Through a series of unlikely Google searches, I stumbled across the blog What is Stephen Harper Reading, which can be accessed here. I was actually searching for some information on Wajdi Mouawad, whose Scorched is a pretty amazing, powerful play, drawing deeply on Greek tragedy and updating it in a way that worked quite well. I was fortunate enough to see a great performance in Chicago, one of the best plays I saw that year. There is also a movie version (Incendies), though I have to say I think for this material, the live performance is more effective, though obviously few people will ever have the opportunity to see it live. What I didn't realize is that Scorched is one of a loose tetralogy (I much prefer the faux-term quadrilogy and will probably use that going forward), comprised of Littoral/Tideline, Incendies/Scorched, Forêts/Forests, and Ciels. The local library has all, though Ciels is still on order, with the translation having just been published a few months ago. So I will try to read them in short order and will probably just publish a massive review of all 4 plays. (At the moment, I have no idea why only one of the 4 would be made into a movie, though perhaps it is the one most firmly in the classical tradition. Perhaps it will make more sense after I have read all of them.)
Anyway, the list was proposed by Yann Martel, who essentially was trying to shame Harper into taking a more active interest in the arts (and thus continue government support for artists and writers), though I suspect it didn't succeed. The format reminds me just a bit of the title story from The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, which was really the most successful of the stories in that collection. The essays can be fairly interesting in their own right, and in fact were collected into 2 books once Martel wrapped up the series at 101 recommended readings. As it happens, this is my blog post #101 as well, so I have some sense of how hard it is to keep up with these things, and how they do accumulate into something fairly interesting (perhaps). Would I be better off taking all this energy and spend it on writing short stories instead? Perhaps, though as I indicated elsewhere, just writing anything, including blog posts, tends to lead to writing other things when one is ready. I do think I want to try to expend some effort on that poetry series I was working on. That was supposed to be 40 or 41 sestinas, and I totally blew that off...
Speaking of meandering, I am just back from San Francisco, where I made a shortish stop at City Lights Bookstore. I've managed to make it there on nearly all my visits, and I managed to find an inexpensive book (of Baudelaire's prose poems) published by City Lights to celebrate my visit. I did not pick up their newly reprinted edition of Frank O'Hara's Poems Retrieved. I didn't feel I needed to buy this book, since I read it a long time ago when I was studying O'Hara for my Honors Thesis. What I didn't recall was that he had an irregular sestina very much like the ones I am writing periodically. I was more consciously emulating Ted Berrigan (and his irregular sonnets) but it is possible that in the back of my mind I was drawing on this O'Hara poem, as I certainly would have read it back in the day. Well, perhaps I should have picked up Retrieved Poems as there is supposely little or even no overlap with the Collected Poems (at least the earlier editions of Collected Poems), but I am in no great hurry. In any case, I will make a copy of this poem "Green Words, A Sestina," so I can study it a bit more closely.
Another thing that comes to mind is that, despite the unlikelihood of these posts being accumulated into a book like Martel's (or Ebert's reviews for that matter), they will be out there in the internet forever. (I am still surprised and gratified that I have hit 7000 views, even if some of them must be automatic pings. You never know which posts become the most viewed, though clearly writing about Atwood always draws a crowd.) There are a few posts I came very close to writing something that I would quickly regret, so I'll just have to remember to keep some things to myself. I don't, however, regret writing somewhat negatively about Vancouver's cultural scene, and I'll probably write about Cassandras and Pollyannas somewhere down the line, but the rest of the explicitly political thoughts will be kept under wraps (probably).
It looks like I have read 26 or so of the 101 books that Yann was promoting, and a handful are in a books to read pile. I don't want to look too closely at the rest of the list, since I don't want to add any more to my own reading lists until I have made some significant progress on the first one at least. There are some amazing things on there that still need more exposure (Ficciones by Borges) and some odd choices: Calvino's Mr. Palomar (instead of Invisible Cities?). Martel ends his endeavors by saying that he is going to divert this excess energy into reading Proust, which he has never read in French or in English. While I don't expect to stop blogging, Proust is slowly coming towards me from my TBR pile, most likely arriving during the summer. Some of the others on the list that I expect to get to after swallowing and trying to digest Remembrance (picture the elephant in the boa from Le Petit Prince, which is of course on the list) are Gabrielle Roy's The Tin Flute, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (sort of skimmed this and would like to read properly) and possibly Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now, and Marilynne Robinson's Gilead (though I have to admit this looks a lot less appealing to me than her Housekeeping, but I may give it a go anyway).
What I need to find is more balance. More balance between work and life (far too heavily skewed towards work), more balance between writing and consuming of other people's work (and certainly of mucking about on the internet -- getting slightly better about not just wasting time -- there are a multitude of sites I won't even visit because I know they are time-suckers (but I make too much of an exception for "news" sites), and probably better balance between buying and using products. Even now there are movies (and TV shows) where I rush off to buy them if it is a good deal and yet I probably will never get around to watching them. Perhaps I need a new rule that I can't bring home any more DVDs of TV series until I have actually watched the same number from the collection I already have. The kids are old enough to watch some of the G and perhaps even PG level TV shows, so we are slowly working our way through some series.
Anyway, that is enough meandering for tonight. I do have a few key things to work on (work-work and then writing some short pieces for SAGE) before getting a quick cat nap and heading back out to the new offices.