February 04, 2013

Book Review: Canada by Richard Ford

I'm not sure how I came to the American writer Richard Ford so late in the scheme of things. It was only recently I came upon his most recent novel, Canada. Why I hadn't been reading this wonderful writer long before is one of those unknown unknowns that Donald Rumsfeld must have been talking about. I have been missing some terrific storytelling indeed.

"Children know normal better than anyone else," says Del Parsons, narrator of this rather forlorn novel, and the book proceeds to investigate what that normal might look like, through the eyes of the teenager. The book's opening lines are brilliant. "First, I'll tell you about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later."

Set at the beginning of the sixties, the story tells the strange tale of Del, his twin sister Berner, and their parents, mother Neeva and father Bev. The portraits of Neeva and Bev are masterpieces. Neeva is an aspiring writer who somehow gets mixed up with wartime fly-boy Bev, who is haunted by what he did in the war. How they turn to crazed and desperate measures to solve rather simple difficulties is amazing, funny and sad. Pathetic actually.

There is a soft slowness to this book, a flatness that seems to match the landscape of first Montana, and then Saskatchewan. The characters that reside in the second half of the novel, the Saskatchewan half, are incredibly written, reminding me of some of the actors that live in books by Cormac McCarthy. There is a weirdness, and certainly at times an undercurrent of wrongness, perhaps evil, in several of the people Del meets. The landscape Ford paints of southern Saskatchewan, near the Cypress Hills, is true and clear. The air smells right and the skies are never ending. Our young Del, comes to appreciate, and so do we, the distance and emptiness of the land. And to accept his place in that land.

Canada is rich and beautiful. It catches the grinding sadness and loneliness of what a life can often be. And normal, at least for Del, is determined, in the end. Difficult to put down, Canada is a work that lives with the reader long after.

February 03, 2013

Jardin Japones

The Jardin Japones is part of the Palermo Woods park system in Buenos Aires. It opened in 1967 to mark the visit of Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko, now Emperor and Empress. They visited again in 1997.

The garden contains all the elements of a proper Japanese Garden: water, trees, rock, lanterns, bridges and a tea house. Balance and harmony are key and while these photos give the impression of tranquility, there is a significant human presence in the garden. Best to come during the week when crowds might be smaller.

The red bridge is called the Bridge of God. It is deliberately difficult to cross as it symbolizes the often rough path to paradise.

February 02, 2013

The writer at 47

Yesterday was a hot and humid day in BA. The temperature, with the humidity factored hit 47 degrees at 4 pm.

Which reminds us of days in the Yukon, not all that long ago, when on several occasions the temperature hit minus 48. In fact, on the day we left!

There is a comparison that can be made between the cold of Dawson City and the heat of Buenos Aires.

On the right is the Berton House Writer at 45.

Below is the writer at 47, coming out to the balcony ever so briefly from a nicely air conditioned apartment (Berton House South).

Now seriously, do you think she was smiling at 45?
Then again, it was a dry cold. Yeah, right.

You can view other photos of the dry cold by checking the Dawson City Journal 
link at the right, or by clicking on the following posts:

Soplador de hojas

In Buenos Aires we have yet to see, or hear, un soplador de hojas. I'm sure they exist, they must exist here too, though through our travels in this city the noisy, smelly, disgusting evil of leaf blowers has yet to materialize. And apart from a week in Vancouver at the end of December when they seemed to be going every single day, we haven't heard a leaf blower since the end of September. Living three months in the subarctic of the Yukon tends to help. 

There is much noise in BA. The constant sound of construction envelopes us five days of the week, and traffic can be heard all day, everyday. But that annoying sound of leaf blowers has been pleasantly absent from our senses for all these months.

Until we visited the town of Calonia in Uruguay. Every morning the sopladors de hojas are out in force, creating noise, stink and dust.

Leaf blowers are clearly from the dark side
We need to work together to destroy this evil. Before it destroys us.

And while we are at it, let's get rid of those gas powered bikes that smell and sound like poorly tuned lawnmowers. Either peddle your bike or buy a proper motorcycle.

February 01, 2013

Uruguay sunset

                                                                                                            Colonia's heat finally abates around sunset after 8:30 pm. As it gets darker we can make out the lights of   Buenos Aires across the Rio Plata.