Me up at the Lake Of Many Narrows. That's not its real name. But if you can speak Ojibway, it's a pretty good hint.
I love to cook. I can happily spend all day creating a meal that might get gobbled up in fifteen minutes. As long as you like the people doing the gobbling, it’s worth it. Come to think of it, I’ll happily spend a year or two writing a book that I hope will get gobbled up in one night, which is sort of the same thing.
When you’re cooking you can listen to music, especially Tom Allen on CBC’s Radio Two Morning: the start to a perfect day. Then on Saturdays you have to time the run to the garbage dump and picking up the newspapers so that you don’t miss a moment of Quirks & Quarks, the weekly science journal. Thank God for CBC Radio.
You have to pick up the Saturday paper, not because of the news, but so that you’ve got the New York Times Crossword, which takes me days to finish, but which I’m convinced is keeping my brain from turning into tapioca. My dream is to create a crossword puzzle good enough to be accepted by Will Shortz, the crossword maven at The New York Times.
But I also really like the Cyberquotes in the Ottawa Citizen. Here’s one I made up myself. It’s easy, a line from a children’s picture book. See if you can figure it out.
H S G B G Q M X Q A K M M B M A A W X B S D X J
H S G B G Q R H T M Q D M J, W X J – H – X J
-- S K. W M N W W
Where was I? Oh, yeah, in the kitchen. I especially like Paella. It’s a Spanish dish with shrimp and chorizo sausage and saffron and … so many good things. You have to use a huge paella pan to cook it and it takes up most of the top of the stove. Fabulous! I also love Thai cuisine with all that basil, cilantro, cocoanut milk and Nam Pla, which is fish gravy. But you know what: Italian, Greek, Mexican, Lebanese, Indian and Japanese cuisine – I love it all! Truth to tell, I’ve never met any kind of cuisine I didn’t like. Except fast food. I’ve got no time for fast food. (Okay, a shawarma now and then, but that’s all.) And I’ve got all the time in the world for slow food. That’s a paradox, I guess. A tasty paradox.
I don’t watch much TV, except I love NFL Football and Masterpiece Theater. A strange mix, I know. I also love real football, the kind played with your feet – the kind that the rest of the world outside of North America calls football. My favorite team is Liverpool, because I was born right across the Mersey River from that famous city.
Mostly, however, I do a lot of reading. What do I like? Lots of things. Mostly fiction – mostly mysteries -- but other stuff as well. It’s hard to make a desert Island list, but here are some recent favorites: Feed by MT Anderson, The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, Possession by A.S. Byatt, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, Saturday by Ian McEwan, Old Filth by Jane Gardam, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, Havana Bay by Martin Cruz Smith, Acid Row by Minette Walters, Fatherland by Robert Harris, Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt, The Way the Crow Flies by Anne-Marie MacDonald and Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson.
Just to name a handful.
I’ve also been reading all of Ian Rankin’s “John Rebus” mysteries set in that gloomy and wonderful city, Edinburgh. Even gloomier are Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko books set in Moscow, and just slightly less gloomy are Peter Robinson’s wonderful Inspector Banks mysteries set in Yorkshire. I love all that gloom and shadows lurching out of it.
If you tied me up and wouldn’t let me go until I named my all-time favourite book, I’d probably say The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne. My next choice might be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, or maybe Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen or The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Dracula? Maybe. Then again, I loved Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré (I’ve read pretty well everything LeCarre ever wrote). Then there’s The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, and How Tom Beat Captain Njork and His Hired Sportsmen by Russel Hoban, and Angel Square, by Brian Doyle, and Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, and Carol Shields’ The Republic of Love.
Did I mention Tales of a Gambling Grandma, by Dayal Kaur Khalsa?
You see how crazy it gets? When I was a kid I loved Enid Blyton’s “Adventure” series more than anything. I also roared with laughter at The Freddy the Pig books by Walter R. Brooks. Then there was Tom Swift Junior and the Hardy Boys.
When I was in my twenties I read Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Herman Hesse and Richard Brautigan. Everybody I knew was reading them. I devoured Graham Greene, after that. I loved C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hiddeous Strength. And, for a while, I was big on Charles Williams, who, along with Lewis and Tolien was part of a group at Oxford called The Inklings. Williams wrote religious thrillers. I was going through a religious phase back then.
I could go on and on, but I’ll stop. Oh, apart from mentioning Chris van Allsburg’s The Mysterious Harris Burdick, and John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids and Barbara Pym’s No Fond Return of Love, and all the Raymond Chandler mysteries set in the mean streets of LA…okay, okay, I’ll stop.
Thrillers, romances, picture books, poetry – Yikes! I totally forgot about poetry, which I read a lot of, especially Ron Koertge and Billy Collins. Anyway, it’s hard to find any kind of consistency in my reading patterns except maybe that I lean towards British authors.
But about that desert island… The thing is, you’d want something that was going to take a long time to read if you really were stuck on a desert island. So I’d choose the complete works of William Shakespeare. When kids ask me who my hero is, I say William Shakespeare. In fact Shakespeare is about as close as I come to having a religion, anymore; that’s called Bardolatry, by the way. I probably understand about sixty percent of what I read or hear when I see a play by Shakespeare, but just the hearing itself is so good for the ear. And sixty percent is up by about forty percent from what I understood when I studied him in high school. There’s just so much to learn, I’ll be reading him for the rest of my life. Desert island or not.