Monday, June 21, 2010

Book #11: Fathers and (Wine) Lovers

Yesterday evening, as I was waiting for Daddy to come over for Fathers Day dinner, I was lying on the sofa reading a lush, full-bodied, all-round delicious book. It's delicious not only if you want to immerse yourself in the world of wine, but also if you're looking to dissect the cryptic, turbulent nature of father-daughter relationships (which I certainly did, especially on this auspicious day). The book is called Corked, by Kathryn Borel. It's a memoir about this young woman's trip through the wine regions of France with her dad - wine aficionado extraordinaire. An eccentric Frenchman whose emotions run the gamut from Tourette's-like outbursts to lyrical reflections, his mind teems with weird, unexpected facts about wine, like the fact that Languedoc is a "big up-and-comer" despite its longstanding reputation for spewing "wine for stoneworkers, who'd sit there breathing in dust and crap all day."

While this memoir yields scads of insight about the history and romance of wine, this isn't its true kernel. At the core of the story is the author's fraught quest to become closer to her dad and the other men in her life, too. (Not to get overly Freudian ... but I couldn't help but think of the adage that a father is a girl's first love object and as such, he sets the tone for subsequent lovers). All too aware of her complex dynamic with dad, Borel also puts under the microscope her conflicted feelings for Matthew, her most recent romance gone awry. Despite everything, she still feels that he is the only one really gets her:

"I described to him my allergy to the present. Matthew nodded patiently when I stomped around, detailing how I could not exist within or enjoy the present (even though he was in mine), and how it had pressurizing and irritating effects on the contents of my skull (which, at the time, included him). He abided this allergy, which was at once an itch and a fear, an itch that could be scratched only by getting on with it, moving onto the next thing, satisfying the curiosity that there is something beyond this place, this annoying purgatory that is holding up my trajectory to the other place - the other place, of course, being much better and more stimulating than this infernal place."

As I was reading, I found myself identifying with Borel's sense of being forever caught in a waiting zone, hovering on the fanciful brink of tomorrow, my life will begin. The small university town where I used to teach American Literature - Antigonish, or "Antigonowhere," as we outsiders liked to call it - left me awash in that horrible, anxious feeling so vividly, so unforgettably. Following my bad breakup with the town planner (more about this later) I was caught in a paralyzing cycle of reminiscing about my first love, Josh. If I were Clarissa Dalloway, then he was my Peter Walsh. The acrobatic sentences of Mrs. Dalloway ran through my head, as I power-walked past the dingy storefronts on Main Street, the wind burning my cheeks.

I'd missed my one chance at happiness. I wanted to press the fast forward button on my life.

Photo from: here


Naomi said...

My father passed away some years ago. He was a Buddhist, a former baseball player, a ballroom dancer and a great speech writer. I think of him often (e.g., checking on the Blue Jays in The Star sports section) and especially, on Father's Day. I like your blog!

Leslie Shimotakahara said...

Naomi, thanks for sharing your story. Your father had very diverse interests. My great grandmother was also a Buddhist and she believed so strongly in reincarnation that she refused to kill a moth.


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About Me

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Toronto, ON, Canada
Leslie Shimotakahara is a writer and recovering academic, who wanted to be simply a writer from before the time she could read. Hard-pressed to answer her parents’ question of how she would support herself as a writer, Leslie got drawn into the labyrinthine study of literature, completing her B.A. in Honours English from McGill in 2000, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern American Literature from Brown in 2006. After graduation, she taught English at St. Francis Xavier University for two years. Leslie woke up one morning and realized that she’d had enough of the Ivory Tower. The fact that she wasn’t doing what she wanted to do with her life loomed over her, and the realization was startling. It was time to stop studying and passively observing life and do something real instead. She needed to discover herself and tell her own story. This blog and the book she has written under the same title (Variety Crossing Press, spring 2012) are her foray. Leslie's writing has been published in WRITE, TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and GENRE.