Item not added

This item is not available to order at this time.

See used copies from 00.00
  • My Gift List
  • My Wish List
  • Shopping Cart

Non-Fiction Blog

New thinkers, mavericks and mavens

If you love crime fiction, then you probably already know Ian Rankin. This talented Scottish author has taken the genre by storm with his Inspector Rebus novels.

Rankin debuted Malcom Fox and his Internal Affairs team in The Complaints, and this October Fox returns in Rankin's new novel, The Impossible Dead. Fox and his team are headed to Fife, where a simple investigation spirals into a complex murder mystery and cover-up.

From the publisher: "The spiralling investigation takes Fox back in time to 1985, a year of turmoil in British political life. Terrorists intent on a split between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom were becoming more brazen and ruthless, sending letter-bombs and poisonous spores to government offices, plotting kidnaps and murder, and trying to stay one step ahead of the spies sent to flush them out. Fox has a duty to get at the truth, while the body count rises, the clock starts ticking, and he fights for his professional and personal life."

Rankin talks about the novel in this video interview:

Read on for an Indigo exclusive preview... 

THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD

Chapter 1

 

‘He’s not here,’ the desk sergeant said.

‘So where is he?’

‘Out on a call.’

Fox stared hard at the man, knowing it wouldn’t do any good.  The sergeant was one of those old-timers who reckoned they’d seen it all and faced most of it down.  Fox glanced at the next name on his list.

‘Haldane?’

‘Sick leave.’

‘Michaelson?’

‘Out on the call with DI Scholes.’

Tony Kaye was standing just behind Fox’s left shoulder.  An instant before the words were out of his mouth, Fox knew what his colleague was going to say.

‘This is taking the piss.’

Fox turned to give Kaye a look.  News would now travel through the station: job done.  The Complaints had come to town, found no one home, and had let their annoyance show.  The desk sergeant shifted his weight from one foot to the other, trying not to seem too satisfied at this turn of events.

Fox took a moment to study his surroundings.  The notices pinned to the walls were the usual stuff.  It was a modern police station, meaning it could just as easily have been the reception area of a doctors’ surgery or DSS office, as long as you disregarded the sign warning that the Alert Status had been lifted from LOW to MODERATE.  Nothing to do with Fox and his men: there’d been reports of a blast in woodland outside Lockerbie.  Kids, probably, and a good long way from Kirkcaldy.  Nevertheless, every police station in the country would have been notified.

The button on the counter had a hand-written sign next to it saying Press For Attention  –  which was what Fox had done three or four minutes ago.  There was a two-way mirror behind the counter, and the desk sergeant had almost certainly been watching the three arrivals –  Inspector Malcolm Fox, Sergeant Tony Kaye and Constable Joe Naysmith.  The station had been told they were coming.  Interviews had been arranged with DI Scholes, and DSs Haldane and Michaelson.

‘Think this is the first time we’ve had this stunt pulled on us?’ Kaye was asking the desk sergeant.  ‘Maybe we’ll start the interviews with you instead.’

Fox flipped to the second sheet of paper in his folder.  ‘How about your boss – Superintendent Pitkethly?’

‘She’s not in yet.’

Kaye made show of checking his watch.

‘Meeting at HQ,’ the desk sergeant explained.  Joe Naysmith, standing to Fox’s right, seemed more interested in the leaflets on the counter.  Fox liked that: it spoke of easy confidence, the confidence that these officers would be interviewed, that delaying tactics were nothing new to the Complaints.

The Complaints: the term was already outdated, even though Fox and his team couldn’t help using it, at least among themselves.  Complaints and Conduct had been their official title until recently.  Now they were supposed to be Professional Ethics and Standards.  Next year they’d be something else again: the name Standards and Values had been mooted, to nobody’s liking.  They were The Complaints, the cops who investigated other cops.  Which was why those other cops were never happy to see them.

*************************************************************************************************************************************

Thanks to our friends at Hachette Book Group Canada for facilitating this teaser.

Excerpted from The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin.

Excerpted by permission of Hachette Book Group Canada.

All rights reserved.

No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Want to be one of the first people to read The Impossible Dead? We are where you need to be.  Follow Chapters Indigo on Twitter (especially between September 19th and September 23rd) for your chance to win a free copy.

Published in Fiction

In an earlier instalment of the Indigo Blog, we covered the best of the year in fiction, so far. Now to see what there is to look forward to for the rest of the year…

A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin.  The long-awaited fifth instalment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, from the man dubbed the American Tolkien.  Follow our blogger's progress through his books and watch this space for an exclusive interview.

The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan.  Attention fans of True Blood and The Passage:  we’ve found your next read.  Just when you’re had enough of vampire books, here comes Glen Duncan with his bawdy, bloody tale of The Last Werewolf.  Duncan’s novel is narrated by Jake Marlowe, the world’s last living lycanthrope.  Two hundred years is a long time to be living under a curse, and make no mistake:  a curse is just what being a werewolf is.  Making matters worse, werewolves have been hunted practically to extinction. Besides the sex, cancer-free smoking and the scotch, not much to live for; so Jake has decided to end it all at the next full moon … but fate has other plans for him.  Dark and funny, graphic (both in terms of sex and violence, sometimes simultaneously), and that rare thing—a literary horror novel that doubles as a page-turner.

The Cat's Table, by Michael Ondaatje.  This new novel follows two boys on an ocean liner bound for England in the early 1950s. Early supposition is that this work is somewhat biographical; it has been compared to an earlier Ondaatje work, the mix of memoir and fiction that is Running in the Family.

The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta.  From the author of Little Children, a novel exploring what would happen post-Rapture (or a partial Rapture), especially for those left behind.

A Good Man, by Guy Vanderhaeghe. Finally, the conclusion to Vanderheaghe’s historical western trilogy, which began with The Englishman's Boy and The Last Crossing.

Reamde, by Neal Stephenson.  In the tradition of Stephenson’s works, this is a big one, at 960 pages. Perhaps the best description one can use about Stephenson is that there’s nobody out there writing like him right now (a customer once described him to me as Thomas Pynchon as written by William Gibson)—if you’re interested in technology, history, conspiracy and alternate history, this is the man for you. This novel is being described as a thriller concerning a tech entrepreneur getting caught up in his own online war game.

River of Smoke, by Amitav Ghosh.  The second instalment in the Ibis Trilogy, following Sea of Poppies.  A novel of the Opium Wars, this title has been highlighted in an earlier instalment of the Indigo Fiction Blog— in an interview with Amitav Ghosh, here.

The Virgin Cure, by Ami McKay.  The followup novel to the critically and commercially acclaimed Heather’s Pick The Birth House, this novel centers around an orphan—a daughter abandoned by her father and sold by her mother—negotiating the New York slums of 1871.

Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier.  Cold Mountain was a critical (and a personal) favourite, and it’s follow-up was not as well received.  Nightwoods has the potential to be another winner: the description makes it sound like Night of the Hunter, which puts it right in Southern Gothic territory. Taking place in 1960’s North Carolina, a woman who is a virtual hermit is forced to take care of her sister’s twin children after that sister is murdered by her husband.  After a quick acquittal, the father comes looking for the children.

The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides.   It’s been a long time since the Oprah selected Middlesex, and Eugenides’ new novel looks to be a book about love, and books, and the love of books.  An earlier instalment of the Indigo Fiction Blog provided a teaser, here.

1Q84, by Haruki Murakami.  Being called Murakami’s Magnum Opus (which I thought I already read—The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle—but Murakami doesn’t do small very much anymore), an ode to Orwell’s 1984, but I’d bet my house this is more of a mind-bender.  A massive seller in Japan, when released in three volumes, the American version weighs in at 928 pages, is being called an essential Japanese novel (and check out that Chip Kidd cover! Looks like a transparent plastic book jacket to me).  

Zone One, by Colson Whitehead.  If someone had to write the postmodern zombie novel, I’m glad it’s Whitehead, and I hope it gets him the recognition he deserves.  An essential New York writer, this new book sounds like World War Z in that it’s a different spin on the zombie novel, with a little more focus on how the world has changed after a cataclysmic event, rather than the blood and guts.  When he unveiled it on Twitter, he described it as being about the “rehabilitation of NYC after the apocalypse.”

The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman.  Five years in the making and being called Hoffman’s masterpiece, a historical novel about women in ancient Israel.

11-22-63Under the Dome was called King’s best work in years, & his first novel since is certainly intriguing.  I’ve been calling this ‘Back to the Future meets Don DeLillo’s Libra,’ and thematically, it seems to hearken back to his own work The Dead Zone.  King’s novel centers around a protagonist who finds a time portal in his small-town Maine diner that takes him back to 1958. He goes through, works to discover the nature of the JFK assassination, finds a way to stop it, and waits. After successfully thwarting the assassination, he returns to our present, and in a Twilight Zone twist, he finds a nuclear wasteland.  He’s left with one choice:  to undo his own actions, before radiation poisoning kills him. King has been talking about writing a time-travel book for years, and now it's here—check out the back cover above, for a taste of alternate history from Stephen King.  

Published in Fiction
Wednesday, 29 June 2011 15:34

An Open Letter To The Duchess of Cambridge

Dear Duchess,

I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome you to Canada. We haven’t met formally, but I’d like to introduce myself as one of the many people around the world—and one of the many Canadians—who adore L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. If we had met in person, you would learn quickly of my interest in the PEI writer who penned the classic children’s book over a hundred years ago, that I’ve written online and at conferences about her work, and that I am relatively obsessed with anything related to Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I read that you had to stop off at P.E.I. on your trip here because of how much you loved Anne of Green Gables. There is a Katherine after all (a prickly Katherine who certainly wouldn’t be like you) in Anne of Windy Poplars (you might know it by its British title, Anne of Windy Willows). Kate (may I call you Kate?), it just seems that kindred spirits such as us should be on first-name basis, don’t you think?

I’ve been to PEI three times, twice in the past three years, so I believe that I can give you some advice.  I hope that whoever is organizing your trip has done their homework and will make sure that you see everything Anne/Montgomery related that you possibly can. I see from your itinerary that you won’t have a lot of time this trip to visit some of the places that are a must for any Anne fan. I understand that it is your first visit and you have a lot of responsibilities. I guess this means that you MUST return soon, so that my friends and I can show you around and give you the expert- Anne tour.

First off, did you know that other royals have visited PEI because of their love for Anne? Mary Beth Cavert has written a wonderful article about other British dignitaries who visited the island, such as Albert Grey, the 4th Earl Grey (and Governor-General of Canada), as well as the Prince of Wales and his younger brother, Prince George, in 1935.

Now on what to see.

I noticed on your itinerary that you will be visiting Charlottetown and Summerside. How excellent, for that is exactly what I did last summer—see what I meant about kindred spirits? This also means that you must love musical theatre such as I do. You will be watching a performance from the Anne of Green Gables: The Musical, but you must return to see the whole thing. Apparently, they’ve updated it from the original 1960s version. In Summerside, there is a musical, Anne and Gilbert the Musical: An Island Love Story, based on the novels Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island. I’ve liked this show so much, that I’ve gone twice (and will go again).  I reviewed it a few years ago. Here, take a look and you’ll see why I love it so much.

(Can I ask you? Is Will your Gilbert Blythe? I imagine that he is. Many fans of Anne are often looking for their Gilbert. It definitely looks like you’ve found yours).

I think that the video that was prepared for you certainly gave you a taste as to the beauty of the island, and an aerial view of the Green Gables house, but did you know that you can also visit L.M. Montgomery’s birthplace (which has her wedding dress and given that you are a new bride, I think that you would just love to see it), the site of L.M. Montgomery’s Cavendish Home where she lived with her grandparents, the Lucy Maud Montgomery Heritage Museum, which is said to be an inspiration to Anne and Gilbert’s Ingleside, and Anne of Green Gables Museum, where Montgomery married Ewan MacDonald. People get married there all of the time, and take carriage rides with “Matthew.” Perhaps you can renew your marriage vows right beside The Lake of Shining Waters? I know THE LAKE OF SHINING WATERS exists!

When you go to Green Gables house, you have to take a moment with Will to walk down Lover’s Lane. YES, THAT LOVER’S LANE!  I hope it will be a sunny day as you walk along the rich red path looking up at the sun shining through the hanging branches. You will certainly see why Montgomery was so inspired by this place.

Did you also know that you are coming during the only time that the lupines bloom? This beautiful pink and purple flower I think only grows on the island and blooms during Montgomery’s favourite month, June.

I am also glad to hear the Montgomery’s granddaughter Kate MacDonald Butler will be giving you the 100th Anniversary edition of Anne of Green Gables that was published in 2008. It has all of the original illustrations and the cover from that first edition printed in 1908. There is also a beautiful edition printed last year of Montgomery’s 8th Anne Novel, Rilla of Ingleside (and my personal favourite).

Well, Kate, please return soon to PEI. I will be there in 2012 attending the next L.M. Montgomery conference. So it is the perfect opportunity for us to do a tour. Send me an email or drop me a line on Facebook and we can spend the a few days soaking up the exquisite beauty that is Montgomery’s world.

Until then, remember these wonderful words by Anne Shirley: "True friends are always together in spirit.”

Sincerely,

Melanie Fishbane

Published in Indigo Kids
Wednesday, 29 June 2011 15:15

A Feast for Crows

And I’m there. A Feast for Crows is over and now I, along with countless others, await the arrival of A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, in a fortnight’s time.

I was surprised at how much I had forgotten about A Feast for Crows. And while I wasn’t as impressed the first time around compared to the other books in the series, mainly due to the telling of only half of the characters’ stories, now it served to whet my appetite for what is to come—not to mention the major vindication near the end, which I had forgotten about.

On that, almost every story in A Feast for Crows ended in a cliffhanger (which I will address in more detail below), so I hope that A Dance with Dragons does address these, as well as filling in the blanks for characters like Jon and Dany.

To sum up my month of reading, A Song of Ice and Fire was even better than I remembered. I don’t know why I put off rereading it for so long. Only a few authors could be said to match the depth, breadth and scope of Martin’s work, and I have found none that grip me as he does.

I hope everyone has enjoyed the posts over the past month, I will be back again ahead of the arrival of A Dance with Dragons.

For those who have yet to pick up their copies, do so. It will be well worth your while. Here is the list:

SPOILER ALERT – as per usual, don’t read the below unless you have finished A Feast for Crows.

Cliffhangers galore. I can’t belief that we have been waiting six years (or maybe even more) for the resolutions to the below:

Cersei – Finally she received some punishment (Joffrey’s death aside). I have a feeling that Martin won’t kill her off in disgrace, mostly because I don’t think he would allow me to be that happy.

Jamie – Warmed slightly toward him by the end of the book, but it took quite a while to turn me. Not sure how he will react to what may happen in King’s Landing—war between Lannister and Tyrell? Also, don’t know if Tom of Sevenstreams will set him up or will be content to feed more Freys to Stoneheart.

Brienne – Dead or alive, what does it matter?

Arya – Apparently blind now. Not sure where this is going.

Littlefinger – Aiming for at least three kingdoms under his control: Riverlands, Vale, North. May also have some sort of side deal with Oleanna and the Tyrells.

Dany – At least three groups from Westeros seeking her out by my count: Quentyn Martell, Victarion Greyjoy and Archmaester Marwyn (maybe Tyrion and Varys?). This might be much of the focus in A Dance with Dragons.

So many questions still left unanswered, so much story still to come and so many years since the last book...I can’t wait.

************

Follow my A Song Of Ice and Fire progress:

Published in Fiction

SJ Watson has written a psychological thriller that we’re hearing is completely gripping. Before I Go To Sleep is a page-turner that will have readers questioning reality, right along with the protagonist.  Here’s the publisher’s description:  

Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man.

She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle-aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old, and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.

Every day, Christine must begin again the reconstruction of her past. And the closer she gets to the truth, the more unbelievable it seems.

Our friends at Harper Collins have provided a teaser – some readers might be interested in sampling this novel’s first chapter.  But be aware:  once starting, they might have to pick it up to see how it ends.  Available in stores and online now.

**** 

Today

The bedroom is strange.  Unfamiliar.  I don’t know where I am, how I came to be here. I don’t know how I’m going to get home.

I have spent the night here.  I was woken by a woman’s voice— at first I thought she was in bed with me, but then realized she was reading the news and I was hearing a radio alarm—and when I opened my eyes found myself here.  In this room I do not recognize.

My eyes adjust and I look around in the near-dark.  A dressing gown hangs off the back of the closet door—suitable for a woman, but for one much older than I am—and some dark-colored trousers are folded neatly over the back of a chair at the dressing table, but I can make out little else.  The alarm clock looks complicated, but I find a button and manage to silence it.

It is then that I hear a juddering intake of breath behind me and realize I am not alone.  I turn around.  I see an expanse of skin and dark hair, flecked with white.  A man.  He has his left arm outside the covers and there is a gold band on the third finger of the hand.  I suppress a groan.  So this one is not only old and gray, I think, but also married.  Not only have I screwed a married man, but I have done so in what I am guessing is his home, in the bed he must usually share with his wife. I lie back to gather myself.  I ought to be ashamed.

I wonder where the wife is.  Do I need to worry about her arriving back at any moment? I imagine her standing at the other side of the room, screaming, calling me a slut.  A medusa.  A mass of snakes. I wonder how I will defend myself, if she does appear.  The guy in the bed does not seem concerned, though.  He has turned over and snores on.

I lie as still as possible.  Usually I can remember how I get into situations like this, but not today.  There must have been a party, or a trip to a bar or a club.  I must have been pretty wasted.  Wasted enough that I don’t remember anything at all.  Wasted enough to have gone home with a man with a wedding ring and hairs on his back.

I fold back the covers as gently as I can and sit on the edge of the bed.  First, I need to use the bathroom. I ignore the slippers at my feet—after all, f___ing the husband is one thing, but I could never wear another woman’s shoes—and creep barefoot onto the landing.  I am aware of my nakedness, fearful of choosing the wrong door, of stumbling in on a lodger, a teenage son.  Relieved, I see the bathroom door is ajar and go in, locking it behind me.

I sit, use the toilet, then flush it and turn to wash my hands. I reach for the soap, but something is wrong. At first I can’t work out what it is, but then I see it. The hand gripping the soap does not look like mine. Its skin is wrinkled, the nails are unpolished and bitten to the quick and, like that of the man in the bed I have just left, the third finger wears a plain gold wedding ring.

I stare for a moment, then wriggle my fingers. The fingers of the hand holding the soap move also. I gasp, and the soap thuds into the sink.  I look up at the mirror.  The face I see looking back at me is not my own.  The hair has no volume and is cut much shorter than I wear it; the skin on the cheeks and under the chin sags; the lips are thin; the mouth turned down.  I cry out, a wordless gasp that would turn into a shriek of shock were I to let it, and then notice the eyes.  The skin around them is lined, yes, but despite everything else, I can see that they are mine.  The person in the mirror is me, but I am twenty years too old.  Twenty-five.  More.

This isn’t possible.  I begin to shake and grip the edge of the sink.  Another scream begins to rise in my chest and this one erupts as a strangled gasp.  I step back, away from the mirror, and it is then that I see them.  Photographs.  Taped to the wall, to the mirror itself.  Pictures, interspersed with yellow pieces of gummed paper, felt-tipped notes, damp and curling.

I choose one at random. Christine, it says, and an arrow points to a photograph of me—this new me, this old me—in which I am sitting on a bench on the side of a quay, next to a man. The name seems familiar, but only distantly so, as if I am having to make an effort to believe that it is mine. In the photograph we are both smiling at the camera, holding hands. He is handsome, attractive, and when I look closely, I can see that it is the same man I slept with, the one I left in the bed. The word Ben is written beneath it, and next to it, Your husband.

I gasp, and rip it off the wall. No, I think. No! It cannot be . . . I scan the rest of the pictures. They are all of me, and him. In one I am wearing an ugly dress and unwrapping a present, in another both of us wear matching weatherproof jackets and stand in front of a waterfall as a small dog sniffs at our feet. Next to it is a picture of me sitting beside him, sipping a glass of orange juice, wearing the dressing gown I have seen in the bedroom next door.

I step back farther, until I feel cold tiles against my back. It is then I get the glimmer that I associate with memory.  As my mind tries to settle on it, it flutters away, like ashes caught in a breeze, and I realize that in my life there is a then, a before, though before what I cannot say, and there is a now, and there is nothing between the two but a long, silent emptiness that has led me here, to me and him, in this house.

I go back into the bedroom.  I still have the picture in my hand—the one of me and the man I had woken up with—and I hold it in front of me.  “What’s going on?” I say.  I am screaming; tears run down my face. The man is sitting up in bed, his eyes half-closed. “Who are you?”

“I’m your husband,” he says.  His face is sleepy, without a trace of annoyance. He does not look at my naked body. “We’ve been married for years.”

*****

Thanks to our friends at Harper Collins for facilitating this teaser.

Excerpted from Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Canada. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Published in Fiction
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 13:37

Six Questions for Amitav Ghosh

As we continue our series celebrating Indian authors, and authors of Indian descent, the subject of today’s Q&A is Amitav Ghosh, author of The Calcutta Chromosome, Sea of Poppies and its upcoming sequel, River of Smoke.

INDIGO FICTION BLOG: As we're celebrating Indian fiction this week, what is your favourite novel by an Indian author (or an Indian-Canadian, an Indian-American, etc)?

AMITAV GHOSH: Being of Sri Lankan origin, Michael Ondaatje is not technically Indo-Canadian, but he is one of my favourite authors and The English Patient is one of my favourite books.

IFB: Did the reception for Sea of Poppies inform your writing of part two of this trilogy, River of Smoke? What can you tell us about your upcoming middle portion of this trilogy?

AG: The reception of Sea of Poppies certainly set the bar high. Here is a description of River of Smoke: in September 1838 a storm blows up on the Indian Ocean and the Ibis, a ship carrying consignment of convicts and indentured laborers from Calcutta to Mauritius, is caught up in the whirlwind. When the seas settle, five men have disappeared—two lascars, two convicts and one of the passengers. Did the same storm upend the fortunes of those aboard the Anahita, an opium carrier heading towards Canton? And what fate befell those aboard The Redruth, a sturdy two-masted brig heading East out of Cornwall? Was it the storm that altered their course or were the destinies of these passengers at the mercy of even more powerful forces?

On the grand scale of an historical epic, River of Smoke follows its storm-tossed characters to the crowded harbors of China.  There, despite efforts of the emperor to stop them, ships from Europe and India exchange their cargoes of opium for boxes tea, silk, porcelain and silver. Among them are Bahram Modi, a wealthy Parsi opium merchant out of Bombay, his estranged half-Chinese son Ah Fatt, the orphaned Paulette and a motley collection of others whose pursuit of romance, riches and a legendary rare flower have thrown together.  All struggle to cope with their losses— and for some, unimaginable freedoms—in the alleys and crowded waterways of 19th century Canton.

IFB: Much of your work is historical—is writing about contemporary India in your plans? Would you ever return to the borderline science fiction of The Calcutta Chromosome?

AG: Many of my novels are about contemporary India and I have written a great deal of journalism about the country as it is today. But now my attention is focused wholly on the 'Ibis Trilogy'.

IFB: How do your interests in history, anthropology & travel inform your writing?

AG: I have many different interests geology, botany, cookery, sport, and much else. The wonderful thing about the novel, as a form, is that it is broad enough to reflect all of these.

IFB: Where do you enjoy writing?

AG: In my studies—in Brooklyn and in Goa.

IFB: What are you reading right now?

AG: I am reading Han Suyin's And the Rain My Drink

*********

In honour of the International Indian Film Academy Awards taking place in Toronto from June 23 to 25, we’re highlighting Indian authors of fiction and non-fiction on our blog. Check out more from the series here:

Interested readers can also head on over to our Celebrate India Boutique.
Published in Fiction

“Never judge a book by its movie”

-J.W. Eagan

Summertime, and the multiplex is booming. ‘Tis the season for sequels and movies based on comic books, and sequels of movies based on comic books. Now as much as the “Transformers” (based on a toy line and cartoon series) or “Pirates of the Caribbean” (based on a theme park ride) franchises may require third and fourth films, respectively, for a certain demographic of audience, there are those of us looking for something a little … heartier. Fortunately there are some very big film projects on their way based on actual novels.

But first, it’s worth asking: is that even a good thing?

GWTDT_cover

Isn’t the Book Always Better?

Yes, yes it is, some of us would argue so vehemently that we are happy to skip the film versions of our favourite books entirely. There are those books we hope they’ll never put on screen: J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” for instance. And indeed there are those novels that have been put made into movies much to the dismay of many a loyal reader (the recent film version of the much-beloved cult-classic science fiction comedy “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” comes to mind). As well, fans of Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones” weren’t exactly Facebooking their love of the 2009 movie, nor did they much go to see it (it didn’t break even, apparently).

Even if the book is better, there are those of us who enjoy both, say, reading Stieg Larsson’s undeniably gripping “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and then watching the fantastic 2009 original Swedish screen version (a new English version directed by David Fincher, who helmed “The Social Network,” comes out this December). That said, it seems much harder to do it the other way round: movie first, novel second. For only in the novel can you delight in the imagination that comes with reading. Only in reading can we create our own mental images of what the hero and heroine look like. Once set on celluloid, it is hard to imagine anyone but Marlon Brando as Don Corleone.

Speaking of the legendary Don, it must be mentioned that there is the odd exception to the rule: movies so good they have become even more famous than the novels they were based on. Classics like “The Godfather” and Stanley Kubrick’s take on “The Shining” are prime examples.

No matter where you stand, there is a positive here for us fiction lovers. Books made into movies, especially ones as good as the recent take on Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go,” can introduce legions of film lovers to new worlds of fiction they weren’t even aware of. Better yet, no matter the film’s quality, when a book becomes a movie, it alerts us to a book we may never have read or remind us to return to one we forgot about.

With that in mind, here is a little heads-up about a few upcoming big screen adaptations of some literary gems you may not recognize. First is a movie adaptation of a book you probably know but either never read or perhaps were forced to read in high school.

“The Great Gatsby”

For the second time in his career, director Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”) will team up with Leonardo DiCaprio to bring a great work of literature to the screen. The first time they collaborated (for “Romeo and Juliet”) DiCaprio was barely in his twenties, about to star in “Titanic” and already something of a boy pin-up. In 2012, an impossible 16 films later for the actor, Luhrmann will direct a much-matured and widely respected DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most cherished novel.

Since it won’t be released until 2012, you’ve got plenty of time to read or reread this relatively slim novel, a love story as much as it is a cautionary tale about the American Dream. For the unfamiliar, before a world-class cast of actors (including Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan) cement themselves in your mind as the book’s famous characters, read it for yourself, see them in all their beauty, aspiration and woe. For those who once read it—or who were forced to—it’s worth remembering that what makes a work a classic is rarely just the ability to tell a great story, but also in how you tell it, especially if you’ve got Fitzgerald’s ability to set a scene:

“The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor.”

cabret_cover

“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick

One doesn’t usually associate Martin Scorsese’s name with books suggested for kids aged 9-12. But then you don’t usually get books like Brian Selznick’s. Filled as much with illustrations as it is with text (though there are some 300 pages of text), and set in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is no ordinary young adult’s book of historical fiction. As Selznick says, it is “not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things.” The black-and-white illustrations throughout the book are so beautiful they won the book the 2008 Caldecott Medal (a prize for illustrations). This is the kind of book that seems meant as much for adults as younger folk.

As the book’s inventive website describes it:

Orphan, clock keeper and thief, twelve-year-old Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric girl and the owner of a small toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy.

drive_cover

“Drive” by James Sallis

This noir thriller comes to a theatre near you this fall and will star Canadian breakout talent Ryan Gosling (“Blue Valentine,” “Half Nelson,” and “The Notebook”—to name yet another movie based on a novel). This is a dark, tightly-written tale of a guy who by day works on Hollywood movie sets doing stunt driving, but by night does it for real, for criminals. That the film version will star an actor of Ryan Gosling’s talent is a strong hint of the literary merit of the book it’s based on. It also bodes well that the film’s director, Nicolas Winding Refn, won best directing honours at Cannes last month.

boughtzoo_cover

We Bought a Zoo” by Benjamin Mee

Here we have the true story of a man who decides to move his kids and his wife (who is very ill) to the English countryside and put their life savings into an old, very run-down zoo, 200 exotic animals and all. Clearly a unique tale, it will be a movie this coming Christmas starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson and directed by Cameron Crowe (“Almost Famous” and “Jerry Maguire”). You have six months. Get reading!

help_movie_cover

Finally…

Some very big and wildly successful novels also soon to show up on your local big screen include versions of two enormously successful novels: Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help” (coming this August) and Dave Nicholls’ romantic tale, “One Day.”

With its juggernaut of a marketing machine behind it, you probably don’t need reminding that the last instalment of the Harry Potter series will be in theatres across the country on July 15th.

Published in Fiction

Seven Questions for Bharati Mukherjee, author of Miss New India

INDIGO FICTION BLOG: What is your favorite novel by an Indian author (or an Indian-Canadian, an Indian-American, etc.)?

Bharati Mukherjee: I have many favorite novels, but I’ll limit myself to naming two.  I love R.K. Narayan’s The Guide, and have introduced it to my students at the University of California, Berkeley.  Another favorite novel is Salman Rushdie’s Shame.

IFB: What are you reading right now?

BM: I’ve just started Rana Dasgupta’s Solo.

IFB: You live in a wonderful city right now.  What parts of living in Montreal do you miss?

BM: Oh Montreal today is even more a glamorous world-class city than when I first saw it!  I love it today, and I loved it when my husband, two sons and I lived here in the late 1960s and through the 1970s.  Clark and I were in our mid-twenties when we arrived in Montreal from Iowa City, where we had been graduate students. Montreal was strikingly cosmopolitan and sophisticated. We had chosen Montreal as the ideal “home” for our multicultural, multilingual family, and the city quickly made us feel we “belonged.”

IFB: Miss New India seems like a lighter work than Desirable Daughtersnot in terms of content, but in terms of subject matter, romance and comedy.  Was this more fun to write than previous works?

BM: Actually the issues I am dramatizing in Miss New India are as serious as those in Desirable Daughters and in The Tree Bride, my last two novels.  Through the adventures of nineteen-year-old Anjali Bose, I’m exploring some of the consequences of outsourcing jobs to India: for instance, the effects of the vast influx of foreign investment and the resulting globalization of economy and culture; the opportunities suddenly available for young women with middling education, women who are no longer satisfied with the limited prospects that their backwater hometowns and lower-middleclass parents can offer, women who are ready to become internal migrants so that they can pursue self-worth and personal happiness; and especially, the temptations and corruption these naïve young women encounter as they make their lives without family and chaperones in a fast-growing IT-hub city, like Bangalore.  When I’m writing a novel, I get inside the skin of my protagonist.  I think this feels more light-hearted to you than Desirable Daughters, because Anjali is young, and hurls herself into adventures, which includes finding love and financial independence.

IFB: Angie’s teacher, Peter Champion, is found out to be gay—is this intended to highlight the beginning of Angie’s change from country bumpkin to sophisticated Bangalore resident?

BM: Peter Champion, the expatriate American and long-time resident of Gauripur, reveals his sexual orientation to Anjali/Angie while she is still too timid to leave home and break with traditional Indian values her parents have instilled in her.  He lets her know that he is a man in love.  Watching the tenderness between Ali and Peter, she is initiated into the complexities of adulthood.  Her parents treat her as a child.  Love is “caught” in different lights and angles throughout the novel.

IFB: With the arranged marriage subplot, are you exploring the conflict between traditional arranged marriage and modernity?

BM: No, not at all.  Anjali doesn’t experience a conflict between “arranged marriage” and “love marriage.”  What she wants is to be happy.  She lets her father match-make in the hope that he will find a handsome, decent bridegroom for her.  If he does come up with a superlative candidate, she won’t have to strike out on her own in an unfamiliar city, like Bangalore.  But given her father’s failure in picking a decent husband for her older sister Sonali, she has no confidence he will succeed finding an ideal bridegroom for her.

IFB: Your portrayal of this event paints traditional marriage in a negative light for modern Indian girls—what are you trying to highlight?

BM: I suppose by “this event” you are referring to Subodh Mitra sexually assaulting Anjali during their approved-by-parents outing in Gauripur.  No, Subodh Mitra is not a stand-in for all “arranged marriage” bridegroom candidates!  He is a criminal character, a predatory individual who, as the novel reveals later, has attempted to assault other young women.  Anjali’s traumatic encounter with Subodh Mitra drives her to take agency, and pursue self-fulfillment on her own terms.

IFB: What does Mr. GG represent, and can you describe what your purpose was in giving him an alter-ego (Dynamo)?

BM: I want to think that literary characters, like real individuals, are complex, sometimes conflicted, even contrary, rather than simple embodiments of a single idea.  Mr. GG believes that globalized economies are inevitable in the present time, and he wants to steer India towards an economic policy that will benefit India and Indians; hence the debates in various scenes about the future of outsourcing for Indians, about the pros and cons of coupling or decoupling India’s economy from the West’s.  He is a visionary who predicts that in the future, India will be outsourcing to the West.  He describes himself as a businessman with a conscience.

The assumption of a pseudonym by journalists for writing “opinion” columns goes way back in Britain and in India.    Pseudonyms evoke mystery and add heft to the ideas asserted in the newspaper column.  As Dynamo, Mr. GG can provide a clear-eyed assessment of the soul of Bangalore, where ambition, desire, greed and corruption come together.

*********

In honour of the International Indian Film Academy Awards taking place in Toronto from June 23 to 25, we’re highlighting Indian authors of fiction and non-fiction on our blog. Check out more from the series here:

Interested readers can also head on over to our Celebrate India Boutique.

Author photo credit © Chip Cooper.

Published in Fiction

Following on from Justin's post yesterday, a personal take on the Top 5 literary Westerns:

 

Blood Meridian

Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is for literature what Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven is to the Hollywood Western. Where predecessors had picked at the romance and mythology of the American West, Blood Meridian demolishes it: an unremitting tale of violence which follows the Glanton Gang—a real-life gang of marauders—as they score their place into history on the bleeding edge of the 1840s Texas frontier. They are guided by The Judge, one of the most terrifying figures in American literature, in this pilgrimage of violence and scenery and murderous piracy across the American southwest.

Blood Meridian is not easy to read: its violence is an assault on the reader almost from the first page. But the language is magisterial: McCarthy produces page after page of prose that will leave you open-mouthed. And the dialogue is as tough and brittle as any dime-store page-turner. Blood Meridian was written in the mid-1980s, with a backwards glance at Cold War foreign misadventures. In one of the book’s prophetic passages, a Mennonite warns: “Ye carry war of a madman’s making onto a foreign land. Ye’ll wake more than the dogs.” Blood Meridian is as profound a statement on the American project as any book written in the last 50 years and it’s a thrilling reading experience from cover to cover. If you need persuasion, seek out an edition with Harold Bloom’s introductory comments; he will highlight for you some of the novel’s amazing features, such as this passage:

They rode out on the north road as would parties bound for El Paso but before they were even quite out of sight of the city they had turned their tragic mounts to the west and they rode infatuate and half fond toward the red demise of that day, toward the evening lands and the distant pandemonium of the sun.

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid is one of Michael Ondaatje’s early novels, and like his jazz poem/novella Coming Through Slaughter, it is an experimental work comprised of shards of consciousness, fragmentary historical relics, poetry, song, and flashes of incandescent violence. The portrait that develops is one of Billy the Kid as a young, drifting ne’er-do-well, but also a figure shrouded in myth and beset by the colliding destinies of those around him. A slim volume, but one that contains breathtaking glances into a disappeared universe.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Like the shamefully underrated movie adaptation, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a thoughtful and thrilling tale of the collision of crime, fame, and obsession. It points towards the peculiar fate of many of the icons of the American West, whose legendary status overlapped with the technologies used to represent them: mass-produced novels, travelling entertainment spectaculars, and, eventually, the movies. Like Wild Bill Hickok, the murderous reaches of Jesse James’ fame caught up with him before the emergence of film technology—but Hansen has explored that, too, in his first novel, 1979’s Desperadoes. The result here is a curiously nostalgic look at a lost chapter of American history; and yet the book’s action passages, particularly the raid on the First National Bank of Northfield, are taut with suspense and drama; Hansen’s command of the language is lean, precise, and so compelling that you cannot take your eyes from the page.

Shadow Country

Florida sat on the American frontier until at least the first decades of the nineteenth century—and some would argue that its interior remains remote wilderness—so I don’t feel at all guilty including this title even though it is set east of the Mississippi. Shadow Country is a unique project: an edited synthesis of three of Peter Matthiessen’s novels exploring the life and legacy of Edgar J. Watson. Watson was a real-life Everglades sugar cane planter who relocated—with a reputation for frontier violence—to Florida’s western coast. The first part of the book opens with the murder of Watson by his neighbours, and retells his story through their voices. It’s a staggering feat of ventriloquism from a writer more famed for his non-fiction writing (Wildlife in AmericaThe Snow Leopard). The second part of Shadow Country tells of Watson’s legacy from the perspective of one of his sons, and Watson’s own voice animates the final third, including his frontier years. The tale underscores how much of the character of the American West spilled away from the ruined trajectory of the Confederacy. Told in this sequence, the tale unshrouds at least one devastating twist. Three novels in one. Yes, I cheated.

Girl in Landscape

Many of the themes and conventions established by the Western have successfully migrated over to the science-fiction genre, and Jonathan Lethem’s 1998 novel Girl in Landscape—his fourth—exemplifies that trend. A strange, haunting tale of one civilization colonizing another in the ruins of its former grandeur,Girl in Landscape explores the coming-of-age of 13 year-old Pella Marsh. The novel is mournful, disorientating, and unsettling in its universal themes of distrust, alienation, and the demonization of others. It presents in Efram Nugent—plainly influenced by the John Wayne character in The Searchers—a fearful figure of desire and vengeance.

Honourable Mentions

Justin has already mentioned Tom Franklin’s masterful Smonk, which takes some features of Blood Meridian’s  style and laces them with acerbic humour. Guy Vanderhaeghe’s The Englishman's Boy is another to touch on the connection with the early years of Hollywood. Also well worth seeking out is David Anthony Durham’s Gabriel's Story, an unnerving coming-of-age frontier adventure told from an American-American perspective. And Chris Hannan’s Missy beckons enticingly from the edge of my ‘to read’ shelf, where it now vies with The Sisters Brothers.

Published in Fiction
Friday, 17 June 2011 05:36

Memorable Fathers in Fiction

Maybe he's handy around the house, or maybe he's more the artistic type. He's probably not quite as hilarious as he thinks he is (it's a known fact that dad jokes are not funny.) But no matter what his quirks, Dad is a child's first hero and role model, so we thought we would celebrate some of our favourite fathers in fiction and literature.

mockingbird_cover

To Kill a Mockingbird
His moral strength, his compassion, his sense of fairness, and his love for his children continue to earn Atticus Finch the most votes for Best Father Ever.

the_road_cover

The Road
The unnamed father and son in this book undergo unimaginable hardship in a post-apocalyptic landscape. But despite the horrors around them, the father's honour and decency of character and his fierce love for his son is a remarkable portrayal of fatherhood.

little_house_cover

Little House on the Prairie
In Laura Ingalls Wilder's books about life in 1870's Wisconsin, Charles Ingalls (or "Pa") is a dad who knew the importance of a work-life balance. He worked hard to eke out a living, but the books also show us a father who loved to tease his girls, and cherished the simple joys of a family that loved each other.

silas_marner_cover

Silas Marner
Silas Marner is an embittered, miserly weaver whose life undergoes a remarkable transformation when he ends up adopting a 2-year-old infant that he names Eppie. True, Silas is not Eppie's biological father, but Eliot's novel features one of the most loving father-daughter bonds found in literature. 

Published in Fiction
Page 1 of 3
You are here