A Good Man

November 20, 2011

Every time I read something by Guy Vanderhaeghe I’m struck by its beauty and its depth, so I guess the obvious question is why it’s taken me so long to add his books to my definite, “as soon as they come out,” to-read list. His story The Dancing Bear was one of the most memorable we read in high school (we read a lot of Canadian short stories, but not a lot of novel-length fiction, or at least as much as we could have). And yet, while the novels have a level of historical detail, thickly-woven plots, and a depth of characterization that I love, the overall impact for me is often impressionistic–I’m better able to discuss the strong thoughts and feelings they evoke than the detail.

A Good Man, straightforwardly enough, is a meditation on what makes a good man, which is always a more complex exercise than it seems. For some, it’s a position of leadership–here, Sitting Bull, having learned the wisdom in his old age not to confront a raging man, but losing his people’s trust. For some, the love of a good woman–Michael Dunne, wanting to be his “very best self” for the woman he loves. Moral uprightness comes with its own complications, as Joe McMullen, James Morrow Walsh, and the protagonist (although the other characters are so well-realized it almost feels inaccurate to call him so) Wesley Case have learned.

These complications lead, perhaps, to an understanding that forgiveness (and self-forgiveness) is an integral part of goodness, and to the suggestion that joy is key to a proper response to a world of tragedy.

Life changing moment

November 15, 2011

There have been a few times when an idea or a feeling has come over me so strongly and suddenly that it was like my life changed in a moment.

In my last year of university, for the first term, I was having kind of a rough time. I wasn’t sure my boyfriend (now husband) still wanted to be with me; I was taking more than a full course load and also TAing for someone with whom I apparently couldn’t communicate very well. I was coming to the end of school and didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to do it.

I thought about what I loved, and it was sharing with people about art and culture. I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher although I think I’d be suited to it; I’ve had enough teachers who haven’t been drawn to the profession that I didn’t want to join them. And when I thought about how else I could do what I loved, something struck me that I’d never thought of, or had actually actively tried to avoid, till then: libraries.

The process afterwards was long; I spent two years (that I loved) continuing to TA and figuring out what to do, then another year at school in London. 6 months unemployed; a year and a half at a job that wasn’t the right fit. But I have it now. And it all went back to a split second of inspiration in the early spring of 2005.

Making a Scene

November 14, 2011

“We’ve all made one or somehow ended up in one. Share your story.”
I don’t know. I’ve had a book thrown at me at work, but that honestly wasn’t really a scene. But maybe it is the one I should share, because it did make me feel something, deeply.
A couple came in with their daughter who had some sort of developmental challenge. She was getting confused with things and when I finished with her book and handed it to her she threw it at me. I got my arm up in time, it wasn’t a problem or anything. The mother left with the daughter immediately and the father stayed to finish and apologize. He left too, and I thought it was the end of it, which was fine.
In a few minutes they all came back, and they stood there with the mother holding the daughter and insisted she apologize to me. “When we hurt someone, we say we’re sorry.” I wasn’t sure what to do with my face, because I wanted to do the most I could to help…so I tried to look kind, but stern. Difficult face to pull off.  The girl clearly wasn’t in the mood, but the mother held her ground and the girl eventually signed that she was sorry and smiled at me.
Then she reached back and hit her mother. I just saw tears well up in the mother’s eyes, and they left again.
I have an incredibly deep appreciation for any parent who does a good job, and I definitely appreciated those parents, doing a good job in such difficult circumstances.

Might just be because of my Tudor reading, but Groom of the Stool. The added influence was definitely not worth the primary duty. Especially not for Henry VIII.


November 12, 2011

“On taking them, on being in them?”

Another question from G‘s friend Emi (and here I am having come up with my 15 questions by myself…)

Sometimes I fancy that I want to be a better photographer, and I take shots like this:


But mostly it’s just a little bit of a hobby that I fiddle with.

I don’t mind being photographed. I usually get away without making too much of a gross face.

I hope.

Growing up I thought I wanted to be a marine biologist…I love the water, I loved science. When I got to high school and realized my brain wasn’t built for math (it just didn’t come as naturally as other things), I also realized that meant it probably wasn’t built for hard science. If only there was a way to have the fun of an occupation without the hard work…

Probably spending money I shouldn’t, and then having to own up. Or the time this week when I had McDonald’s for lunch and didn’t want to admit it, but then had something clever to say about it, and so, did.

Hobby horse

November 9, 2011

“the idea you can’t get over and always talk about even though you probably shouldn’t.”

Probably US politics. Maybe I’m naive, but it had honestly never struck me until the last couple years that there are people who don’t believe that someone who’s done very well in life might have a responsibility to, a social contract with, someone who hasn’t. I suppose in an economic climate where real unemployment is about 15-16%, it surprises me that people think these problems could never affect them.


November 8, 2011

“For? Against? How Often? Favourites? Most hated?”

For. Not in an excessive, Sopranos type way. But definitely to release some steam. My husband would laugh whenever I say “fuck” other than the fact that I’m usually so angry when it happens. The F word is tops. I was once called a “cunt”, and that’s probably the worst. There was something so intentionally harmful about it, whereas most cursing is about releasing your own tension.

I take things too personally, and then obsess over them for too long.