Monday, April 27, 2009

marking; procrastinating; The Book of Negroes; The Torso

I am supposed to be marking; therefore, of course, I am finding many other urgent and compelling things to do. In addition to marking the occasional essay, I have spent a lot of time cleaning up my desk, knitting things for my nephew to be, and researching swine flu so that I can ramp up my anxiety levels to super-high.

I finished reading this year's Canada Reads pick, The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. Well, actually, I listened to the unabridged audiobook which was broadcast on CBC and then archived on the Between the Covers podcast. Very gripping stuff--the story pulls you along but it is also well-researched and contains a lot of historical detail. I sort of wish I had read the book, but the audiobook was very well narrated and above all, convenient while I was travelling; I went to Vancouver for professional development last week and then the morning after I returned I had to do a 4.5 hour drive out to a community program. I was grateful to be able to listen to 10 chapters on the way there and back, which kept me from falling into a coma and driving into the ditch.

I read a piece by the author about how he had to change the title for the US publication of the book. Instead of The Book of Negroes (which is also the name of a real, historical document), it's called Someone Knows My Name. SO generic. Hill says, "At first, I was irritated, but gradually I've come to make my peace with the new title," but honestly, could the publisher not have picked a better alternative?

I'm not sure what my book group is reading next, but this was a good pick. We did a quick tally of the books we've read since December and realized that they've all been downers. I like dramatic stuff as much as anyone, but since September we've read about
  • war, torture, poverty and exile from Ethiopia
  • poverty, abuse, and murder in the Maritimes
  • war, poverty, Nazis and collaborators during WWII in France
  • war, poverty, starvation and Nazis during the siege of Leningrad
  • kidnapping, slavery, rape, and murder in Africa and the US colonies.

I suggested we read Angela's Ashes for a little levity.

Our librarian friend is going to make an executive decision and choose a book for us from the book club sets at the public library. I'll be interested to see what she chooses.

At the moment, I'm reading The Torso by Helene Tursten--it's the second in her Detective Inspector Irene Huss series. It's translated from the Swedish, and it loses nothing in translation but is a nice shift for me from the British mysteries I normally read. I find that a well-written mystery provides a lot of opportunity for meaningful social and cultural commentary. I realize I'm not really getting away from the heavy, depressing stuff here--and it's fairly gruesome, I mean just look at the title--but it's well-written and I don't have to think too hard. That suits me fine because I need to conserve my mental energy for reading student essays.

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