As a follow-up to the Second Annual Winter Party Book Exchange, members are encouraged to write a blog post about the book they received. I will kick it off…
I received the graphic novel, Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal. I was intrigued by the title and sat down on Tuesday evening after the Winter Party and began reading. I read until it was Wednesday and then finished the book the next day. So, it is fair to say it was instantly engaging. Cyclopedia Exotica imagines a world where the cyclops and the human are parallel subspecies that now live together.
My husband was watching a “Mad About You” marathon on TV while I was reading this book. The situations the fictional characters of that 90’s sitcom find themselves in are not so different from the situations that the average cyclops experiences, so why can’t we all just get along? Unfortunately, being a visible one-eyed minority is not so easy.
Because Cyclopedia Exotica is graphic novel about a subspecies that doesn’t exist (that we know of…) the challenges minorities face are shown with humor. Still, I think most readers will put this book down and ask themselves “have I made someone feel that way?”
I really enjoyed this book and will be seeking out other titles by Aminder Dhaliwal. Thank-you to my Winter Party Exchange counterpart for giving me the chance to read this fun yet challenging slice of life.
On November 16th, 2021 CWLC Archivist Sandra E. gave a presentation on the history of the club, with emphasis on the presentation topics of the past. Sandra reminded us that since 1906, CWLC members have shared a love of reading and a knowledge of the world outside Calgary.
In the early years, Shakespeare and Browning were common topics. Then, other authors and topics began to appear. Authors such as Galsworthy were contemporary, not historical, when they were first discussed by members.
In the current era of our club, we discuss the works of a single author. In the past, members’ presentations were not always limited to specific authors or books, but included social and cultural events. In a time when travel outside of Canada, topics such as “Mrs. Palmer’s trip to the Old Country” are also found in the archives.
On November 9, 2021 member Lyn K. presented on Australian author Joan London. Ms. London is best known in Canada for her novel “The Golden Age”.
“The Golden Age” is a fictionalized account of the real Golden Age home, which nursed young patients during the mid-1950’s polio outbreak in Australia. The author show’s the resilience of children in the face of a deadly and life altering illness and the compassion of the staff who try to bring art and joy into the lives of these children.
Lyn K. discussed the similarities and differences between the polio epidemics of the early 20th century and the current Covid-19 outbreak.
On November 2, member Maryliz Q. presented on the works of Australian author Kate Grenvillle. Ms. Grenville’s trilogy “The Secret River” explores the emotional lives of early Australian transported settlers and their descendents, as well as the Indigenous people’s they displaced. Kate Grenville’s fiction looks beyond the dates and facts to provide history with emotional depth. Her major themes are colonization, the class system, loss, and what land ownership means.
Kate Grenville’s most recent fictional work is the novel “A Room Made of Leaves”, a “fake memoir” of a wife of a well known Australian magnate. A video clip of Kate Grenville discussing this book in a virtual book launch by the National Library of Australia can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCuGEdqUIkw.
Maryliz was able to contact Kate Grenville, who responded to questions about what it means to be an Australian writer and why she chose the genre of historical fiction.
Member Rose I. presented on the works of Australian author Graeme Simsion on October 26, 2021. Mr Simsion is a polymath amd successful businessman with degrees in IT and data modelling. Mr. Simsion’s best known work is the trilogy “The Rosy Project” , which uses humour to explore what happens when data modelling is applied to affairs of the heart.
The sharp wit of the book is illustrated in the reading, which Rose said was intensely real and thus difficult to read. To me the reading illustrated that using science to avoid awkward social situations can create awkward social situations.
Rose’s favourite work by Mr. Simsion is the novel “Two Steps Forward”, about what people seek and find as pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.
Member Sandra E. described Janet Frame’s work as exploring the dichotomy between the inner and outer worlds in her October 19th, 2021 presentation on the New Zealand author. Ms. Frame is known for her fictional work “Owls Do Cry”, her autobiography ” An Angel at My Table” and her short stories.
While Ms. Frame had mental health challenges, Sandra emphasized that she should be recognized for sensitive literary work rather than be defined by her personal circumstances. Frequently drawing on the naive perspective of children, Ms. Frame showcases the dichotomy between what is said and what is meant.
Sandra read from the short story “You Are Now Entering the Human Heart”, which uses metaphor to describe the petty cruelties people inflict on each other.
On October 12, 2021 Della Mae W. presented on Clive James, continuing the theme of authors of Australia and New Zealand.
Clive James was the prolific author of literary criticism, fiction, non-fiction and poetry as well as being a TV presenter, AND completing a translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. In his obituary, his frient Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker said “appraisal was his greatest gift”.
Della Mae reminded me of his humour, which I remember from watching him on TV in the 80’s and 90’s. After her presentation, I checked out is column in the Guardian, “Reports of My Death” which ran in the latter years of his life, when he had received a possibly imminently fatal diagnosis. His humour and intelligence shines thru that column.
The first meeting of the fall 2021 session was held via Zoom on October 5th. Continuing on the theme of “Writers of Australia and New Zealand,” Kathy M. surprised us by creatively juxtaposing two interesting screenwriters/producers/directors: Jane Campion from New Zealand and Baz Luhrmann from Australia.
Jane Campion won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for The Piano, and numerous Best Director awards for her many films. Kathy showed excerpts from two dark dramas, The Piano (1993) and her upcoming movie The Power of the Dog (2021.)
Kathy then turned to Australia’s most commercially successful and prolific filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, whose style is instantly recognizable. Clips from Strictly Ballroom (1992,) an updated Romeo and Juliette (1996 — and no, Luhrmann didn’t write the rhyming couplets!) and Moulin Rouge (2001.) She left us with a clip from his movie Australia (2008.)
Kathy showed how good writing, which has inspired CWLC members for over 115 years, also is at the heart of great movies.