Yes, I know I was going to review the new show at the AGO, and then, after I wrote something about Beckett yesterday, I was rethinking and decided I have to do another blog, about Beckett, John Hirsch and me. And then this morning before I started work, I decided to finish reading All My Puny Sorrows by Governor-General’s Award winner Muriel Toews and that is now uppermost in my mind. It’s deceptive, with a casual, even careless, style of a first-person narrative masking someone who is and is not the author herself, and it’s sneaky, stunning, awesome, and semi(?)autobiographical, based as it is on the suicide of the writer’s elder sister.
I read this book slowly, for me, because I have other imperatives in my life which are bogging me down. As I plodded along I wondered at times if I could stand it as the protagonist agonised over plans to kill her sister: method, timing, expenses, and so on, not to mention mental anguish. Her brilliant older sister is a gifted, international concert pianist who wants to die and whose attempts to off herself have only succeeded in landing her in hospital in Winnipeg where her Mennonite family visit her: husband, mother, aunt, et al, and of course, her sister who has made a mess of her life albeit without any desire to end it.
I found myself at one point in my constant inner dialogue, mentally parodying the style with its easy, painful revelations. That made me acutely aware of the mask the narrator was wearing. Casual and hippy-seeming she may be but she is sensitive, educated and well-read with all the resources of her creator skilfully presented. It gets better and better. Reviewers have called the book hilarious, recognizing the wit. Not hilarious. As the saying goes: Read it and weep.
So this morning, in spite of all I have to do today, with deadlines and a test to follow, I had to finish the book.
All My Puny Sorrows (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) - Wow