I finish what I start (unless, of course, I lose interest in season 7 of the Netflix show I’m binge watching, or the book I’m reading falls behind my dresser and my arms are too short to reach it—rest in peace, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank—or I’m bored with the pencil crayon colours I chose for my adult colouring pages). So, like a tube of sour cream and onion Pringles, that 40 of rye in my freezer, and my masters degree, I will finish these PanLit Games posts. Better late than never:
All Lit Up has long been a supporter of Synchronized Reading, in all its forms: turning pages in perfect harmony, lipsyncing to audiobooks, and, one of our favourite columns to write: Read This, Then That. By extension, we’re also big fans of the sport of Synchronized Swimming, and RTTT resembles it by pairing two (or more) books that really go together. Work on that eggbeater, gelatine your hair, and get ready to see which group was the most N’SYNC. —All Lit Up
I submit to you Douglas Coupland’s The Gum Thief and Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments.
At first glance—heck, even second and third—these books appear to belong in entirely separate pools let alone on the same synchro swim team, but just trust me. I wouldn’t lead you astray (unless the path to Astray had swing dancers, a big band, and red wine, and Astray itself had endless shopping with limitless credit cards, free movie theatre popcorn, and a library like Belle’s—then I wouldn’t trust me any further than the length of my surprisingly long eyelashes). But here goes.
As I have said before (albeit, briefly), The Gum Thief is brilliant novel about the essentialness of dialogue, conversation, connection, wherein an actual face-to-face conversation is never held. An epistolary novel, the story is told through the entries of a journal shared by Roger, a middle-aged down and out alcoholic suffering through a series of shitty personal crises, and Bethany, a goth teen stuck in that awkward phase between adolescence and adulthood. Their journal, full of stories that are darkly comedic, hilariously tragic, and utterly captivating, sparks a friendship that never leaves the page, but that is strong and significant nonetheless.
Clearly, Attachments is a lighter novel. It’s cute and hopeful rather than melancholic, but it walks the same line (Johnny Cash would be so proud). Much like Roger, Lincoln is struggling. Lonely, listless, and working a McJob policing email correspondence, he is entertained by the messages between a young woman, Beth, and her friend. At first, he reads their emails to pass the time, but soon he realizes that his feelings for Beth are evolving. He falls in love with her through her stories, her humour, sight unseen. Without ever uttering a word, a strong and significant connection is forged between Lincoln (the stalker) and Beth (the oblivious). Spoiler: don’t worry—it’s not as creepy as it sounds.
My point: both novels see a strong bond and human connection forged through the written word. Or something like that. Tell me if I’m reaching on this one. Moving on:
Baseball is a team sport and everybody wants a team to work well together, right? That means more double and triple plays, more catching the opposite team trying to steal bases, and more grand slams (and probably a few more refreshments for the ballpark crowd, amirite?). There’s no curse of the Bambino with these titles: they all feature a winning cast of characters that will draw the reader in. —All Lit Up
In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje serves up an amazing cast of characters to play through the nine long innings that is the beautifully tragic tale of several alternating players that are as tightly laced as a pair of ball cleats. Patrick heads up the team as main character. While searching for Ambrose Small, a missing millionaire, he falls in love with Clara, the tycoon’s mistress. Clara leaves Patrick to find Ambrose and, dejected, Patrick works as a dynamiter, bringing a line of Macedonian immigrants to bat. Then Clara’s best friend Alice takes a swing at loving Patrick. They take a run at the bases together, but she’s taken out (she dies. How am I doing with this ball metaphor?) and he runs home to take care of her daughter Hana. Hana brings in Nicholas, a hero and baker as pinch hitter. At the bottom of the seventh, Patrick’s grief leads him to strike out (thievery and prison), which brings Caravaggio, an inmate, to bat. After a few insignificant characters who swing and miss, Patrick and Clara return to the front of the batting roster at the bottom of the ninth and win the game bringing Hana home in the end as their adopted daughter.
Aside: I know I tried too hard to keep the metaphor rolling. Almost caught up now:
Wikipedia tells us that in rhythmic gymnastics, one or more athletes manipulate one or more apparatuses – which, frankly, shows us that they don’t know anything about sports either. What we do know is that when those ribbons swirl and dip, circle and swish in real rhythmic gymnastics, we catch ourselves entranced, and quite possibly, drooling. Our picks for the Pan Lit Games rhythmic gymnastics final are books with covers as colourful and prose as muscular as any rhythmic gymnast. —All Lit Up
Room by Emma Donoghue wins. It may not be as brightly coloured as All Lit Up’s entries, but the four bright Crayola colours on the cover are in stark contrast to the dark content of the majority of the novel, and that makes it bright and swirly enough for my gymnastics mat. And regarding muscular prose—this book is strong. Strong, and graceful, and stubborn, and brave… and utterly exasperating. Exactly how I imagine gymnasts to be.
And voila! That, boys and girls, is the end of this very long post. I hope you enjoyed spectating as I struggled through three sports in one day. Check back sometime soon for the final event: Cycling.