Monthly Archives: April 2014

Book Wednesday: The Commitments, by Roddy Doyle

This was Roddy Doyle’s debut novel, published in 1987. It was adapted into a movie, in 1991, and in a West End musical theater show, last summer. It tells the story of a group of young Irishmen-and-women who form a soul band, reach some level of local success, and suddenly crash and burn due to interpersonal conflicts.

I picked up the book for one very, very specific reason: there is a small chance that I might see the musical this summer, and I didn’t want to take the risk of breaking my personal vow to read the book first, whenever I can.

I was pleasantly surprised by the book. In many ways, the writing is similar to my own: on the short side (the copy I had was 176 pages long, with a pretty good sized print) and dialog heavy. The writing is also different to my own, in many ways. There are a lot of quoted song lyrics and onomatopoeic representation of musical instruments, which I don’t do because the idea of breaking copyright laws and getting sued really scare me. There are no chapters, which I’ve never tried, but I might, at some point, because I find it interesting. The dialog is written with a very heavy accent, which I don’t do because reading accents annoys me, and I don’t like inflicting things that annoy me unto other people.

But still, picking up this book, knowing it was a success, adapted to the stage and the screen alike, and noticing similarities with my own writing style, it’s nice. It gives me hope for the future.

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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Theater Monday: Waiting for Godot

I don’t think it’s possible to study French literature, and therefore by extension French theater, without studying Waiting for Godot. It is the ultimate play of the Absurd school. It is a play that happens nowhere, at no time, and is mostly deep and illogical dialog about, among many things, a guy no one ever sees, written in French by an Irish playwright. A Modern French Theater Study teacher’s wet dream.

Two homeless men, Vladimir and Estragon, are sitting beneath a tree, by the side of a road, waiting for a man named Godot, who is going to change their life, though they’re not sure how. The days pass, we’re not sure how many, and Godot never comes, always sending someone with the message that he will come the next day. It’s very deep and meaningful and everything, though I could probably use a re-read.

My strongest memory of the play is the time I’ve missed seeing it. When I was studying literature in college, the theater class required that every student see, and critic, a live play. The teacher organised a field trip to Montreal, for the whole class to see that play. (I can understand the purpose of the trip; it’s easier to correct the homework if everyone sees and writes about the same play. As for the choice of the play, well, see the first paragraph.) I couldn’t go, and I can’t remember why. I want to say that it’s because I had surgery on my jaw, but I know that’s not it, because it was the fall semester, and I had that surgery in February. Maybe I had a doctor’s appointment, to prep for the surgery?

The point is, I had to go see a different play, and I missed a lot of in-jokes over the next two years.

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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Anything goes Friday: I love etymology

As promised last Friday, here is my post on etymology.

Have you ever thought about how weird language is? It becomes especially obvious when you speak more then one language, and the languages in question are wildly different. In my case, those would be French and English.
Take the word “green”. Simple enough, right? I say that word, and you think of the color, and unless you are among the 2.5% of the population who are color-blind, you’re going to think of a color that’s at least similar to the one I’m thinking of. Did you ever wonder why we call this color “green”?
Tracing back through Middle English and Old English and Proto-German and even Proto-Indo-European, it is linked to the root of the word “grow”. Which makes sense; a lot of things that grow are green (plants, flowers, tree leaves, moss, etc.) and vice-versa. In French, however, the color is called “vert”, which can be traced back to the Latin word for “fresh”, and/or “vigorous”. What I find really interesting is that the reason French (and Spanish and Italian) draw so heavily from the Latin is the fact that the Romans invaded, and remained there for centuries. Yet the Romans were also in England for centuries, six of them to be exact, and almost no Latin roots can be found in the modern English language.
And think about the Celts. They occupied a pretty large portion of Europe, including both France and England, for at least as much time as the Romans did, and yet what trace is there of the Celtic influence in either language? Nothing, unless you count the math.
If you count up to 20, you see that each number is described by a different word. 21, on the other hand, is written in two words: twenty (20), and one (1). Only to more you think about it, the less it makes sense. We use Arabic numerals, we count on a base of ten, why is eleven even a word? Logically, 11 should be ten-one, the same way 21 is twenty-one. Who counts on a base of twenty?
The Celts, of course. In the Celtic language, 30 is twenty-ten, 40 is two-twenty, 50 is two-twenty-ten, 60 is three-twenty, 70 is three-twenty-ten, 80 is four-twenty, 90 is four-twenty-ten. And while that bit of counting was lost to the practicalities of modern mathematics, the individual names of numbers from one to twenty remain.
And in French, the link is even more obvious. Number from one to sixteen have their own name (it’s possible that 17, 18 and 19 also all had their names, but their are now ten-seven, ten-eight and ten-nine) AND the numbers between 60 and 100 are counted on a base of 20. 71 is sixty-ten-one, 83 is four-twenty-three, 95 is four-twenty-fifteen.
Isn’t this all amazing?! And what’s even more amazing is that France and England are really close to each other, they shared so much cultural background, and yet they developed languages so completely different from each other.
(It might have something to do with the fact that they spent over 500 years actively at war with each other, but that’s a story for another day.)

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Posted by on April 4, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Book Wednesday: A new review for the Admirer

It came out Monday, on Steampunk Canada. Check it out!

(Yes, it’s a short one today. And yes, maybe it is a little bit cheating to use my own book for Book Wednesday. I don’t care. I’m busy this week. And I’m excited about the review. Review! Woo Hoo!)

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Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Uncategorized


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