Late Nights on Air

So I finally finished reading Elizabeth Hay’s novel. I don’t know why it took me so long (6 weeks). Shortly after I finished my BA (yes in French Literature and English) I used to consume books at a rate not dissimilar to what was expected in my courses. But now I read probably only 6-8 novels/year. It’s not for lack of love. Books move me and get under my skin like no other art form. I enjoy a great film and can weep at objects or paintings in a gallery, but stories told by text on the page seem to stay with me for longer, leave a greater impression. At any rate, Late Nights on Air is no exception. I am still thinking about the details several days after turning the last page. It’s not so much that this is the best novel I’ve ever read. In fact, I would call it only good, not great. But what I loved – and what did leave me crying in the Sheraton Hotel bar at Toronto’s airport nearly 3 weeks ago – is how Hay evokes the north in her prose. While reading, I kept post-its handy and I would flag all the lines and paragraphs that captured the north in all the ways that I could not describe my experience in Whitehorse to others.

These are three of my favourite passages and three photos from my time in Whitehorse. I like these passages because they evoke my own experience and because they seem so piercingly accurate it’s as if she crawled into my brain and drew out the words I wanted to use.

“Officially the June sun set close to midnight and rose three hours later, but it never got dark. Dusk, yes. Between sunrise and sunset there was a soft sort of dusk and the street lights came on, but nobody needed them or noticed them. The constant light was like endless caffeine.”

This is looking out my bedroom window in July, close to midnight.

“Around Yellowknife, the miniature birches and poplars changed colour in August. For about two weeks they were a ravishing yellow-gold. It was quite astonishing, but so fast: every single leaf was on every single tree and every single leaf was yellow. Farther south, colour gathered on some leaves as others fell, and you only ever got a piece of the whole, but here you had all of the glory at once, and then it was gone.”
On a bike ride in mid-September (photo taken by P Gowdie).

“By evening the sky was clear. The light luminous and rich. Not as brilliant as the Mediterranean… Gentler. Almost autumnal. The hills didn’t have light on them, they were in light, the way something is in water.”

Light on Grey Mountain.

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4 comments

  1. holy cow, this is exactly how I feel about Bill Gaston’s book, Sointula. It’s not the best book out there, but the way Bill describes the west coast, the way of life, the trees, the landscape and the main character’s journey through it all makes me drool.. I can taste the crab fresh from the pot, I can smell the salt air, I can feel the smooth skin of the arbutus.. *sigh* I love books like this. I was different when I finished school. For about 2 years after I completed my master’s, I couldn’t read anything much more serious than a comic book. I’m not quite back to the speed at which I devoured books prior to school, but I’m getting there..

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  2. Excellent! Which Russian novels you like most? What I feel is all great novels have been written in pre-communist Russia only..I like best, among Russian novels,Dostoevsky's “Brother's Karmazov” [ Bible for 20th century],Anna Karenina of Tolstoy …and Pushkin is my another favorite..
    For Maigret, those TV shows are BBCs or some other production house?…But I would suggest you to read the books of Simenon, those are really great..plus his non Maigret novels like “Starngers in the house”,”REd Light”…Keep in touch…By the way though my amin blog is in Bengali I have an English blog also..sharing with you:http://notzfromunderground.blogspot.com/

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