January and February are the perfect months to curl up in the corner of your couch, sip a cup of something hot while ensconced in your favourite blanket and read…..or watch a movie. I have been in a bit of a hibernation mode of late, sticking my nose out on occasion but with much reluctance. The perfect antidote for me when faced with the cold is a good book or an undiscovered movie that was under my radar.
Before Christmas, I went to an author “talk” at my local library and went away from it itching to read the book. The talk was by former Kingsville (my hometown) native, Jennifer Klinec. The Book? “A Temporary Bride”—A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran. Jennifer was utterly charming. Seriously. She was afraid to bore us with tales of her travels, cooking adventures, and finding love so she gave us some morsels to chew on, but not too many. I could have listened to her for hours. I summed the book up in a Twitter that said it was “an excellent read, kind of an Eat, Pray, Love without the Pray.”
I loved the book. Jennifer is exceedingly honest, to the point where I wonder why I am not so brave in my writing. But I am not. She is and her story is one that will hit you on many different and diverse levels. Her description of food is so vivid you can almost taste it. Some of it though, if you are like me, you would probably shy away from. She brings to life a country I am almost wholly unfamiliar with—bringing to light their customs, culture, and things that are hard to fathom. The love story is intriguing, not cloying, and the writing is brilliant.
The other book I am going to regale you with is called “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin. Slightly quirky, it is written in a simple style that has literary relatives, but not ones that make reading it a chore. It has my favourite quote of all time in it, which justifies to me the way I write. The quote has very little to do with the story, but I am going to share it anyway. An author in the book (brother-in-law to the main character) reacts to the somewhat clichéd phrase writers are forever being advised: “Show don’t tell”. I will paraphrase the author’s response as this is a PG column—but you will get his drift. He says: “Show, don’t tell is a complete crock of (dodo)…..it comes from Syd Field’s screenplay books, but it doesn’t have a thing to do with novel writing. Novels are all tell. The best ones at least. Novels aren’t meant to be imitation screenplays.” I feel vindicated, as I tend to be a “tell-er” and not so much of a “show-er”.
On the surface, the book is about a bookseller who dislikes a lot of genres that books tend to gravitate to. That said, I was completely taken with this book—in all its quirkiness it deals with the normal. I think one of the blurbs on the back of the book says it all: “This novel has humour, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love—love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory.”
Speaking of quirky, I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel—one of the movies in the Oscar line-up. It is a movie that the bookstore owner in “The Storied Life of A. J. Firkry” would not like—as it is rather fantastical. So many twists and turns that this roller coaster ride of a movie keeps you on the edge of your seat—and the number of people you will recognize will astound you. It is not a “feel good” movie, or a “romance” (though it does have a bit of that genre)—it is a tale of weird adventures and strange comings and goings, but in the end quite satisfying.
The movie that was particularly under my radar “The Magic of Belle Isle” was released in 2012. Morgan Freeman plays a paraplegic author who no longer wants to write and takes over a cottage (and the resident pooch) on Belle Isle for the summer in order to shelter himself from the outside world. He finds more than his muse on the island, and to say much more would give away the plot. This is a great unsung movie. It, along with The Budapest Hotel are on Netflix. And I am sure all the aforementioned movies and books can be accessed at the library—so if you over-Christmased like I did, no money necessarily has to be expended in the search for entertainment.