The good news about being sick is I can usually while away the time reading. My brain is too woozy to do much else, but I’ve had three great fiction experiences in a row:
Steven Heighton – The Shadow Boxer
Michael Winter – The Architects Are Here
Elizabeth Hay – Late Nights On Air
Heighton’s book was perfect for the early flu. There are a few chapters towards the middle-end where the main character is holed up in a lighthouse on an island in hallucinatory fever. How lovely to find a character to commiserate with. I didn’t have to cut off any appendages thank heavens. You’ll have to read the book to see what I’m talking about. It’s a great book, much in the Romantic spirit of a 19th century novel such as René by Chauteaubriand.
Winter’s novel is the third one I’ve read of his and while it isn’t my very favourite (I loved the Big Why), I enjoyed it. The plot gets more and more bizarre and gruesome. For a sick person, it’s good to know that worse things can happen. The main thing I enjoy about Winter’s writing is the style. There’s something very informal and conversational about it that lulls me into a sense of contentment and then WHAM a really terrible thing happens. I recommend it for the middle stage of the flu, rather than an early stage. In the middle, your synapses are numb to surprises but you can appreciate them from afar.
I have to admit I’ve only just started Hay’s novel, but I’m really enjoying it. It’s so engrossing. Hay has such a depth of understanding for the way people think and how they handle their lives based on these mindsets. The book feels exotic to me: it concerns a bunch of people who are basically isolated together in an exotic locale, a radio station in the far north. Each person has a history and we learn about it slowly over time. I find solace in their isolation. Definitely a towards the end of the flu book, since it is a bit of a page turner and hence not for the sluggish brain.
Another pastime I recommend highly for the sick and weary is listening to podcasts. I have never had much patience to wait for an interesting program to come on the radio. I’ve always been frustrated that you can’t set a timer and tape a show like you can with a VCR and television. A podcast is a great way to hear shows that you missed out on or sometimes to hear additional features on the same show. My favourite podcasts are all from the CBC. Words at Large has been doing a special feature on the Canada Reads books. I heard a fantastic rebroadcast of an interview of Timothy Findley by Peter Gzowski on Not Wanted on the Voyage.
I also enjoy the podcast Outfront. For this podcast, the general public submits their true stories and they get picked for the show. I heard a fascinating story about a bush pilot whose plane crashed and killed a grandfather and a grandson, his visit to the grieving mother years later. Another tale told of a former prostitute and heroin addict who helps women today.
And then there’s my favourite non CBC podcast from Zunior.com. Zunior.com is a wonderful Canadian online music store that also offers a free sampler of music each month. For the podcast, every month, Dave from Halifax gives us a rundown of the most recent music they’ve acquired. I’ve discovered all kinds of amazing music this way by folks like Megan Hamilton, Mardeen, Wax Mannequin, Jen Grant and Royal Wood.
There are lots of other great podcasts around too, also for poetry, but I find I have less patience for listening to podcasts for poetry. I’m not sure why. Penn Sound is good, and miPoRadio isn’t bad either, but for some reason when I’m sick I can’t seem to take in anything to do with poetry. Another site where you can hear authors reading is the very aptly named Authors Aloud which has both podcasts and direct access to the files.
If you just want to try one, you can just go to the site and listen, but you can also subscribe. I use Itunes for that, but there are other ways, including RSS feeds.
The downside of having the flu is missing out on all the great readings and events around town, like tonight's launch of Cheapeats Ottawa and last night's Tree with Ian Roy. I'm hoping my fellow bloggers will keep me informed. I definitely plan to go to the A B series on Friday to hear Jay MillAr, Emily Falvey and Monty Reid. You can hear Emily and Jay on Mitchell Caplan's Click Here radio show this afternoon at 5pm. I wish it were podcast ;)