Monday, August 13, 2007

Literary Novel

The Great Pursuit

In Stephen King's review of the final Harry Potter book, he writes

But reading was never dead with the kids. Au contraire, right now it's probably healthier than the adult version, which has to cope with what seems like at least 400 boring and pretentious ''literary novels'' each year.

King makes a good point. While I think most popular authors would prefer favourable reviews from critics (or in some cases, to not be ignored by the important book reviews), the novelists who actually move books off the shelves are ones who don't care about being considered literary, who don't care about being typecast as a genre writer.

The writers who pore over every last sentence in attempt to provide some majestic image often write incomprehensible prose that is rendered meaningless because nothing ever happens in the novel. Sure, these are real life novels, but why does real life have to be boring? Yes, it's easy of me to make this accusation without the support of an example but I haven't read a book that would exemplify the type of book I'm railing against. And I doubt most people have read these types of books, but there are dozens of reviews of them each week in the Times, Globe and Mail, etc.

In sum, a great story needs a plot. J.K. Rowling failed to write wonderful prose, but she did have plot; at times, the plot took shortcuts and meandered, but at the end of the day, she told a story. That is the measuring stick after reading a novel: has the author told a story? If not, then the book is just a waste of time.


Premier League

The New Season

This past weekend the new English Premier League season began. Commentators have called the season the most anticipated in a long while. Normally I'd brush that off as typical pre-season hype, but in comparison to last year, people do seem more interested for the start of this season.

I would suggest that the difference stems from most fans anticipating last year that Chelsea would claim its third straight championship after the team had signed Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack.

Both Sheva and Ballack were busts last year, Chelsea ran into injury problems, and Manchester United ended the season as champions. Man U deserved the trophy; the team played entertaining (i.e. attacking) football, and looked like a team that should be atop the Premier League table.

Man U's win proved Chelsea could be beat, and after a number of Premier League clubs went on spending sprees during this summer's transfer period, which is still open, the expectations of last year's also-rans have been lifted.

So we get to this weekend, which was fun to watch. My club (because I own it), Chelsea, won their first match, while Man U settled for a draw after the club lost Wayne Rooney to a broken foot. Rooney's injury, obviously, is great news. A bit morbid, but this is a sport and being morbid is permitted (not that I shy away from being morbid in 'life').

Chelsea goes for win number two on Wednesday.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Do Nothing

The Unsuccessful Day Off

Today is my day off and I have done nothing. I want to say that surprises me. It doesn't.

Last week I wrote a list of things to do this week, most of which I would have to accomplish during my two days off (Tuesday was the first), and I've crossed only one item off that list.

This is my typical behaviour in the summer. Plan. Promise to accomplish plan. Accomplish, at most, less then what I planned.

My concern, of course, is not that I've settled (in August) into a lazy summer routine, but that this summer funk could last longer than it should, well past October. It could be months, maybe years before I break this cycle of non-accomplishment.

Maybe I'm just tired and that's why I can't open the 600-page book sitting 10 inches from me? Or maybe I'm entering my first phase of being a slacker.

I had the uncomfortable thought this morning that I will never accomplish anything in my life. That I'm doomed to failure because I can't summon the energy to work hard enough for what I want.

I had that same uncomfortable thought about 30 minutes ago. I'm rambling, can't you see?

And a week ago I felt confident. I could make things work. I would succeed.

But what was a feeling a week ago is not the same seven days later. Isn't that right?


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Concert Post

Silverchair @ The Phoenix, Aug. 1, 2007

I usually skip concerts at the Phoenix for a couple of reasons: one, the place is on the sketchy side in a sketchy neighbourhood; two, the washroom (yes, this is a huge consideration) is a filthy pit. Because I found it unlikely Silverchair would return to Toronto any time soon (this was their second show here in a few months), I had to put my distaste for the venue aside.

It's believed that Silverchair is an irrelevant band. That it's a group of Aussies who had a few hits in the mid-90s, and now found themselves writing songs not worth a listen. But the band's newest album (in Canada since last Tuesday), is proof to the contrary, that Silverchair has matured and found a sound in new, worth-listening-to style.

Their set at the Phoenix ran under 90 minutes, but was strong featuring some of their best tracks off the new album (I would have liked to hear them perform "Strange Behaviour"), some early grunge tracks (which I never heard before), and some of their bigger hits from earlier albums. The band closed their encore with an audience-inclusive performance of "Freak." Definitely worth the visit to the Phoenix.