10-pages-in: Motion Sickness and Typing

I’m reading two CanLit memoirs right now, one forgettable and one fabulous. So while I’m considerably more than 10 pages in to either of them, I can’t help comparing and contrasting them.

The first is David Layton’s 1999 memoir and first book, Motion Sickness. It’s mostly the story of his childhood living with and without his father, famous Canadian poet Irving Layton, and his slightly off-balance mother. Because I so liked his debut novel The Bird Factory, I thought I would enjoy his memoir as well.

Not so much.

I’m about two-thirds of the way though, and I’ve actually stopped reading it. It’s a library loaner, so I’ve renewed it for another three weeks in case I work up the stamina to see it through to the end, but it’s probably going back unfinished. After quite liking his first-person protagonist in the fictional Bird Factory, I find his autobiographical self quite unlikeable. The story of his childhood, which mostly seems to consist of his mother dragging them from Toronto to Britain to Greece and points in between, is considerably less interesting that you might expect.

On the other hand, I am completely in love with the rather unlikeable Canadian author Matt Cohen only half way through his memoir, Typing: A life in 26 keys. He weaves his own “how I became a writer” story tightly into the coming of age of nationalist Canadian literature, against the backdrop of free love and free drugs in 1960s and 1970s Toronto. I’m half-way through, and with each passing page I further regret that Cohen died only two weeks after this book was complete. It’s a compelling story well told – what more do you want from a book?

If nothing else, these two stories are a good illustration of why you should write your memoirs at the end of your career and not at the beginning.

Do you read more than one book at a time? I usually have one stashed beside my bed, and another tucked into my bag for reading on the bus. I try to read non-fiction during daylight hours, because by the time I’m tucked into bed I want sheer escapist entertainment with no thought required. In general, aside from the slew of writers’ memoirs and manuals I’ve read lately, I don’t generally like non-fiction. What’s your favourite genre?


Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

8 thoughts on “10-pages-in: Motion Sickness and Typing”

  1. when i’m not in school, i ususally have two or three books on the go at all times. This summer i devoured books – read about 25 -30 in the four months i had between final exams and the start of classes this semester.
    i have a hard time with autobiographies and memoirs – i tend to find them self-indulgent and annoying so i try and avoid them. However, the Cohen book sounds interesting. perhaps when school is over…

  2. I usually have a few on the go. I also used to never not finish a book but since my time is so precious now, if I do not like it, I ditch it.
    I’m reading nothing but the TV guide right now but I tend to read non-fiction or “chick lit” when I read. Just can’t deal with anything to “heavy” anymore. If the cover isn’t pink or does not have a pair of shoes on it, I don’t buy it.
    Sad, but true.

  3. Hey great timing Dani – I have Layton’s Motion Sickness on my nightstand, also from the library waiting to be started, and I think I’ll simply return it and not waste my time. I grabbed it since the library has yet to get a copy of the Bird Factory.
    I can only read one ‘book’ at a time, but can always read a quickie gossip mag or Style at Home at same time as well. I much prefer fiction, but can’t say I have ever given the non-fic side a genuine chance.
    I am currently finishing ‘A Complicated Kindness’ and have a huge pile from which to choose my next one. Gotta finish kindness though, due at library on Friday.
    I am lately a big fan of chick-lit – so much fun and easy to read. But. I like many different ‘genres’ as well.
    However, like Jen, and all the shows starting, I am rather linked to my TV Times these days, checking and double checking and setting the VCR. Priorities, ya know?

  4. Well right now I’m addicted to reading blogs…but they don’t curl up well in bed or the bath…Yes I read in the bath. LOL!
    I read just about anything although I draw the line at horror, did that bought the t shirt when I was teenager and never felt the need to go back. I love Historical based fiction. Anything like Authurian legend will grab my attention PDQ! I also like things off the beaten track. I love a good quick read like a chick flic once and awhile. I have alitte more trouble reading Human realtionship type books a la Oprah…I don’t need that MY life is screwy enough with out reading someone elses. LOL! OOOps sorry went on a tangent.
    Oh and of course I love Harry! 😉

  5. I cannot read more than one book at a time. I just have this weird guilt thing about it. Like the first book is going to be hurt that I’m ditching it for a new, more exciting book.
    And my favorite genre is children’s lit, if that can be considered a genre. When I read something grown-up, it’s usually science journal articles or editorials. Dorky dorky dorky.

  6. If it’s print, I’ll read it.
    Well, almost. I don’t read much/any horror, western or romance. I have hang-ups about those particular genres. But mainstream, literary, sci-fi, fantasy, poetry, science (from general to specific), memoirs, biographies (especially of people from way-back–recent is less interesting to me), culture/media studies, feminism, politics…. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. Oh, plus magazines–I have several subscriptions (Room of One’s Own, a fabulous Canadian women’s lit mag, Bitch (feminist), Creating Keepsakes and Memory Makers (ahem–I’m not saying). And then I read the odd SciAm, and Erik’s national geographics, and of course, writing magazines….
    It’s a bit frightening, isn’t it?

  7. Matt Cohen was a fantastic writer. Dunno anything about Irving Layton’s kid.
    I always have a few things on the go. I used to be adamant about finishing books I started, but I’ve realized that there are so many books & so little time. So now if it ain’t doin’ it for me, I move on.
    Recent cases in point: Kepler, by John Banville; Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson; Hopscotch, by Julio Cortazar (for the second time no less)…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *