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This and that

October 16, 2020

I know it seems as if there hasn’t been much writing this week, but that’s because it hasn’t appeared here. I have been writing. Don’t get too excited. It was not fiction, although in one instance the subject was fiction.

The local, very active arts council asked the Bad Girls Book Club to write a book review once a month for its newsletter. We agreed, although when it came down to actually writing it volunteers were conspicuous by their absence, so Muggins agreed to take it on.

Vaguely interested? Okay, here it is.

Good Books from Bad Girls

Welcome to the first plug from the Bad Girls Book Club. The word “plug” is used, rather than “review”, because that’s not how we roll. (If you click on the link, you’ll understand.) If you want a proper review you should subscribe to Kirkus – or talk to a different book club.

Anyway, mostly we rely on the library’s book club sets for our monthly read. The last set we received before coronavirus shut down the library (and everything else) back in March is today’s subject.

Apparently irony really does know no bounds, because that book (which we’d been on a long waiting list for) was Station Eleven by Canadian novelist Emily St John Mandel. The subject of this novel is a global pandemic and how quickly it shuts down the power, water and communications grids around the world. The story begins with the death on stage of famous actor Arthur Leander, who is playing King Lear on the night the pandemic goes viral. Leaping forward and backward from the recent past to the present to twenty years in the future, readers follow the stories of the few survivors and the largely feral lives of their descendants. Interestingly, one of the few remnants of civilisation as we know it is Shakespeare, performed by a travelling troupe, much like the one the Bard himself once had.

It was an excellent and extraordinarily timely read, curiously reassuring as we all headed into months of lockdown, as it pointed out how much worse life could actually be. (If you want a more detailed review, click here.)

Opinions on novels can vary widely within the Bad Girls Book Club, from absolutely loving that month’s read to not being able to get past the first ten pages. Station Eleven was not one of those months. Everyone loved it. Score: 10/10 wineglasses.

Looking for more curl-up-by-the-fire recommendations for the coming months? Other 10/10 wineglasses reads include:

  • The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King, a wonderful environmental morality tale written with what this reviewer refers to as “King’s trademark flashes of humour, irony and deadpan delivery.”
  • The Break, a heartwarming and heartbreaking debut novel by Katherena Vermette, weaving together the stories and lives of four generations of Metis women in Winnipeg. Mesmerizing from the first page.

Noticing a First Nations theme emerging here? Yes, the Bad Girls never cease to be amazed by the quality and variety of Indigenous literature. And on that note, the final recommendation is also a warning:

  • If you started watching the adaptation of Eden Robinson’s Son of a Trickster(simply called Trickster) on CBC, stop recording it read the novel instead. Aside from a number of very disappointing changes made in the basic plot, the show simply doesn’t deliver the wonderfully wry voice of Jared, the novel’s sixteen-year-old narrator. If you want that (and you should), get your hands on the book.

I had also taken responsibility, in collaboration with others, for writing the Bad Girls bio, which I did post here last week so it would be accessible online somewhere as part of the review.

After I’d written the “review”, I circulated it to the other members of the book club, who were happy to sign off. One member, Heather, said, “I’m thinking that you have probably fallen afoul of a very important concept. It’s a good idea never to be too good at anything unless you want it to become your job for life. This review is such a hard act to follow that you’re in serious jeopardy of having BGR (Bad Girl’s Reviewer) become part of your official title.” To which I replied simply, “That’s nice.” Fortunately she had, as I knew, seen my one-act play of the same name and knew exactly what I meant.

The other thing that needed to be written this week was an audition notice. An audition notice? Yes indeed.

Sadly, no, there won’t be a panto this year, but following the success of the live online show we did last month, we’ve decided to do an online Christmas show in December. Once again the main content (supplemented this time by a few musical numbers) will be two new one-act plays by local writers. Once again I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.

When the idea was originally mooted, I did think about trying to write something for it. Thinking was as far as I got. Once again, every other bugger is being creative, but not me. Sigh.

Still, directing one of the short plays for the September show did get me out of the house, hanging out with people I like very much. No need for me to direct either of the Christmas plays, but one of them has a lovely role which could have been written for me. In fact, the author informs me it pretty much was. So there’s a very good chance that if I audition for it on Sunday I will be in. Given how much I need something to latch on to as the days get shorter (and shorter), this is a bit of a godsend. The fact that my friend Donna is likely to be cast in one of the other roles in the play is lovely icing on the cake. Fingers crossed.

And now, for no other reason than it was my favourite moment on television this week…

From → Blog

  1. Donna permalink


  2. krysross permalink

    I think you writing book reviews is brilliant. I can’t count the number of authors you have introduced me to that I have loved. Also, publishers are always moaning about the lack of reviews and how difficult it is for their books to be discovered. I hope your Arts Council has a broad reach.

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