Monday, 28 January 2013

Back to my Reading

The title of my blog is Inspiteofmyreading. I have been doing a lot of reading, it's just not apparent from my pitiful posts so far this winter...and fall, too, I suppose. I do have a life outside of Stratford's season. Honestly. It has taken me a while to get into my groove, fill that void. There's reading, went through a Simple Plan stage (Save You is in my top 5 songs of all time probably because it is the song that rings truest to my heart and life), but also I've started watch - GASP - Canadian tv on CBC. I had no idea we had such wonderful shows on our government funded television (outside This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Rick Mercer Report - among the funniest shows I've ever watched - watch skits on Youtube).

And my dear kids keep me sane....mostly: 2 teens and 2 tweens are the best of me and get the better of me.

I know I've complained that I don't get enough time on a computer to write. I am books/plays behind in my posting. I need to make this a priority. I feel like I have to reread the books I've read since November again because I forget what moved me. And, as usual, I have lots to say about them (Handmaid's Tale was a great read from the birthing eyes of mine) plus A Long Day's Journey Into Night, and Who Has Seen the Wind, and the Shakespeare always flitting around in the back.

High school English is now completed for Dakota. He didn't get to read Merchant of Venice nor and novels by any Canadians (Richler, Atwood, Davies, etc). I guess that will be up to me to have him read. My little library has slowly been growing in size the past couple of months, so there will be lots of books to read.

Braeden seemed to easily get into his English, minus memorizing lines from the Bard.  He learned a lot reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I wish he had written down how he felt while reading it.

Luke & Cordelia are working their way through Romeo & Juliet: sword fighting and romance are perfect for both of them. I wonder if Cordelia realizes they die at the end yet?

So, to stop my unblogging of books I read, I decided to work on the most recent, then work back.

And this brings me to today. I finished a fantastic book by the equally fantastic Brian Haner. He is Artist Formerly Known as Guitar Guy, from Jeff Dunham's show.

Brian has always been a favourite of ours. We've tried a couple of times to see him when he's been in our area with Dunham to no avail due to PR responsibilites. But he was always sweet to us by email. When we had our fire, I asked him if he wouldn't mind sending a donation for a fundraiser (when there was one planned for us) and we received the aigned cds before we moved into our more permanent home. The kids were ecstatic. We saw Brian & Jeff in Toronto (Brian played O Canada behind his back - buy it on iTunes!), plus Jeff and I saw them in Buffalo. Word of advice - don't see a comedian on the same tour twice. It's really not as funny the second time.

The kids & I also posted a video for Brian's "Grandma was a Racist" with the kids singing it to my mom. The quality is horrible. The house is a mess but we had fun. Geeze, Cordelia may have been 5 or 6. The song is hilarious and makes some great points about how words can stay with you, but they don't have to control who you become...and revenge is sweet!

A week after the fire, Jeff up and left - well, there's a lot to that story, but I won't divulge it here.  Mental illness is ... well, I won't swear here either. Jeff was supposed to meet up with us for Thanksgiving, but backed out. His dad was in his last days in Hospice. I don't know if he went to see his dad or not. I just know I had 4 broken hearted children who needed some fun in their lives.

We went for a drive to Long Point, Ontario, it's a world biosphere protected zone or something like that. While we were driving, we listened to Brian's Fistfight  At the Wafflehouse.  "Thanksgiving" made us almost pee ourselves, knowing that even if we were having a screwy holiday, there probably were other families in worse states than us. I'm pretty sure we listened to the entire album, twice, even with innocent little ears in the van. We had plans to do another video for SpongeBob, got away from us. We laughed and that's all that mattered. I took a few great pictures that day, with smiles on their faces. These are my favourites:

Dakota and Braeden were camera shy. Shy is not in Cordelia's vocabulary.

We had a good Thanksgiving with a family from church whose extended family had children the same ages as ours. SO much food! It was a great day filled with laughter and love. Come to think of it, we had 2 Turkey Days...the people who put us up after the fire (or put up with us) fed us with as much love as food. We were very blessed that holiday weekend.

Anyway, that's our brief history with Brian Haner :-)

A few months ago, he released another book (he wrote Carney Man, too, but I've been nervous to read that one), called Ginny Reb.

You have to understand that Brian is a comedian. I really didn't know what to expect, other than in a tweet he mentioned that he was a history buff.

Brian wrote this book, from a young woman's point of view about her life during the Civil War. I love the Civil War and history (yes, I even took a couple of US history classes in University because, let's face it, American history is more exciting than Canadian - but I think Russia has us both beat: Russian history class was awesome).

Ginny Reb is a mixture of Titus Andronicus, Cymbeline, Mulan, and Somewhere in Time. Strange but wonderful. Ginny is a woman my daughter can look up to. I look up to her. She didn't need a knight on a white horse to save her. She saves herself - and the men, a real force to be reckoned with. I love her dearly.

The research Brian put into it...I can't imagine how long (question 1, Brian). The guns, clothes, battles, strategic lines - incredible detail - even down to what rations would be, how much ammo they'd carry.

But the book does not get bogged down in superfluous detail. It enriches the story. You can see the colour of the dirt, what the tents looked like, how soldiers treated those on or off their side.

This is where the book has its centre: it draws moral lines on the ground. It's not a book about right/wrong. It's a book about how an environment can change a person, how it can make the fight or flight response occur. Brian does an incredible job, not rationalising really, but explains how a person could become...more or less than who they really are. Circumstances happen in everyone's life where you need to make a choice - to die (inside, not just a physical death) or to fight (others, own instincts).

Question 2 to Brian would be, what side of the war was he trying to explain? It's not just about slavery. That is paramount in his writing - and in history. People focus on that, but it's about land, customs, societal norms...come to think of it, this is what the Idle No More movement is about, what First Nations rights are about. Hmmm...I'll think about that comparison some more and dissect my thoughts later.

There are some scenes which young eyes shouldn't read. I'll let Braeden read it. He's 15, but I wouldn't go younger than that. It's not graphic per se, it just kicks your heart in. I don't know how I'd recover from what happens to Ginny.

Question 3 - why didn't she open the letter? 4 - why no midwife (assuming they left when soldiers were coming in). 5 - Was there a women like this in that War?

Whatever you may think of Brian's music and lyrics, his portrayal of race relations is heart stopping, for good and bad. There is a scene in a church that brought tears to my eyes.

My mom raised me going to Emancipation Days in Amherstburg, Ontario. I worked at a museum which was said to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. I was honoured to work there (odd story - my mom worked there 10 years prior!)

This book is a quick read, even with me playing board games with the kids in between chapters. It only took 2-3 days to read.

The story about the watch made me sigh. The story about the letter baffles me. There is a brutal rape scene - be warned. No vocabulary was given to describe what exactly was done but hearing the thoughts from her father during it ripped my heart out, then and after when it was ...I don't want to give away too much. There is always fallout from a rape. Brian really understood what he wrote, even if he's a man. How he could write about the consequences from a man's perspective, and a woman's...I don't know how he did it (question 7?). Well done, Brian. I've had to counsel women after a rape (kinda comes with my job). Their fears are well explained in Ginny Reb. It actually does a damn fine job of it. I'm afraid to ask Brian how he knows those emotions (as well as the men who did it, or supported her after). I don't think I want to know.

If you want to buy the book, please go to to order. It's only $15 and WELL worth the money. AND he will sign it for you. You will be happy you did. If there is a young woman in your life, buy it for her. Ginny is a great heroine for any girl to look up to.

I have some favourite quotes, but I'll post another day, very profound statements that I shared with the boys immediately. I have to find them again before Braeden starts in.

I'm almost inclined to buy Carney Man. That song has some risqué parts, innuendoes mostly, that I'm not sure I'd enjoy if expanded on in a book. I'm not a 50 Shades-typereader. But if the book is like this, sign me up!

The only parts missing for me were: no midwife, the breastfeeding (you'd have to read the book to understand). Also, I would have liked to have read the discussion between Ginny and General Lee. That would have been entertaining.

Remarkable book by a great person (we've only communicated by email or twitter - is he really who he says he is? LOL).

I asked Brian to sign the CD to the kids, but he signed the book for me. Wonderful surprise. Nya:weh, Brian.

Let me know if you read it. Then we can talk more openly.