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The Canal

In a deeply compelling debut novel, Lee Rourke — a British underground sensation for his story collection Everyday — tells the tale of a man who finds his life so boring it frightens him. So he quits his job to spend some time sitting on a bench beside a quiet canal in a placid London neighborhood, watching the swans in the water and the people in the glass-fronted offices across the way while he collects himself.

However his solace is soon interupted when a jittery young woman begins to show up and sit beside him every day. Although she won’t even tell him her name, she slowly begins to tell him a chilling story about a terrible act she committed, something for which she just can’t forgive herself — and which seems to have involved one of the men they can see working in the building across the canal.

Torn by fear and pity, the man becomes more immersed in her tale, and finds that boredom has, indeed, brought him to the most terrifying place he’s ever been.

LEE ROURKE is the author of the short story collection Everyday. He is also one of England’s leading young literary critics, writing regularly for The Guardian, The Independent, TLS and the New Statesman, as well as leading book blogs such as Ready, Steady, Book. He is Contributing Editor at 3:AM Magazine and also blogs at Sponge! He lives in London.

”Is it possible to find meaning in boredom? Lee Rourke believes that there is meaning in this most maligned of moods. Finding it just takes time—a boring enterprise to be sure, but as Rourke’s antihero discovers, a liberating one.” The Wall Street Journal

“For a book about urban ennui it’s one hell of a page-turner.” —GQ

”[A] thoughtful, occasionally disturbing and curiously affecting debut novel…. While unreservedly a novel of discourse and digression, The Canal also understands that tension and intrigue are just as important as literary devices.  It’s this careful balance that makes for a refreshing, memorable and powerful novel – and one that confirms Rourke as a writer of exceptional promise.” —Stuart EversThe Independent (UK)

The Canal is quite unlike any English language novel I can remember reading recently….Unusually for a novel of ideas, it’s the story and the writing that most appeal in The Canal. That and the skill with which Rourke uses his narrative to force his narrator out of most of his existential posing” —Sam Jordison, The Guardian

”Achingly thought-provoking and beautiful… It feels right-up-to-the-minute and urgent.” —3:AM

”A strange explosion of a book.” HTMLGiant

”Moments of haunting power.” The Times Literary Supplement

”Teeters between the absurdity of Samuel Beckett and the spontaneous violence of Edward Albee.” —Vikas TurakhiaThe Cleveland Plain Dealer

”A story assembled from everyday objects, unassumingly and quietly, that stuns and horrifies by increments…THE CANAL may look, at first glance, like a love story, but it harnesses the power of parable.” —John Wray, author of Lowboy

”This could be the Bartleby the Scrivener of the 21st century. A semi-detached man decides to do nothing but sit by the side of a polluted canal, cultivating the art of boredom. He is joined by a woman and in their confessional discussions, emotional contact, the natural world, and urban development are drolly skewered. Bitter but brilliant.” —Ronald Koltnow, Random House (PW’s Rep of the Year)

”Soon after reading the first page, I found myself easing into The Canal, getting caught up in the clear prose and some of the best dialog I’ve read in years. A wonderful book that is partially about trying to escape boredom, becomes a meditation on life and what is meaningful and meaningless and how those things can be frighteningly both. I’m glad I read this book. I feel like I know Lee Rourke now and I’m grateful for that.” —Shane Jones, author of Light Boxes

”The mundane is made both beautiful and terrifying in Rourke’s debut novel. The unnamed narrator quits his job and takes to a park bench where a peculiar relationship with a chilling woman develops in spite of his nihilism. She becomes his obsession and a beautifully crafted dialogue gradually reveals disturbing truths.” —Culture Critic

Lee Rourke interviewed on HTML Giant

Lee Rourke interview on Bookslut

 

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