Tag Archives: spiritual

The Last Hiccup- by Christopher Meades


Tiny-Syn: lasthiccup

Vladimir lives in a small town in Russia where it’s winter most of the time. It is the 1930s and he is a small boy who wakes up one day and has hiccups that won’t go away.

After many sleepless nights (because of the hiccups) his mother brings him to a hospital in Moscow to be cured by the best doctor in the city. Thus taken from his home and mother, Vladimir is the recipient of many life experiences where eventually he comes to terms with his curse.

Larger Synopsis:

This is a wild and strangely exciting book about a boy named Vladimir who develops a serious case of the hiccups. Vladimir’s hiccups are so extreme that they keep him up at night. After three straight days, his impoverished mother brings him into Moscow to be cured by the best doctors in the Soviet Union.

The next few years for Vladimir are ones of medical intervention and trauma. This included a nightly routine of morphine to help him fall asleep at night. Through a strange rivalry between two doctors in the hospital, Vladimir is eventually ousted from Moscow and spends the rest of his childhood in an Mongolian Buddhist temple.

His hiccups remain with him until he travels back home, first to Moscow and then to see his mother.  The story ends with the good Vladimir sacrificing himself for the betterment of someone he loves, and dies a gruesome death while coming to terms with his hiccups.

Meades creates a bizarre and satirical world for Vladimir. The back cover of this novel calls The Last Hiccup a HumCanLit (a genre in which I’d been ignorant of all these years!). It is a strange tale, but not so strange as to be fantastical. The character of Vladimir lacked a bit of depth, but the premise was compelling enough that Meades pulled it off.  I don’t enjoy a lot of satirical novels, but this one I finished right to the very end!

I’m still struggling to piece my thoughts together on this one. I think the point of the book (and of the hiccups) is that as humans we struggle with the need to be recognized and appreciated. Vlady developed hiccups just at a time when he was developing a sense of self-hood. When a person’s place in the world is tentative, such as during adolescence, the desire for significance becomes important. Vladimir, in order to survive must come to term with his curse and learn to rely on his hiccups as a touchstone of who he is and ultimately how he will be defined.

And so, I recommend The Last Hiccup wholeheartedly. Unless of course, you dislike allegory. Some of the facts were a bit under-developed and puzzling, but for the most part I found the book intriguing and humorous.


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Touch, by Alexi Zentner (or WHY I READ)

Touch (and why I read)

I love to read. As an adolescent, I read the entire young adult section at my tiny municipal library. This fervor has not lessened with age. Why do I like to read so much?

There are easy answers to this question.  Maybe I’m bored (or boring!) Or, reading takes me to places I would never otherwise go.  What is it about holding a book? I could watch a movie and get the same entertainment and artistic introspection.

I read because I want connection.

A book tells me what someone is thinking. Another person’s spirit connects with me and expands my mind. If the book is gratifying, it can give words and comprehension to feelings I didn’t even know I was dealing with. Thoughts sit in the back of my mind waiting for words to pull them out. It’s a similar feeling to when you learn a new word for the first time; afterward, the word will pop up everywhere.

I don’t know what the meaning of life is, but I have some small notions. When I read, these ideas seem bigger and clearer.  Books help me see more of the world; I can hear another person’s thoughts and then I understand life more acutely.

I’ve been hovering over the significance of religion in society, considering its necessities and implications. As luck would have it, last month I picked up a book called Touch by Alexi Zentner (Knopf Canada, 2011).  The book, set in the gold rush town Sawgamet, in interior BC, explores the connection between three generations of a family. Starting with the first settlers in the 19th Century, Zentner’s Touch explores the way belief and faith change the memories we use to weave our stories together.

Sawgamet is a world of ghosts and ancient monsters living in the woods and deep crevices of the rivers and lakes. Interior British Columbia in the 1800s was a world untouched and ancient. To make sense of this harsh world, legends and folklore abounded.  As more settlers came, they pushed the woods away with each cut tree. As the town grew, the forests become less dark and frightening. The wild became less wild, the cold less intense, starvation a rarer threat.  Thus, the stories people use to fight these fears, less important.

Touch, Alexi Zentner

As I age, certain fears I had are less encompassing. As a result, the beliefs I built my existence on are refining. I am left to wonder what holds me to this world I live in. What sort of person am I when the things I’ve built my life around settle down and become as see-through as the apparitions in the deep Sawgamet woods?

I don’t know the answer to this. But I’m glad that someone else is wondering these things too. Even if I don’t find answers to questions of my purpose, at the very least I’ve read some good literature.

In the spirit of connections between authors and their readers, I’m very excited for this year’s Hamilton GritLit Festival, a weekend event with readings and workshops starting on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012.

Alexi Zentner will be a guest reader on Friday evening (March 30th, 2012). The literary-minded in the city can find more information about GritLit Festival on their website at http://www.gritlit.ca.

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

 Who would like this book?

-someone who’s interested in the role of marriage in history and our current culture

-someone who thinks ALL this can be done in a 300-page book

-a hard-core Elizabeth Gilbert fan

I finished Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert in two days. I didn’t find it a particularly profound book. I read it at a time when I needed to hear Gilbert’s message about living in the moment and being content. But all in all, I did enjoyed EPL, thought at moments it was hilarious, and recommended it to several people. The book was also my intro to”travel” memoirs.

Committed is the sequel to Eat Pray Love.

I heard Gilbert interviewed on CBC, and she said that it was difficult for her to write this book, as if her voice could not be found. As someone who “dabbles” a bit with writing, I picked this up in the book almost immediately. Gilbert desires more than anything, for this book to be a different book then Eat Pray Love, which was on the New York Times Best Seller Book list for 187 weeks.  It seems, from the feel of Committed, that she didn’t want to ride on the success of her book Eat Pray Love, and desired to release a different sounding book, but could not. I think that Gilbert does not want to be typecast. Or maybe she just got lucky with Eat Pray Love and couldn’t pull it off again in a sequel. On an incredibly creepy note,  Gilbert is listed as one of the decade’s most influential people by Time Magazine.

The book Committed: a skeptic makes peace with Marriage, is a boring title for a boring book.

In the conclusion of the book Eat Pray Love, Gilbert meets a man who she falls madly in love with. He is Australian/Brazilian and she is American. Gilbert wants to settle in the lovely U.S. of A, but her boyfriend Felipe is denied the ability to enter the US unless she sponsors him through marriage. Gilbert is absolutely, positively opposed to marriage.

So, she wrote Committed to come to terms with forced marriage, and the entire institution of Marriage.

She researches marriage somewhat through history,  and somewhat across cultures to come up with a mental justification, a pretense so she can marry in good conscience. Chapters and chapters of ramblings ensue that include something about motherhood and about pioneers. She concludes ( I assume) that marriage is what you make of it. That it changes with each individual and evolves over time. Commitment means something different in each relationship.

I’m only assuming because I didn’t finish the book.

I am a very STRONG advocate of not finishing books. Life is too short to read books that you think you should read because it was recommended to you, or because you think they are culturally relevant. So this book fell into that category for me. I wasn’t worth my time. I only enjoyed the few parts of the book where Gilbert introduces someone she has met or talked to about marriage. She is a gifted humourist and can paint people vividly.

She pissed me off too, because she said that Alan and I were extremely likely to separate. Well, she didn’t address us personally, but we had the Liz Gilbert divorce factors nailed down:  getting married young, having kids, being Christian, wife with no career (husband with no career yet, for that matter)….   What I can say to Elizabeth Gilbert, who is in her late 30s, is that life is not simply about factors that are met or not met. Marriage is much more complex than that. Maybe she said the same thing, but I didn’t get to that part in the book.


PS. If anyone LOVED this book, please argue with me!


Committed to Marriage
Ah...marital bliss.