In the swim again, sort of. Yesterday, I realize, was the first day since my book launch in September that a group of people were over at the house – this house, which is gathering central. What a hard year it has been, even for someone accustomed to solitude like myself. How thrilling to hear a bunch of people talk and laugh in my kitchen again.
Today, taught a Zoom class – those poor students, I missed a class last term because of the appendix and now this term too! – and actually went outside to return library books, an eight minute walk that took me twenty, my first excursion outside the front door since return from hospital. Doubletake, my fave second-hand store, opens tomorrow! The world dawns again. Sam has had an exhausting two days at work, and Anna has been in the Sunnyside swimming pool at least five times with the boys. Life.
A book report on “Loose Woman” from old friend Terry Poulton: Love your book! A great read, entertaining, educational, unflinchingly honest, with welcome historic reminders of a certain time and certain attitudes for people of our vintage. I hope you feel as proud of it as you deserve to be.
Thanks to TP, who’s a fine author in her own right.
Today, I’m happy to give you a report on two books by other writers. “Under the Gaze of Angels,” by Said Habib, was edited by my dear friend Isabel Huggan, who gave it to me. Habib, originally from Palestine, has lived in Toronto for many years. He recreates his childhood in Nazareth, its locals, his family, portraying a people with immense dignity and powerful spiritual and familial traditions. His immigration to Canada at the end, triggered by the creation of the state of Israel and the subsequent disenfranchisement and sometimes brutalization of his people, shows how difficult it is to be caught between two ways of being: on the one hand, his love of his people and homeland and the engrained traditions of the past, and on the other, his happiness to be free of tradition, to reinvent himself. He quietly, with clarity and grace and without rancour, points out how biased – pro-Israelis, anti-Palestinians – news reports in the west are and how his people have suffered. Gradually you come to love the writer, his enormous humanity. A beautifully written book which shows us the other side of a conflict we read about every day: a lost civilization.
“The Observer” was sent to me by former student Pearl Richard; she used her pandemic lockdown well. It’s the kind of book – speculative or science fiction – I’d never choose myself, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed this slim novel, about an alien civilization that has sent one of its members – Aren – to observe and report on human beings. While he’s there, the pandemic strikes, and by the end of the book we know why. Aren’s fellows have obliterated and do not feel messy human emotions, and he is sent to earth to find out if it would be advantageous to develop some. He begins to discover love, and anger, and protective feelings, and we discover them again with him. It’s a thoughtful and imaginative tale. Well done, Pearl!
It’s been a strange day, hot sun, then thunderstorm, then sun, then gloom. It’s 5, but no rosé for me; I had a sip yesterday but it tasted terrible. How I miss my own traditions. Another day of antibiotics, and soon perhaps my taste buds will return. I’m still weak and shaky, but, I hope, moving in the right direction. And now, to pick some lettuce for dinner and pick out the next book.