The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel


One of the ‘engines of life is faith’.  In my opinion, this premise is core to Martel’s writing. Yann Martel consistently negotiates his way through this theme in his books, instead of avoiding it completely, which seems to be the norm in our world today.

This was one of the loveliest books I’ve read in a long time.  The shape/form of the book comes to the reader in three chunks; Homeless, Homeward and Home.  When I began to read chunk two, I said to myself, “HUH?” (I am not one of those who reads reviews first or who even reads the bits that appear on the book jacket.) With no transition from the seeming novella of chunk one, I didn’t ‘get’ what was happening.  I just decided to ‘go with it’.  I literally wept at the conclusion of chunk three.  Beauty.  Place. Home. Companionship. Family. Faith. Adventure and the human wanderings of our hearts.  All of these are themes of this book – part fantasy – part so real that it causes the heart to ache.

I fell in love with the landscapes…so clearly written, that in the evening, I wanted to return to the same places.

I was intrigued by the artifacts; Father Ulisses’ diary…the unusual crucifix…the workings of the four cylinder Renault.

The symbols and characters are, for me, very allegorical.  I think that my readers might agree that this device is used consistently, also, in The Life of Pi.  Martel’s imagery moves so far beyond metaphor.  One has to take the time to search their own sense of meaning and life, in order to really appreciate this book.  Since this is my practice all of the time, it comes naturally.

For some readers, the detailed description of the ‘magical’ autopsy, may provoke some upsetting feelings or sense of disbelief, but for me, this, in chunk 2, was imperative.  It is interesting that, most recently, a lot of my reading is helping me with and through my grief story.  This one, truly, was the most helpful to me to this point.  Perhaps it is the fact that it appeals to the artistic side of me and taps upon the wounded part of my imagination.  Loss does amazing things.

Finally, the relationship between Odo and Peter in the Home section, chunk 3, found me both laughing and crying throughout.  I DID feel HOME in this chapter.

I hope that my reading-friends will pick this one up and get back to me on your thoughts.  I’m looking forward to hearing Yann Martel at Wordfest this week.  I find his writing appeals to me.  Of his works, the only disappointment for me was in Self and my comments scratched in the front cover on November 14, 2012, simply say that the book was ‘tragic and in so many ways, for me, insincere.  Difficult in places and not humourous as the reviews present.’

A thorough review on “The High Mountains of Portugal”… and I agree, there are no spoilers reading reviews on this book because when you enter into the experience, it is sure to be your own.

It was a beautiful evening at the John Dutton Theater, listening to a great interview with Yann Martel and speaking with him for a short while, about grief.

Cell March 16, 2016 Yann Martel Franks Max 050




Demolition Art House

Demolition Art House.


It’s an awesome thing when projects such as this take place in the City of Calgary.  I was pleased when this led me to an exploration of this blog.  It doesn’t matter the distance that separates us, artists share a common vision of the world; reactions to space/place, response to a vast number and combination of media,  and the making of individual or collective meaning.  I think all art is narrative.

Stuff That Inspires

Woolen Mill


The same Mule that was located in the Magrath Card and Spinning Mill, now located in the Carstairs Woolen Mill.

I am so proud of my family.  As I do the research of both my paternal and maternal sides, I  learn more about humanity.  The history lectures in school transmitted the details and the dates of the Industrial Revolution, the poverty of England and Ireland, the Workhouses and the mass immigration to a Nation that would offer hope and economic relief.  On the French side, I read the history chapters about the Mass Expulsion of the French Acadians, but none of it reached into my heart until I discovered the names of my relations on Census documents and learned of their stuggles and demise.  I continue to search for the details of their lives because now I know ‘what I am made of’.  I now understand why my immediate family is filled with hard-workers and determined, strong individuals.  I love my family!

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

90 pages left…and the most difficult ‘read’ of my adult life.  I have read the various literary perceptions of the novel, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, and 340 pages in, can’t agree that this is a fine example of American Romanticism!  Perhaps I have been missing something as I’ve been inching my way through this elaborate description of the physical structures of various whales, and the hunting, the harvesting, the hanging and cooking- down of the various whales.  This ‘classic’ has been a struggle.  I would love to know other reader’s perceptions of this novel.  I’ve never thought to ask anyone, “Have you read Moby Dick?”  I just assumed that everyone else had and that I had been ‘late to the bloom’.  Now, I truly wonder who, like me, would invest such time and thought to absorbing and making sense of this. 

Initially, I thought the book was ‘genius’, as Ishmael met Queequeg at the onset and then the two boarded the whaling ship, the Pequod.  To be positive, this book has enlightened my art work, in terms of the complete and exact descriptions about the whaling ships, but this certainly hasn’t been my typical evening reading!  It has been very challenging…given its apparent symbolism and mysticism.  I’m remaining optimistic, now that I’ve read about the Pequod’s blacksmith…and I’m anxious to finally meet Moby Dick. I hope to gain clarity in the remaining chapters.  Your perceptions of the novel are welcomed!

I agree with this…

Moby-Dick contains large sections—most of them narrated by Ishmael—that seemingly have nothing to do with the plot but describe aspects of the whaling business. Melville believed that no book up to that time had portrayed the whaling industry in as fascinating or immediate a way as he had experienced it. Early Romantics also proposed that fiction was the exemplary way to describe and record history, so Melville wanted to craft something educational and definitive. Despite his own interest in the subject, Melville struggled with composition, writing to Richard Henry Dana, Jr. on May 1, 1850:

I am half way in the work … It will be a strange sort of book, tho’, I fear; blubber is blubber you know; tho’ you might get oil out of it, the poetry runs as hard as sap from a frozen maple tree; — and to cook the thing up, one must needs throw in a little fancy, which from the nature of the thing, must be ungainly as the gambols of the whales themselves. Yet I mean to give the truth of the thing, spite of this.[19]