le roman.

March 10, 2007

when i was growing up, my parents sent me to a french immersion school. one thing that i distinctly remember about school was reading all these books that had virtually no literary value, but seemed to be produced in order to provide people with something to read.

i suppose the theory might have been something like “we’d rather have our citizens reading pulp than “pride and prejudice” in translation, but i could be wrong. though, in an immersion setting, that might just have held some truth. not that we would have been reading “pride and prejudice” in grade six or anything. (and they say that immersion is elitist – ha!)

while france has produced nothing short of a colossal contribution to the arts over the past few centuries, the literary field has been one of those fields where the french fall short. true, there is victor hugo, émile zola, voltaire and anatole france, but when compared to the literary tradition of the british, just across the channel, it’s safe to say that the french are safely known as the painters, sculptors and filmmakers of the world.

still, as i sit in the métro, nearly everyone (who isn’t plugged into some portable entertainment device) is reading a pocket-sized version of something. little books with plain covers, with titles like “une journée selon sophie” or “berlin, au revoir!” it makes one fairly self-conscious to not have one of these twenty-minute distractions on your daily trip.

still, extremely little that i’ve noticed appears to have been translated from english, and that which has been certainly doesn’t come from well-known authors.

maybe what this means is that the french enjoy pulp and escapism. maybe not enough to sit through a whole film, no. that wouldn’t be becoming of my hosts. certainly, as they sit cramped in a metal box plying the underground railways, however, maybe this is exactly what’s needed.

why am i hopelessly addicted to french cheese? today’s choice is coulommiers collet (45% fat, from raw milk). it’s very soft with a very gentle rind, a nutty, pungent flavour and a smokey aftertaste. i just finished my half-wheel of it. the good news is that i can’t eat any more of it. the bad news is that it took about 125 grams to get to that stage.

today, i read one of the stupidest things in a very long time.

rob ford, a toronto city councillor, explained recently why he doesn’t support bike lanes:

“roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. my heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.”

i figure that it’s also the fault of victims of rape for being out alone after dark dressed like a skank.

councillor ford, your comments beg a question or two. firstly, considering that toronto’s air is chronically polluted, that her roads are congested, that the t.t.c. is already running overloaded during rush hours and that there must be tens of thousands (admittedly, a guess) of cyclists every day in toronto, do you realize that these people will either need to take the t.t.c. or start driving, therefore adding to the problem?

secondly, councillor ford, you must realize that, in ontario, a bicycle is defined as a “vehicle” by the ontario highway traffic act, 1990 (section 1.1) that must stay on the road. pray tell, if a public roadway is not for cycling, then where should your city’s cyclists pursue their craft?

i’d suggest that toronto cyclists figure out where this honourable gentleman lives and bike around his driveway for hours on end, ’cause, deductively, that’s a better place to bike.


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