my-hundred-lovers-susan-johnsonSUSAN JOHNSON

The 100 Lovers are various times and lovers when the main character, Deb, is happy. Her ‘lovers’ also include sunshine, cheese, going to the hairdresser, new pencils and Paris. “I remember a peach I once ate in a garden in France, sitting next to my new husband. The sweetness of the peach seemed to match the sweetness at the heart of the world. At that moment I believed I would never again feel contingent, or estranged from sweetness.” Johnson is a wonderful writer; Lovers is almost a poem. “She was a daydream, a breath, nothing other than what the body wanted.” As Deb turns 50 she looks back on her life with wonder, love and a sense of adventure. “In the months leading up to my fiftieth birthday I observed the first tentative signs of life’s waning … the face I had worn all my adult life began to change into the face of someone else … My body was in the thrilling first flush of its death throes.” She starts with her conception, though the novel is not completely in chronological order. Her parents were completely self-absorbed, Dad a philanderer, Mom had been famous for her beauty – ‘you’re nothing out of the box,’ she tells her daughter, ‘I was exquisite when I was your age’.  One night, her mother: ‘ran upstairs and dragged me from my dreaming bed to the top of the stairs so that when my father opened the front door he was confronted by the sight of my mother holding the tip of the knife against my throat. ‘If you take another step I’ll slit her throat.’ ” Despite her childhood she comes away loving life and who she is both at 16 and at 50.

My Hundred Lovers is a hymn celebrating life.



The most bizarre bank robbery opens Wife. The the thief, flamboyantly wearing a purple hat, demands from all present in the bank the most sentimental item they possess. Not their money, “It was never about the money.” He receives a watch given to a man by his mother, photo graphs of children, a calculator by the mathematics loving wife of the narrator, a much read copy of The Stranger by Camus, among other precious objects. The thief tells the people he has taken 51 percent of their souls and that they will need to learn to grow them back or they will die. Thus the fable begins and so does the magic realism of this novella. The victims begin to notice strange things happening to them. A woman’s lion tattoo leaps off her leg and proceeds to chase her about the city. A baby fills his diapers with money instead of excrement. A woman wakes to find her husband has turned into a snowman. A man realizes his mother has become small enough to fit in his pocket, but worse, she exponentially multiplies, so that there are dozens of her. The narrator’s wife, Stacey, mother of their toddler, is shrinking at a rate she calculates will mean she will disappear in a matter of days.

At one point, the thief says to the husband: “Perhaps one of the hardest things about having kids is realizing that you love them more than your wife. That it’s possible to love someone more than your wife. What’s worse is that it’s a love you don’t have to work for. It’s just there, indestructible, getting stronger and stronger. While the love of your wife, the one you do have to work at, and work so very hard at, gets nothing. Gets neglected, left to fend for itself. Like a houseplant forgotten on the windowsill.”

Wife is well written and is a quick read. Check it out to find out which victims can grow back their souls and how. Well worth the read.


a-french-novel-400x627FREDERIC BEIGBEDER

“It is difficult to recover from an unhappy childhood, but to recover from a sheltered childhood may be impossible.” It is difficult at times to tell if French is a novel or an autobiography. The main character and narrator has the author’s name. Frederic claims he has no recall of his childhood until he is thrown into jail and later into prison for snorting cocaine off the hood of a car out side a Parisian nightclub. It is in the confines of lockup with nothing to do that his memories gradually return to him. Not only his memories but the stories he has heard of his grandparents and great grandparent reaching back to both world wars. He complains bitterly about the confinement, “I’m just a privileged child deprived of his comforts as punishment for his overgrown rich-kid self-indulgence… Do not dismiss my suffering; comfort has been the great struggle of the French ever since the Liberation.” and especially the squalor of the prison, “in THE COUNTRY THAT GAVE BIRTH TO HUMAN RIGHTS.”

Novel is quite funny in places. It is a provacative look at the French and their culture through the sixties and seventies. Well worth the read.

BAD ENGLISH: A History of Linguistic Aggravation


“I find the tendency to belittle people for verbal slights to be quite distasteful,” Shea writes. “One of the things that is most curious about people who hold themselves up as language purists is that they seem to spend considerably more time complaining about language than they do celebrating it.” His thesis is that if you go back far enough the word or grammatical error that a purist is complaining about most likely had a different meaning before its current meaning.  He has three main ideas: 1) Words can have multiple meanings. 2) Common usage trumps inflexible rules. 3) And the history of the English language is on the side of permissiveness. My favourite section of the book  is on Shea’s take on textspeak: “Complaining about young people’s linguistic proclivities is about as predictable as predictable as complaining about their music. The first recorded use to date of OMG is from 1917.” In 1887 there was a suggestion to use type written marks to convey emotions. Vladimir Nabokov said that he often thought “there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile.

Well written and quite funny, I found it to be an enjoyable read.

You can use funner and funnest, but you should bear in mind that anyone who chastises you for this use is unlikely to be interested in hearing your explanation for why it should be acceptable. These words will grate on the ears of many for some while to come.