That said, I do have three books to talk about. I know I won't be able to squeeze full entries for each out of my poor brain, so we're going to do something new and do short reviews! Scattered and short attention span -- that's me right now.
The City of Words
by Alberto Manguel
CBC Audio, 2007
This is actually a recording of the five 2007 Massey Lectures. If you don't know about the Massey Lectures, I do advise checking them out at some point -- they've been given lately by such luminaries as Margaret Atwood (about money, and debt) and Douglas Copeland (the first Lectures to be entirely a work of fiction) and Wade Davis (anthropology). This particular set was about the power of story and words in society, going back as far as Gilgamesh (my favourite lecture of the series) and bringing us into the future with HAL. I don't remember a lot of it at this point, I'll be honest, and as I was in the car listening to this I wasn't (much to the advantage of other drivers on the road, I am sure) taking notes as I listened. I think probably a better experience would have involved taking notes. It was tremendously fascinating, but extremely dense; and I do remember feeling that the final lecture stretches a bit too far and tries to do too much in fifty minutes. While the whole thing was interesting to listen to, I don't think it has quite the same coherence that some of the other series I've heard do. Or it's possible that my brain is out of shape from not being in classes where I've had to do a lot of critical thinking and/or literary analysis. Either way, I'm glad I listened and I think I will have to listen to them again to appreciate them fully. Recommended for people interested in stories, society, and culture, and not afraid to take on something intellectually challenging.
Not Love but Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy!
by Fumi Yoshinaga
Yen Press, 2010
Of the three I'm reporting on here today, this is the book I loved. It's tremendously quirky in exactly the way I like it. With relationships and the manga artist's life as a (mostly very thinly sketched) background, this is a book about food. In fact, it's a love letter to 15 different Tokyo eating places, and to the food they serve. If I ever go to Tokyo, I will use this book as a guide to what I eat. It looks so. unbelievably. delicious. There's Japanese food, of course, but also Chinese food, baked goods, French cuisine -- it's wide-ranging, involving a lot of entrails (as Yoshinaga herself jokes) and beautifully drawn and described. Somehow, in between the food, we manage to get to know and enjoy Y-naga, the main character, foodie, and charmingly quirky lady, and a cast of characters around her, some just in for one story, others in for the long haul. It's very well done. The art is lovely and easy to follow, the characters very clearly differentiated, the sense of humour is sustained and light without being stupid, and did I mention the food? Loved this book, highly recommended to fans of food and/or manga.
Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang
by Mordecai Richler
Tundra Books, 2003 (original release in 1975)
Another parent-child bookclub read, and quite a lot of fun. Jacob Two-Two is two plus two plus two years old, and has to say everything twice because he's so small that no one hears him the first time. In this, the first of his adventures, he is sent to prison for the worst crime of all -- insulting a grownup. I wasn't surprised to see that Richler is reported to have modeled the child characters in the book after his own children, or that the father character is modeled after himself. It reads like a bedtime story, the sort that a father might come up with on the spur of the moment with the kids themselves as the stars. This is not a bad thing, by any stretch -- it's a wonderful, imaginative, charming, and entertaining story that somehow manages not to be dated. It has things to say about children, adults, friendship, kindness, and creative thinking. Recommended as a great adventure for a bedtime story, or a very quick (an hour or two) read for an adult.