Something I’ve been meaning to tell you

I’ve just finished Alice Munro’s collection of thirteen stories called “Something I’ve been meaning to tell you.” There was another book I read, inbetween Eggers and Munro, but I’ll be blogging on that later. I’m not exactly sure why it’s taken me so long to discover her writing, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. Munro writes about the ordinary; two sisters growing old with a story they both lived with, a woman’s life after her divorce, a grandmother’s view of herself in the eyes of a visiting granddaughter. And yet, it is so compelling, so human. Ben and I had a couple of arguments about books when we first moved in; I didn’t respect his love for fantasy and science fiction. I tried to explain why I held Salinger, DH Lawrence, Virgina Woolfe, Plath, Joyce and Steinbeck (I could go on) in such high regard and why I considered it “better.” It was difficult for me to answer, I just knew, in my soul that these writers are unique because they look into the real, the ordinary, the everyday and find something spectacular. Something so very human.

And so with Munro. The best story by far in the book was the first, with the same name as the book. And I loved it not only for it’s storytelling, or it’s simplicity. I loved it because it taught me something I’ve been struggling with in my own writing; how to make one character know that another one may not be telling the whole truth. In one simple sentence Munro lets us know that someone could be lying. Distrust — so very human.

Goodbye JD

Margaret Atwood wrote in Negotiating with the Dead that “all writing of the narrative kind, and perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down, by a fear and fascination with mortality – by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring something or someone back from the dead.” (p.156) Perhaps it is true that writers do write for the only reason that they fear their own death. I wondered today, in hearing the news of the death of my favourite author of all time, did JD Salinger write because he feared death? I’m sure his experience on the front line in World War II made him feel like he had no choice but to write. But as far as the world is concerned, the man stopped writing after the sixties. Or did he?

I was first introduced to Salinger by way of a university course called Religion and Literature at the University of Toronto. My professor introduced me to Franny & Zooey, which continues to be the most influential book in my life. My professor said that he half-hoped for the day Salinger would die, so that maybe his writing for the past fifty years would finally be available for us to read.

Sorry, my thoughts are a bit scattered with this post.

One day, in an attempt to save our relationship, my ex boyfriend presented me with the one thing I wanted most in this world – the no longer published writing of JD Salinger. The story goes that some man in Texas had a word document that contained transcribed versions of stolen pages from back issues of magazines that had once published the stories. They were in libraries in universities, scattered across America. Salinger refused to let them be reprinted. And after all the hype about the influence of his only novel The Catcher in the Rye it seems like Salinger had it with society, retreated to the mountains and refused to let anything else be published. The man in Texas had them in a digital format, and gave them to my ex to win me back. You might have figured out the end to the story.

But I have all his stories now (I think). And I love them. And I could read them again and again.

And like my professor I am waiting for the vault to open, to have more Salinger to read. Because I can’t get enough. This man changed my life, and made me want to become a writer. I am heartbroken that he is gone and that he had such a tormented existence.

My prof once said that Salinger regretted killing Seymour in A Perfect Day for a Bananafish. Seymour Glass was exactly what his name meant. He “sees” “through” society and the shit. But at the end of the story, Seymour kills himself because he can’t stand the superficiality. But the hero is the one who sees more, and should rise above it. He doesn’t kill himself. He dies, of natural causes, deep in the forest of the mountains of New Hampshire.

Thank you JD. You changed my life. I’m sad you are gone.

You must see “The Cove”

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When I was sixteen I used to post up flyers around school with an image of an elephant with a target pointed directly at it’s forehead. Underneath it read a quote by Ghandi – “The greatness of a people can be measured by how well it treats it’s animals.” I used to carry this poster wherever I went. I was a vegetarian. I used baking soda and vinegar to clean long before eco-products where even something people talked about. I was an activist if ever there existed one; writing letters to animal welfare organizations, trying to figure out how to get myself over to Africa to feed orphaned elephants, trying to learn Swahili, going to lectures by Jane Goodall and Biruté Gladikas.

Then I went to university, got overwhelmed in my science course at U of T and dropped out of zoology. I went into art, and then for some reason I ceased to have a voice, a cause, a reason. My artwork came out of myself, I stopped preaching, became bored of my own broken record, and started eating meat again.

After watching “The Cove“, I began to wonder again what happened to that part of me. Where did that dynamite go?  This documentary covers the awful and unnecessary destruction of dolphins in Japan. For no other reason than exploiting them in entertainment shows, these beautiful and intelligent animals are herded, selected from and then subsequently massacred. The problem is, their meat is not even suitable for human consumption. The high content of mercury makes them dangerous for us to eat. So why do a select number of fishermen slaughter thousands of dolphins each year? Because of a misguided idea that dolphins are “pests” destroying their fishing catches. I encourage everyone to try to see this documentary as soon as  they can.

I think most of us have it and I think we CAN affect change in so many ways. The primary way is to be an activist consumer. It’s so important that the decisions we make as consumers affects every company. And we must support sustainable practices.

STOP GOING TO SHOWS THAT EXPLOIT DOLPHINS AND WHALES. This means, Marine Land, Sea World and probably Canada’s Wonderland. We must stop the trade of these beautiful creatures.

EAT SUSTAINABLY. Think before you eat (and buy).

Please read more and spread the word about this documentary and this problem. I know there are so many issues in the world today that it’s hard to get behind just one. But I think this is the trick. Be strong about one issue, not weak about many and eventually we can affect real change.

Get even more info here.