Friday, 6 June 2008

Diane Schoemperlen - "Our Lady of the Lost and Found"

A unique piece of writing by this Canadian author. It has made me want to find all her other books. It is a story about the Virgin Mary coming to stay with an ordinary Canadian housewife / author and the two women spend one week cooking, cleaning, and shopping, but any attempt at doing a precis would not do the work justice. It is one of those books which has to be read to be appreciated. (What a silly comment but I know what I meant!)
One of the ways I judge how much I have got out of a book is by the number of quotations I copy down from it. In this case there were 15 - some of them very long. That's a very high score. Here are some of my favourites:-
"For those of us with a bookish bent, reading is a reflexive response to everything. This is how we deal with the world and anything new that comes our way. We have always known that there is a book for every occasion and every obsession. When in doubt, we are always looking things up."
"Have you never looked at your own face in the mirror and thought that you both are and are not the same person from one day to the next?"
"Ordinary Time is the spaces between events, the parts of a life that do not show up in photo albums or get told in stories. In real life, this is the bulk of most people's lives...."
"We must pray as if everything depends on God (it does) while at the same time living and working as if everything depends on us (it does)."
"There are many ways to divide up the world. One of those divisions is betwen those who make lists and those who don't. To my way of thinking, this distinction has been sadly neglected in favor of the more usual demographic categories such as male and female, young and old, blakc and white, have and have-not. I am sure that a detailed investigation of the propensity to list or not to list would yield remarkable new insights into the deepest psychological crevices (or crevasses) of human nature."
"To paraphrase saint Augustine, miracles are not contrary to nature or science or history. They are only contrary to what we know (or think we know) of nature, science and history."
"Mary seemed to approach housekeeping as an action, rather than a reaction. As she worked it was clear that she was involved not in a process of negation (of dirt, dust, and the inevitable debris spawned by every activity of daily life) but of creation (of order, shiny surfaces, perfectly aligned towels, floors to which your feet did not stick)."
"On a good, when I am writing and it is going well, this is the only time that I am truly happy. This is the feeling I love the most. This is enough. This is better than winning the lottery. This is better than hearing the words 'I love you' fall from those much-desired lips that are at long last clamped onto yours. "

Some more quotations can be found at

DIANE SCHOEMPERLEN, Canadian novelist and short-story writer, was born on July 9, 1954 and has been labelled 'one of the most vibrant and original voices in our literature". Certainly, if her other works are as innovative as "Our Lady of the Lost and Found" then that is a well-earned comment. She was born and raised in Ontario and after qualifying at Lakehead University and living in Alberta for some years is now back in Ontario where she lives with her son Alexander.
Her first novel, In the Language of Love (1994), is composed of one hundred chapters, each one based on one of the one hundred words in the Standard Word Association Test, which was used to measure sanity. There are chapters entitled "Table," "Slow," "Cabbage," and "Scissors."

For some reason she has yet to appear on the Fantastic Fiction site. but more details can be found on the Penguin site.

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