Tuesday, August 15, 2006

BOOKS: Vague Feelings and Crusty Clichés

I love Carrie's site. She's snarky in such a fresh way, and if you think it's easy being snarky and fresh on this here internet, then you've clearly never tried to blog for a sustained period of time.

So, when I read this over in tryharderland, I took it to heart:
I have some advice for all you book bloggers out there. Don’t wait too long to post about your reading. You will not have quotes because books have gone back to the library or disappeared in your apartment. You will forget plots, you will forget characters, you will forget whole books and then have to create a review from vague feelings and crusty clichés.
So true. I've read two books recently, and I'm lucky if I can even pull a crusty ol' cliché out of my ass. Dude, I had to stop myself from going upstairs to check out the covers, because I can barely even remember their titles. But maybe everything will come back to me as I write. Odds are against it, but it's possible! Are you in a gambling mood today? Then keep reading.

Big Trouble
by Dave Barry (#26)
All I remember about this book is that it's sort of a detective story, and it's set in Miami, and it started off slow so that I was sort of doubting myself for having put it on my Amazon wishlist, but then it picked up and ended up being a pretty funny read.

I've never read anything by Dave Barry before, and I understand that he doesn't normally write fiction, but he did a pretty okay job with this novel, so my hat goes off to you, Mr. Barry.

Scanning the last two paragraphs for vague feelings and crusty clichés...

Vague feelings: 4
Crusty clichés: Does doffing a metaphorical hat count as a cliché? Then one, I guess.

Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw
by Will Ferguson (#27)
Last spring (and by "last spring" I mean the spring of this year, 2006; I don't know why, but the phrase "last spring" seems like it's referring to a much more distant past -- but I digress), Rusty and I had big travel plans for the summer.

First, we were going to go camping at least twice.

We were also going to rent a cabin on a lake with some friends for at least a week.

And then there was some loose talk about going to New York and/or San Francisco for a few days.

Try not to be too depressed on my behalf when I tell you that, other than a weekend trip to Whistler with a few of my fellow Bored Housewives and their menfolk and babyfolk, all our travel plans have been as dust in the wind. I don't know what happens to us in the summertime. We're all talk until May, and then as soon as the Victoria Day long weekend comes and goes, we get stupid and stupefied... perhaps from the heat, perhaps from the fact that our bellies are creakingly laden with ice cream from the amazing gelateria down the street -- who can say?

But now I don't need a summer vacation. For I have read Will Ferguson's
Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw. It's the ultimate Canadian road-trip book, and if you know how much I love both road trips and this big-ass country of mine, then you know how much I loved this book.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Ferguson a few years ago, after his novel Happiness came out, when he was a guest on a TV show I was working on. He was personable and funny and smart and self-deprecating, qualities which lend themselves not just to a great TV interview but also to a great road-trip companion.

Ferguson starts his chronicle in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, and slowly works his way east, ending up in St. John's, the capital of Newfoundland. It's appropriate that he starts and finishes in these cities, because in addition to being two of his favourite places, they represent polar aspects of what he loves about Canada: the charming
faux-historical English pretension of Victoria versus the down-to-earth (and, dare I say, "gritty") Irishness (more Irish than Ireland, claims Ferguson) of St. John's.

In between both coasts, Ferguson stops in a broad range of locales, from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (one of my favourite cities, too; remind me to tell you why later), to Churchill, Manitoba (home to the famous polar bears, which, despite what conservatives say, really are endangered due to global warming and the melting ice caps) to the Republic of Madawaska (the region sandwiched between Quebec, New Brunswick and the U.S. that got so sick of being an object of dispute that it declared secession from both Canada and the U.S., and still jokingly declares its autonomy to this day).

I enjoyed this book even more than I expected to. Ferguson's travel writing is in a very similar vein to
Bill Bryson's, but while Bryson has an occasional tendency to drift into mundanity and stay there a bit too long, Ferguson is a fair bit sharper and on point. I'd be happy to sit in his passenger seat and read his maps any day.

Wait. That last sentence came out wrong.

Vague feelings: 3
Crusty clichés: None! Unless you count earnest patriotism. You do? Dang, you people are tough.

9 comments:

Carrie said...

thanks lady. we love you in tryharderland, wher it is always fresh and snarky.

come to new york! it is beautiful in the fall.

vague feelings: 0
crusty cliches: 1

Courtney said...

If you enjoy travel books I highly recommend Timbit Nation by John Stackhouse. It was absolutely fabulous!

Karen said...

Eeps, you must have read my recent post.

landismom said...

I think I'm coming to Toronto next summer. You and I can hang out in a hammock reading books all day, and make the menfolk take care of the kidlings.

Cap'n Ganch said...

Wait! What about Moosejaw?!

rocketgirl said...

I used to read Dave Barry's column in our newspaper (while the paper still carried it), but his style of humour eventually went from witty to kind of ridiculous and I gave it up. I had no idea he'd written a novel.

I'm in partial agreement about vague feelings and crusty cliches when trying to write a book review long after the fact (in which case, I need to get on it because I'm WAY behind), but I can't help thinking that if that's all we're left with after just a few weeks, the book probably wasn't that memorable to begin with. Kinda like Dave Barry's :)

landismom said...

D'oh! I'm an idiot.

Because you live in Vancouver, not Toronto.

(slinks away, feeling like the ugly American)

Doppelsis said...

I noticed (hard not to) that you neglected to mention that you are travelling this summer to Chez Doppelsis. Is Greely not worth mentioning to you, huh, isn't it, huh? You can forget about the mint on your pillow.

Doppelganger said...

Landismom, I was going to suggest you hop on a crosstown bus and visit me over here. Hee! Still, if you're ever in these parts, we definitely need to get together. I even have hammocks!

And Doppelsis, surely you appreciate that in my blatant bid for people's pity, some editing of the facts is required. You know that I love visiting you and Doppelniece and Doppelnephew and even Doppelbrother-in-law. Heheh.

Speaking of visits, Carrie, be careful what you suggest. You may just find me in your 'hood, demanding that you take me up the Statue of Liberty followed by a carriage ride around Central Park.

Cap'n, I was going to include my Moose Jaw story in this comment, but I've run out of time. (No, that is not a transparent ploy to build suspense.) But I'll be back later, I swear.