money to spend on the actual trip.

"It is odd how we sometimes deny ourselves the very pleasure we have longed for and which is finally within our reach."
- Cynthia Rylant