Inaugural Blog Tour: The Canal
by Paul Oliver
More and more, we find ourselves in awe of the quality, depth and variety of places on the internet talking about books. Thus, we’ve decided to take a year-end look at how those places talked about our titles. (Read the kickoff.) The point is to highlight not only the titles we proudly published in 2010, but also some of the great writing about those titles from around the internet. In some cases the writing may only mention our book. In these instances the posts would of course have to be extraordinary.
We’re excited today to offer a large grouping of blogs via the common thread of Lee Rourke‘s award-winning novel, The Canal. Rourke’s novel has received a lot of favorable reviews from bloggers the internet over and that of course is something we appreciate greatly. The Canal is remarkable for its ability to draw in a reader with something recognizable (the lulls of boredom) and transform their perception of it (boredom as sublime contemplative state) through exposition and at times, sincerely philosophical dialog.
So how does a writer convince us of the usefulness, let alone desirability of a state that is typically believed to be the antithesis of those things? Here’s how some bloggers think Rourke did it …
First stop there is the well-maintained (and traveled) blog of Amy Henry, The Black Sheep Dances. Henry’s consideration of The Canal hints at a certain mysteriousness to the book that lifts it to success. She also notes that the quickly moving novel is complex enough for multiple reads. All good things in our book.
The novel is brief: we know little about the narrator’s appearance, home, or prior job. He doesn’t even have a cell phone. We know small details about his family but the impression is that he doesn’t see them. He’s a complicated figure: he is fascinated by flight, admiring the planes descending into Heathrow, and yet he’s nearly motionless himself. Throughout the remainder of the story, the concepts of time and flight intersect, and the denouement finds both fractured. The effect is complex and mysterious and one of those rare books that may yield more insight by being read again.
The Black Sheep Dances also provided some insightful commentary on some of the hoopla (had to dust that word off a little) during the build up to Rourke’s co-awarding of the Guardian‘s Not-The-Booker-Prize.
Up next is a review from the triad (well, one of them) over at Three Guys One Book. Jason Rice, the Assistant Sales Manager and Book Buyer at the book wholesaler Bookazine, moonlights at 3G1B and we’re thankful he does. Rice points to commonalities between the reader and protagonist and how these help grout the exotic and extreme moments in the novel to our reality. Here, I’ll let Rice do the writing:
This is a rare story told with a surgeon’s eye, it’s particular and peculiar, the voice is scrubbed of any uplifting feelings, and it almost drowns in its own sadness and deep depression. This novel toggles between what the woman on the bench has done, and what kind of life the narrator has lived, over the entire story were given glimpses of brutal reality and stark beauty, sometimes it floats on the surface of the canal, like breadcrumbs to be used by Mr. Rourke later in the story, and sometimes its just life, as it passes by everyone, including the reader.
Up next we have a pair of long form reading journals. The first one is the blog of Max Cairnduff, Pechorin’s Journal. Cairnduff also points to the accepted similarities between the world of Rourke’s canal and our own. In this case the blogger points to the photographic clarity of Rourke’s canal and he follows this paragraph with architectural anecdotes to support this notion.
The Canal is a novel rooted in the world I see around me. It’s style is naturalistic even down to the dialogue having empty silences and stumbling phrases. It has an almost photographic quality to its descriptions that reminds me of nineteenth Century French fiction. It’s a novel that lingers in the memory and that I expect to return to.
Lastly we have the always insightful John Self‘s Asylum, out of Belfast, Ireland, where we find this jacket-copy worthy quote: “The Canal is a novel about boredom which, through some alchemy, manages never to be boring, even when it seems to aim that way.”
Like the aforementioned Pechorin’s Journal, this is a long form blog where readers can get a full-scale look into the book being reviewed. We’ll let Self close this post with this wonderful paragraph, full of keen observation and apt comparison.
People who embrace boredom, he suggests, avoid becoming lost in superfluous activity, like the multitudes who are just as bored as I am, only they think they’re not because they’re continually doing something. He embraces his boredom so enthusiastically if that’s the word that he gives up his job. I am bored with work full stop. Not your company, but work. Like Melville’ Bartleby, he would prefer not to. His rewards are the mesmeric routines of existence by the canal: the swans; the building overlooking his bench, with the office workers who never look out; and a mysterious young woman who joins him and with whom he strikes up a rapport.
Sounds like a pretty damned good book.
Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.