Friday, December 30, 2005

SNOW by Orhan Pamuk

IMPAC-award-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk's most recent novel chronicles the life of Ka, an exiled poet, who returns to his native land. Over the course of four days, Ka travels to the forlorn town of Kars to report on a wave of suicides among religious girls forbidden to wear their head scarves. There Ka is reunited with a former university friend, the recently-divorced and radiant Ipek.

"Amid blanketing snowfall and universal suspicion, Ka finds himself pursued by figures ranging from Ipek's ex-husband to a charismatic terrorist called Blue...A theatrical evening climaxes in a massacre. And finding God may be a prelude to losing everything else...SNOW is of immense relevance to our present moment."

John Updike remarks that this novel is "a major work...conscience ridden and carefully wrought...Pamuk is Turkey's most likely candidate for the Nobel Prize."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


On a brutally cold night at the end of November in 1990, 17-year-old Neil Stonechild went missing just blocks from his mother Stella's downtown Saskatoon home. Five days later his frozen body was found several kilometers outside of town. A cursory police investigation neglected the obvious trauma to Stonechild's face and wrists, and the curious fact that he was missing a shoe.

STARLIGHT TOUR, written by two veteran CBC producers, is an engrossing tale of cops, racism, and a native urban legend coming horrifyingly true.

Stylistically modelled after Truman Capote's haunting IN COLD BLOOD, this exploration of the last lonely night of Neil Stonechild is a must read. It paints " a damning portrait of obstruction of justice and justice denied, not only to a boy and his grieving mother, but to an entire country's aboriginal community."

Monday, December 26, 2005

700 Sundays by Billy Crystal

When Crystal's father Jack died unexpectedly of a heart attack when Crystal was only 15, Crystal estimated that they'd shared 700 Sundays together. This conceit frames the memoir as well as the Tony-Award-winning one-man show that Crystal continues to perform across North America.

I didn't realize that the family was at the heart of the Commodore label in NYC that cut early records of now jazz legends Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton and Louis Armstrong. Crystal even saw the movie SHANE with the iconic Ms. Holiday who shouted at the screen "He ain't never comin' back" when another child in the audience implored, "Come back, Shane. Come back."

One of my favourite moments happens between Billy and his grandfather Julius who tells him, "Time's a bastard, Billy. When you're sad, there's too much of it and when you're happy, there's never enough."

Treat yourself to this gem.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Janette Turner Hospital's most recent novel is chilling. In a post-911 world she examines issues of paranoia, security and trust. Her protagonists are all connected to a doomed Air France flight that is hi-jacked by a fundamentalist sect. They are either child survivors or relatives to those who perished during the hostage-taking.

What was extraordinary to me were the confessions that each of the hostages made about the nature of love and passion before they accepted their individual fates of sure and painful death by inhaling the toxic substances pumped into the room where they were collectively imprisoned.

Turner Hospital knows how to get to the heart of what matters and tells a compelling tale in the process.