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Sunday, June 05, 2005

sunday reading

I went to the John Geddes launch of his novel (novella?) The Sundog Season. It possibly could be called a novella given its slight 146 pages. However, it has been given some very good praise today in the Citizen, and also on its back cover. I hate to draw attention to comments given as boilerplate-type marketing blurbs on any cover but Dave Bidini's is, I feel, a little over-the-top: "Geddes's prose is aching and real and his book deserves a place...next to other coming-of-age classics like Who Has Seen the Wind and A Complicated Kindness. The first chapter had me bawling my eyes out."

"Classics?" "Bawling my eyes out?" Okay... easy there, Dave-o.

Well, it's not Goethe's Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, nor Dickens' Great Expectations. Ahem - these novels, I believe, would be appropriately called classics of the bildungsroman /coming-of-age genre. Yet, the scope of Geddes's novel is not as taxing as either.
Of course, I listened to John Geddes read. People laughed at the right spots, and as soon as I got home, I read and re-read chapter one preparing to 'bawl my eyes out'. Maybe I was just too psyched. Nary a chin quiver. It was charming, yes. Moving to the point of tears, no. However, it is written so simply that I do want to read on.

I agree with the reviewer in today's paper, Gedde's first sentence is one of the best I have ever come across: "When I was five years old I wished for the death of another boy, prayed for it, and it happened." How does one not want to read on? Wow, what an opener. The launch today at Collected Works Books was a very nice affair as usual. Again, what a day for a reading. It was sunny and hot! A special treat after the reading was a huge basket of cookies from isobel & company. They had baked cookies with the image of the book cover incorporated on the white icing. Nicely done promo item! I grabbed two. I must take a photo of them before I eat'em up.

2 Comments:

Anonymous John Geddes said...

July 18, 2005

Dear John W.,

I discovered your posting on the launch for my novel, The Sundog Season, rather late (I try to restrain my self-googling). Thanks for attending. Hope you enjoyed the cookies. On the Bildungsroman, you set the bar rather high. Goethe and Dickens? No arguments are possible. However, reasonable readers might debate about contemporary coming-of-age fiction. My personal picks from the recent past, in order of publication:

1. Wildlife by Richard Ford (1990). Utterly believable story of a teenaged boy watching his parents in a tough time, told in admirably uncluttered prose.

2. Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle (1993). You're right inside the boy's head. Experimental yet uncontrived. Won the Booker.

3. The First Man by Albert Camus (1995) Finally published more than three decades after the author's death in a car crash, a miraculous evocation of childhood.

4. Once Upon the River Love by Andrei Makine (1998) Friendship, French movies, snow and sexual awakening in Siberia.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003) A worthy conqueror of bestseller lists, its autistic 15-year-old narrator won't be forgotten.

Best,

John Geddes

Monday, July 18, 2005 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger John W. MacDonald said...

Thanks for visting, John Geddes. And I very much admire your selection of examples of 'coming-of-age' novels. All the best in the sales of your novel and I do hope people pick it up when browsing in the bookstores! Three of my recommendations of this genre:

Vicious Spring (2003) by Hollis Hampton-Jones.
Hollis' first novel, a bildungsroman, is set in Nashville. A Life of Christy (read Christ) and Del (read Devil). A quasi 'Last Temptation of Christy' where temptations (read sex and drugs) abound and where salvation rests in the Caribbean. A book that Hampton-Jones can be proud of. While the vignettes are short, they are precise and powerful and stunningly real.
Secondly, Tietam Brown by former wrestler, Mick Foley. Strange choice, but I liked his approach and style.
Thirdly, a fellow McGill grad, Dan Pope, who wrote In the Cherry Tree (2003) Mr. Pope now lives in West Hartford Connecticut. Recommended read! Of course there are many more...but I'll save them for later. Have a great summer!

Monday, July 18, 2005 10:28:00 AM  

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