Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Canadian Reading Challenge Review: Several Women Dancing by Paul Dutton

When the lovely and talented author/blogger Marie Landry from Ramblings of a Daydreamer did a call out to see if people were interested in a second annual Canadian Reading Challenge, I told her that I would commit to reading and reviewing at least one book that met the criteria for the challenge. I'm a fellow Canuck after all and us igloo inhabiting, dog-sled driving (I joke, I joke, I kid, I kid) northerners have to stick together! Here it is, the last day to link up a review, and it's Brandy just under the wire.

I met author and sound poet (seriously, take a minute and check that out) Paul Dutton in 2010 when my creative writing professor invited him to do a reading as part of literary series at our university. The man is a genius, maybe a little crazy, but they say there is a fine line between genius and insanity! After hearing a very short excerpt from his novel, Several Women Dancing, I had to have it, had to read it and one cannot simply purchase a book directly from an author and not have him or her sign it. The inscription reads: "For Brandy in Brandon, Drink it in sips or gulp it down. Paul Dutton," and now for a brief review.

Move over E L James with your unrealistic virgin girl-child turned doormat nymphomaniac and abusive dictator/borderline misogynist (if you haven't guessed it yet, I hated Fifty Shades of Grey, well, the 6 chapters I actually forced myself through, anyway), and make room for some real Erotica. Several Women Dancing is not for everyone. It is raw. It is highly sexual, some might say vulgar, others might say inappropriate, but I am not one of those people. I loved it.

The novel is told in first person narrative through a male voice who frequents strip clubs and inevitably becomes obsessed with one of the dancers, Black Satin. Dutton takes the reader through fantasy after sexual fantasy and does this in such a way that the reader is never really sure if the encounters described are real or fictional. The days, cities, even seasons become muddled in the man's mind as he lives his life from one experience involving Black Satin to the next. The novel is just so honest and I think that is why I enjoyed it. I think that honesty is what makes it so believable and such a great piece of literature. It is disturbing and uncomfortable at times especially when Spencer engages in fantasies of an Oedipal nature, but it is all part of the raw honesty that I appreciated so much in this novel.

Here's my favorite passage (don't worry, it's rather tame in the grand scheme of the novel): "I blame the candles (so long since I'd had a candlelit meal); I blame the meal (thick cream soup, a subtly spiced casserole, a bottle of wine); I blame the wine (a vintage Burgundy, the last of which we sipped on the living-room couch); I blame the couch (plush and comfortable, inducing a lassitude augmented by the classical guitar playing on the stereo); I blame the stereo (at the end of the record the room filled with silence); I blame the silence (breathing a faint sigh, she leaned her head on the back of the couch, where I'd stretched out my arm); I blame my arm (lifting it a little as a prelude to moving it, I caused her head to roll slightly towards me and saw her smile); I blame her smile (it increased the flutter in my stomach, the trembling in my hands, the shortness of my breath, the dryness of my mouth, the pounding of my heart); I blame my heart." Beautiful, right?!

Overall, Several Women Dancing is riveting and fresh! If I use Marie's rating scale: I loved it! So, if you can keep an open mind, pick it up and enjoy some real literary erotica - Canadian style!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Celebrate the Small Things - July 26 (3 week back log)

Yikes, folks! I haven't written a blog post since July 5th when I Celebrate[d] the Small Things with VikLit and the other blog hoppers over at Scribblings of an Aspiring Author. That means I have three weeks of celebrations to catch up on, but I'll try to keep them brief.

On July 6, the last day at my sister's in Leduc, Alberta, she and I, and a friend of hers did the Colour Run in Edmonton. I did it for fun and to raise a few more funds for the Student Refugee Program. It's an ongoing effort of mine, so if I can twist your rubber HERE!

I thought I would be celebrating handing in the final version to the committee on Friday, July 12. I was wrong. My advisor had other plans for me the likes of a third extensive edit. Those edits along with packing for my trip on July 13 are the reasons I didn't post that week. I can celebrate, however, the completion and handing in of my third massive edit!

Friday, July 12 was also my last day of work before heading out on two weeks of holidays! Now that is really something to celebrate!

Sometime in that week between July 6 and 12, we welcomed Memphis into our home. He's an adopted 5-year old Chihuahua from a local animal rescue organisation in our city.

The whole next week, July 13 to 19, was just one massive celebration. Farmer Joe, who I have now taken to calling Cowboy Tex since we moved from the farm into the city, and I started out on a massive 3500km road trip from Brandon, Manitoba where we live, to Fredericton, New Brunswick where I will be starting my Master of Arts in English this fall. I even enjoyed the driving. The main points of smaller celebrations within this major celebration are:
-Spending two nights and a full day in Montreal with my beautifully brilliant friend, Haley.

-Spending three nights and two full days in Fredericton familiarising myself with the university and the city.

-Getting a tour of the campus (especially the library) and meeting my grad school advisor.

Other celebrations that occurred from July 13-19 include:
-finding out that I got into the mature student residence for the fall and connecting with my roommate to start planning our living arrangements.
-finding a UNB Mom t-shirt at the campus book store to bring home for my Mom.
-being offered (and, of course, accepting) a position as a Regional Coordinator for WUSC starting in September. This volunteer position comes along with two trips to Ottawa, Ontario! I am really excited about taking on this leadership role with an organisation that means so much to me.

We started the trip home from Fredericton on July 20. The biggest celebration on the return trip, short of actually getting home, snuggling with my dogs, and sleeping in my own bed, was staying in Kingston, Ontario with another brilliant friend of mine. After 5 days staying places without air conditioning when the temperatures were 35 degrees Celsius above, Yvonne had central air and provided me with my first excuse to have a hot shower. It was heaven.

All of that brings me to one more celebration for this week, July 20-26. On Wednesday, I met with my thesis advisor again and despite a few, ok a lot, more edits, she did say that this time (the fourth time) she didn't need to see the entire document again, only a few short pieces! That, my friends, is celebration worthy indeed!

Cheers, everyone! Now, to try and catch up on visits and comments! See you and your blog soon!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Celebrate the Small Things - July 5 (I'm on Holidays!)

I’ve been on holidays this last week so what better reason is there to celebrate with VikLit and the other Celebrate the Small Things blog hoppers than that?

From Friday night to Monday afternoon, I was with one of my brilliant best friends in Calgary, Alberta and that is something definitely worth celebrating!  Calgary was just hit by one of the worst flash floods that the city has ever seen. There is literally billions of dollars of damage. Some houses were completely washed away, some “only” had eleven feet of water in them. Thankfully, where my girlfriend was living was unaffected – that is something to celebrate. I think something else worth celebrating is how, in the face of disaster, an entire city can come together to help one another. Across the city, people were opening their homes to the masses of people who were forced to evacuate. Across the city, people were coming together to shovel mud and sewage from strangers’ homes. Across the city, people were coming together for the sake of helping each other, receiving nothing in return. It is altruism at its finest and I am celebrating my renewed faith in humanity.

On Monday afternoon, I took the bus from Calgary to Leduc, Alberta to visit my baby (25-year old) sister. The free wifi on the bus was definitely celebration worthy as it made the four hour bus ride fly by.

Monday was also Canada Day! Fireworks and patriotism – enough said!

I’ve been at my sister’s since Monday, relaxing, sunbathing, drinking beer, watching satellite tv, and really just vegging! My Mom got here Tuesday morning so we’ve just been having some good ol’ family time for the last week. Mom and I are doing the twelve hour drive back on Sunday which I don’t look forward to, but at least we’ll be doing it together.

Despite the fact that I am, indeed, on holidays, I did have to finish the second edit of my Creative Writing Thesis. I handed it in (electronically, of course) to my professor on Wednesday. Celebrations are in order for having accomplished that. Next Friday, when I actually hand in the finished product to the Thesis committee, will be cause for a much bigger celebration!

My final celebration for this week is the supper that I just ate: steak, crab legs, shrimp skewers, garlic toast, seasoned mashed potatoes, and Caesar salad. Yum!

Hope everyone had a wonderfully celebratable week!

Airports Confuse the Hell out of Me

Is it really just me or does the protocol at airports confuse the hell out of everyone else too? I'm not a frequent flyer by any means, but I'd say I fly between two and four times a year on average. If you read the My Life: In Countdowns post, you'll know that I was recently in Calgary. I flew in from Winnipeg.

Despite the fact that the machine required one of the airport employees to hold my passport under the scanner in order for me to get my baggage tags, at least I knew that I only need my i.d. at that point. Once that step was finished, the confusion began. Does the airport staff member at the check-in desk require just my i.d. or does she need my boarding pass too? Boarding pass, yes, i.d., no. Speaking of boarding passes, this was the first time I've traveled with an electronic boarding pass in my phone. When they manage to create something so that government issued i.d. can be contained within my smart phone, I will be in heaven. Both things, one place, no confusion.

So after check in it’s time for security and everything goes in the buckets. Then they ask for your passport and your boarding pass? So I dig through the bucket to find my passport and I dig through the bucket to find my phone a.k.a. boarding pass. After the dreaded walk through the scanners comes the worst part of the whole process (that is unless you’re one of the lucky ones who gets taken to one of those little rooms), collecting all of your stuff and putting it all back in order in a timely enough fashion to not hold up the whole line.

Next up, a bit of a wait in the incredibly uncomfortable airport chairs and then it’s time to board. Enter another scene that absolutely baffles me. Everyone except for people like me lines up in a colossal line to … stand in line and then sit in their assigned airplane seat for more time than they absolutely need to. If the seats in the airport are uncomfortable, the seats in the airplane are the epitome of discomfort. Why people rush to first, stand in a long ass line and second, sit in awfully cramped, discomfort, will never cease to baffle me.
Once the line is all but the length of about ten people, I get up and prepare to be confused once again. Boarding pass and passport, right? 

Now it’s time to head down the enclosed, somewhat claustrophobic, walk way to the last place of confusion where I have to figure out if the flight attendant needs to see my i.d. and/or my boarding pass. And the answer is…boarding pass.

Done. Finally. Passport away. Phone on airplane mode. Sit back and … relax? Not really.

What baffles you most about airports? Do you have any crazy airport/airplane stories to share?