A Monster Calls – a book review

A Monster Calls – a book review

Title: A Monster Calls Author: Patrick Ness Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2011 Pages: 105 ISBN: 978-0-7636-6065-9 Price: $10.00 (CDN) I was hooked on this excellent book from the opening line: “The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.” For me, that’s an opening line right up there with, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”, and given how many times I’ve read that particular book… Ness’s story focuses on Conor, a 13 year old boy whose mother is going through medical treatments for an unspecified illness – I thought “cancer” as I read – and about Conor’s recurring nightmares since the treatments began. On this particular night, at 12:07 am, Conor meets the monster for the first time when it comes to his bedroom window: it is “something wild, something ancient” in the form of the yew tree that normally sits in the centre of the graveyard on a hill near Conor’s house. The tree monster tells him in no uncertain terms: “I have come to get you, Conor O’Malley.” Conor’s story is accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Jim Kay, and our first look at the monster shows a wild and almost primitive looking monster; the kind that isn’t borne out of watching too many silly slasher and zombie films, but the kind that comes from your very deepest and most primitive fears. Looking at the drawings, I thought, “Somewhere, in the history of the human species, there were people living in caves who were probably drawing pictures of the exact same monster.” This monster is older than time and more wild – and when it goes walking in the world, it goes in search of truth. And not just the easy truths; the difficult ones that make you squirm uncomfortably, the ones that make you feel sick to your stomach with holding them in; the ones that can set you free if you’re brave enough to give them a voice. I don’t want to spoil the plot entirely, but I think it’s safe to reveal that the monster wreaks all the havoc you expect of monsters, while also moving Conor toward facing his nightmare and revealing his truth both to the monster and himself. To this end, the monster tells Conor three tales, and Conor is expected to provide the fourth tale – the deep truth of his nightmare and his feelings about it. I was particularly struck by something the monster tells Conor: Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truth that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both. This is something that hit home for me personally. I have lied to myself times without number about so...

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FHRITP – a vulgar and dangerous trend

FHRITP – a vulgar and dangerous trend

Trigger Warning: In addition to vulgar language, there are also references in this post that might be triggering for survivors of sexual assault. Nothing is spelled out explicitly, but there are some descriptions of feelings and thoughts that might be difficult for some. Proceed with caution. The whole “Fuck her right in the pussy” debacle started as a stupid hoax set up by John Cain pretending to be a reporter who doesn’t realise he’s on live television while talking about a missing 20 year old woman. In the video he talks about how he’d “fuck her right in the pussy” – complete with a vulgar pelvic thrust – the camera then cuts back to the network host who apologises and moves on to the next story. Idiots everywhere decided this was the funniest thing ever and began harassing reporters with the vile phrase. The most recent case involved CityNews reporter, Shauna Hunt, while she interviewed soccer fans after a Toronto FC game. Ms. Hunt was brave enough to confront the men on camera; they continued their disrespectful behaviour by saying that the phrase was “fucking hilarious” and that Ms. Hunt was “lucky there [wasn’t] a fucking vibrator in [her] ear” (a reference to  another FHRITP prank in the UK). One of the men from the Shauna Hunt video, Shawn Simoes, has been fired from his job, a decision that has provoked a lot of responses on social media. There are the usual “freedom of speech” arguments (and to those people, I invite you to read this comic), and “This is all PC nonsense – it’s just a joke.”, and false equivalency arguments like, “So, if my boss loves Stephen Harper and I don’t – and I say so publicly – does that mean I can be fired too?” None of these arguments hold water for me. These are the arguments people make because they: Have no understanding of what free speech actually means Are incapable of sound arguments based on logic and reason Are guilty of the same behaviour – or encouraging others in that behaviour – and would rather defend it than admit they were wrong Are incapable of empathy toward others But the responses that troubled me the most were the ones that simply read, “I don’t see what the big deal is.” I’d like to explain why I think this is a big deal; why this whole ill conceived FHRITP prank is, not only stupid and vulgar, but actually dangerous. When I was 15 or so, I went on my first ever date with a boy from my art class. I don’t recall what we did – probably went to see a movie or something – but...

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The Room – a book review

The Room – a book review

Title: The Room Author: Jonas Karlsson Publisher: Hogarth (2009, trans. 2015) Pages: 186 (not incl. discussion guide) ISBN: 978-0-8041-3998-4 Price: $11.17 (USD, Amazon.com) The Room is the absurd, slightly sad and intriguing tale of Björn, who finds a strange room in the office where he works. From the start, I suspected that Björn would be the sort of insufferable jerk that we’ve all had the misfortune to work with at some point or another. Björn was transferred from his previous work place for reasons never made entirely clear: It wasn’t my decision to move on. I was fairly happy at my last job and felt comfortable with the routines, but somehow I outgrew the position and ended up feeling that I was doing a job that was way below my abilities, and I have to admit that I didn’t always see eye to eye with my colleagues. It became clear very quickly that Björn was going to be a very unreliable narrator – after all, if he were really “happy” and “comfortable” in his job, it seems absurd that he’d suddenly “somehow” feel the work was beneath him. I can only assume that his old boss was all too happy to see him go and become someone else’s problem. By page 14, Björn cemented my dislike of him with his petty observations about his co-workers: Slowly but surely I built up profiles of my closest neighbours, their character and place in the hierarchy. Beyond Håkan [Björn’s desk mate] sat Ann. A woman somewhere around fifty. She seemed knowledgeable and ambitious, but also the sort of person who thought she knew everything and liked being proven right…Opposite Ann sat Jörgen. Big and strong, but doubtless not possessed of an intellect to match… In addition to his nasty little asides about his co-workers, there is the room – a strange puzzle of a place which increasingly becomes the focus of Björn’s working life (in good and bad ways) to the point of a being an obsession for him and his co-workers. At first, from the descriptions, it seems that the room is real and merely an unused office. But as a reader, I never felt absolutely certain of its existence because Björn had already established himself as a character I couldn’t trust. Later, when it turns out his colleagues can’t see the room at all – and see nothing more than Björn standing in the hallway even when he insists he’s in the room – you feel almost sure that the room isn’t there, but not enough to say so definitively because Björn is always so insistent that it does exist – and his insistence about the room’s existence is the only time his emotions seem...

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