"A girl was never ruined by books," my mother used to say. I've spent most of my life trying to prove that wrong.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Nobel Prize for Literature is VERY political

So Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature?  Everyone was surprised: bookies in London had put his chances at 50/1.  Some were shocked: 

Some merely said that the choice is only following the path the Nobel committee embarked on a few years ago in awarding the world's most prestigious literary prize to genres other than the novel or poetry.  The Canadian Alice Munro who won in 2013 was the first short story writer to be so honoured, while last year Russian  writer Sventlana Alexievich became the first non-fiction writer.  Why not at this juncture give the prize to a bard?

But so far no one I've read has mentioned the way that Nobel prizes, particularly the ones for literature and peace, have a political subtext.  Look who won the prize for Peace this year: the Colombian president who had only days before lost a referendum on a peace accord with the guerilla group FARC.  Or the fact that between 1966 and 1991 no woman won the prize for literature, a 25 year period in which many women were producing fine writing and demanding a voice in all domains of society.  (The story is that one of the members of the jury insisted that no woman could produce great literature, but when he died the committee played a bit of catch-up.)

As Alex Shephard wrote in The New Republic last week: "The Nobel Committee would love nothing more than to send a passive-aggressive signal to America by awarding the prize to someone who stands for everything Donald Trump opposes. But none of these elder statesmen and -women (which he lists as America's finest) really fits that bill. That none of these Americans can really claim the mantle of The One True Great American Novelist makes it even harder."

However, the committee found a way to finesse that by thinking outside the box and giving the prize to a man who has been the conscience of his country for five decades.

Dylan's poetry?  I can't judge it, I'm appreciation-impaired when it comes to that genre.  Some of his songs are great, though, and I can sing a half dozen of them.

What has the Donald said about this?  Probably that he wished he'd bet on Dylan.  That would have been a "brilliant business move" of the sort he brags about.  But I imagine he didn't, just like he didn't do so many other things he claims to have done.

Note: Shephard explains how he turned out to be so fantastically wrong here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On the Road toward Road through Time

For the last few days I've been correcting the copy edit of my new book Road through Time: The Story of Humanity on the MoveAnd just as I was finishing up, I received the cover.  Pretty nice, eh?

Here's the bumph from the University of Regina's Spring 2017 catalogue:

In this thoroughly researched and beautifully written history of roads as vectors of change, Mary Soderstrom documents how routes of migration and transport have transformed both humanity and our planet.
Accessible and entertaining, Road Through Time begins with the story of how anatomically modernhumans left Africa to populate the world. 
She then carries us along the Silk Road
in central Asia, and tells of roads built for war in Persia, the Andes, and the Roman Empire. She sails across the seas, and introduces the  rst railways, all before plunking us down in the middle of a massive, modern freeway.
The book closes with a view from the
end of the road, literally and figuratively, asking, can we meet the challenges presented by a mode of travel dependent on hydrocarbons, or will we decline, like so many civilizations that have come before us?
Sound interesting?  If I hadn't written the book, I'd want to read it, says she, smiling!  The catalogue gives the pub date as April 15, 2017, so I guess we'll have to wait a bit to do that!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spring Means Book List Time

Been discussing what to read in the 2016-2017 season of the book discussion groups I lead in Montreal-area libraries.  Here's the list of suggestions so far, in no particular order:

The Green Road by Anne Enright
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
               or Half of a Yellow Sun
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
The Golden Son : a novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout
The Illegal by Lawrence Hill
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler
The Plot against America by Philip Roth
Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
The Sweetness by Sande Boretz Berger
Lost Boy by Camilla Lackberg
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
Martin John by Ankana Schofield
The Storyteller by Jody Picoult 
Go Set  A Watchman by Harper Lee
Fates and Furries by Lauren Grof
Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan
February by Lisa Moore
Euphoria by Lily King
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes