What to Read, and What to Watch

Two books about life in Scarborough, Ont., a subway ride east of downtown Toronto, are excellent but very different.  The one I prefer is David Chariandy’s novel Brother. brother1It is a relentless look at how black Canadians are stigmatized and marginalized in a poor suburb of Canada’s most ‘multicultural’ city.  Two young boys and their mother emigrate to Scarborough from the West Indies. From the saggy chairs at the public library, to shabby townhouses to the walk-up apartment buildings, the teens trudge the limits of lives. There are few kindness and no comforts. The book is stunning; it’s won two awards including the Toronto Book Award in 2017. scarborHernandez’ book is also about the disenfranchised of Scarborough.  Stories dovetail — the story about an Indigenous family in a shelter, a Korean aesthetician in a beauty parlour, and several others twist around issues such as identity, religion, hardship, social services and — most importantly a free breakfast program. There are swings from melancholy to anger to actual fun in the book — it is well done and you won’t put it down. 

primeLast night I watched Marjorie Prime. This  brilliant film is about ageing and death. But it’s fascinating.  An 85 year old woman discusses her late husband, his wants and needs with a hologram.  The hologram is a younger version of her late husband.  He is a cipher — repeats what she wants to hear.  Except things get testy with her grown daughter and son-in-law who live with her — and their memories which are usually at odds with the mother’s and the hologram’s.  I borrowed the DVD from the the Public Library…

Unless you really like Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles, I’d give this a miss. It’s more than 90 minutes long however the scenes of postwar Vienna are a bit staggering. Made in 1949, it is one of the most celebrated films of the post WWII period. I recommend you read Graham Greene’s book by the same name instead. The music, the signature tune, is played on a zither. That must have been a first.  But the performances are wooden, and the love interest rather overdone.  the_third_man

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