Thursday, March 27, 2008
It’s been a crazy week. Or perhaps the week’s been quite normal but I’m going crazy. Either way, I need to get the hell out of here.
And I am. I’m heading to the cottage tomorrow morning with friends for some “absolutely no responsibilities” time. Way past due.
Plans include eating, sleeping, reading, drinking and laughing – a lot.
(Okay, maybe some exercise, too. I’ll walk on the frozen lake – my friends can go first.)
I have no goal other than achieving some of those wonderful laugh-until-your-abs-hurt-and-the-tears-flow moments. (If it was possible to turn my brain off for the duration, that too would be a goal.)
(I’m leaving you with yet another book review…)
The Ravine – Paul Quarrington
This won’t impress everyone (nor is it pertinent to a book review) but I was tickled that the protagonist of The Ravine grew up in the same neighbourhood I did. (Well, until I was six.) Not only did he attend the same school and named it (Norman Ingram) but I know the ravine he is talking about!
It was the title of the book that caught my eye – that and the first line on the inside of the cover flap. “Every childhood contains at least one ravine…” I may not have explored or searched for adventure in this particular ravine (too young) but I certainly did some reckless exploring of others (or the equivalent) in my childhood. Defining moments indeed.
With self-depreciating wit and humour (the kind I adore) the main character Phil McQuigge looks to his past while struggling to make sense of his life. The “incident” that took place in that ravine haunts him. What actually happened back then???
“Because it seems to me…that I went down into a ravine, and never really came back out.”
Having sunk to an extreme low in his life (marital woes, career woes and edging toward alcoholism) Phil decides to write a novel in an effort to understand how and why he has ended up at this point. The discipline required, the scouring of memories, the questions...surely writing about it will aid him in his quest.
So we have a novel within a novel. Quarrington uses this technique well – manages to keep the reader engaged at every level. Phil talks to us, takes us aside with amusing quips and explanations as he makes his journey and writes his novel.
His (failing) career was as a writer and producer for television. Like so many of us, Phil grew up on a regular diet of television shows and adventure movies. Both these genres have a tremendous impact/influence not only upon how Phil views his life but how he has lived it.
With a sympathetic and engaging protagonist, a host of intriguing characters and a knack for the funny retort, the wicked barb – Quarrington has you smiling and nodding your head with amusement and empathy while you read about such serious subject matter as human frailty, failure and childhood trauma. Quite a feat.
Are the events that took place in our childhoods simply a means to rationalize our mistakes, our inability to cope with the present? Is the past a refuge? A place of solace for our failures? Or is it possible to move beyond those events if we can just learn to forgive – both ourselves and others?
Interesting questions prompted by a well written and intriguing novel.