Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012.12.25 — Stanley Park by Timothy Taylor: Finished & a Triptych of Small Fushigis*

Timothy Taylor
Stanley Park
Toronto:Random House Canada ISBN 9780307363596.

Began 2012.11.27
Finished 2012.12.23


I have a dream, chef and struggling restaurant owner Jeremy Papier avers. I want my restaurant to bring the hyper-industrialized, homogenized, world back to its roots: food, specifically, that which is grown locally.

And so he gets his dream when, through struggling to find his own family's roots, he begins to cook the wildlife of Vancouver's Stanley Park: the squirrels, starlings, ducks, geese, raccoons. His first park repast was with his father. They dined on the duck that his father had caught. Eventually Jeremy began to feed a collective of the homeless living in the park. His father, 'The Professor,' is a social anthropologist who, in doing this project, his last, has gone back to finish where he began his career. He is exploring his own and the city's roots by choosing to live amongst the homeless who reside beneath the forest's canopy, hidden from the city's eyes that are too busy to see them. He is exploring what it is that are the ties, the roots, that bind people to homelessness. During the course of the book, this sub-theme comments that, in some ways, these people are more closely connected to their environment, more alive if you will, than the grasping many who have big houses, but spend most of their time feeling alienated and disconnected from their lives.

But the protagonist is Jeremy, and his dream falls apart when his self-destructive impulse purchase of a $3000 knife cuts the final threads of his credit card kiting. With creditors hounding him, he turns to the international coffee czar to save him and his dream. But a czar doesn't live the dreams of others, and in an elegance only a wealthy thug can envisage, he steals Jeremy's dream and twists it into an ungrounded international smorgasbord.

What would any creative and daring Chef do to see his dream survive beneath the tyranny of the condescension of wealth?

And so Taylor writes a complex and elegant fugue that explores the roots of family and food. This is an engaging delightful and complex read. I highly recommend it.

Fushigi Triptych
During the course of my reading SP it joined me to participate in several small fushigis. Some I've already blogged. See 2012.12.15 — Bonfire of the Vanities, and 2012.12.01 — Anna Russell and Kris Boyd and Lamb Stew: Three Tiny Fushigis. But three small ones, collectively, have crept up in the final pages that have moved me enough to blog them as one.

Third One First.
… There was a great quantity of Scotch going down and many, many cigars being waved around.

Olli was offered a Scotch with this very thought, leaning back in his chair thinking about it and watching through the front window as Kiwi hailed a cab and disappeared into the night. Just thinking about that and a voice next to his ear said: "Scotch, sir?"

"What do you have?" he asked by mistake.

"Glenmorangie, Loch Dhu, Balvenie, Dalwhinnie, Glenkinkchie, Cragganmore, Oban, Talisker, Lagavulin, Macallan, Laphroaig, Connemara, Glenhaven and Sheep Dip."

They didn't even have Glenfiddich (393).
What makes this interesting is that the day before I read this I was sent out to buy a bottle of Scotch for our upcoming party. I don't drink Scotch, and so many years ago a friend recommended that a good one to have on hand for Scotch drinking guests is Talisker. Alas, my local liquor store no longer stocks it. So, after talking with the sales rep, she suggested Glenmorangie. To the best of my remembrance, I've never seen nor heard of either of these scotches before.

The Second One Second. A little earlier in the book, I read:
"It really looks . . . dramatic," Margaret said, moving on. But Jeremy just kept stroking his chin and scratching his ear, glancing around the room. He looked pale; had he lost weight? (369)
Well, earlier that day I read the stories in the WSS's weekly short story contests: Week 148: Witchcraft. In it, Tim has written an excellent story called Darrens. Here's the first paragraph:
I walk the one hundred twenty three steps from my desk by the elevators to the cafeteria and congratulate myself on not having thought about her. Unfortunately, this involves thinking about her. I touch my left earlobe with my right index finger.
Initially this wasn't strong enough to blog, even as the second of two funny fushigis.

First One Last. Okay, not the first first in this book, but the first since the last time I blogged a fushigi from this book. This one started on December 18th. Again, in the WSS, but this time in the TPBM (The Person Below Me) thread, when M posted # 2397. He wrote:
TPBM sometimes gets chocolate on the keyboard.

The following day ML called up from the living room. She was impressed by a computer tech pre-Christmas 'news' story that covered, amongst other things, a kid-proof computer keyboard.

The following day, when I recommenced perusing Stanley Park I was amused to read:
Angela's idea [for her own restaurant] was Grazer, a high-concept tapas Web bar. Satay, tofu spears, samosas and slivers of super-fusion designer pizza. Caviar and quail egg was mentioned. The Web part centred on the stand-up tables with shelves for the tapas dishes and pop-up, active-matrix, flat screens. Waterproof touch-pad keyboards (324).
By itself, not worthy of noting as a fushigi, but first of three in a row.

I debated about including this, but… well, here it is. A little earlier, on the 17th, in post #2380 of TPBM thread I wrote:
Thank you Al and Christa for your confidence in my writing! OMG, now I'm feeling so much pressure! Me and my big fat mouth! I'm having trouble breathing.... [clunk a;ldkfja;sdlkfha;sdofja;sldfjka;sdfjka;sdfjka;sdfkjas;dfjas;dlfjas;dflkasdf — oops, sorry about that. Head fell forward onto keyboard.]
End of Fushigi Triptych.

Book Review Resumes and Closes — an extended citation
Here is a passage I flagged while reading SP to include in my blog book review.
"Shitty week," Jeremy snapped. But he stopped at that, because in the Professor's eyes, those impervious eyes, there was a colour that he recognized. A shade of bruising. A shade of vulnerability. He lowered his voice. "How is Caruzo?"

"Sends his best."

Jeremy steadied himself.

The Professor spoke first. "There was a woman in the park on the day they died."

Jeremy dropped his head. God.

"She saw something that day... someone..."

Jeremy turned and stepped into the street. The Professor remained on the grass. He held the last inch of his park. "The two are meant to be together," he said, talking to Jeremy's back. "Just as the two were drawn from the same soil, so too must the same soil hold them...."

The strange words.

Jeremy spun, standing in the middle of the empty nighttime street. From her expensive apartment window high in the concrete and glass monolith behind them, had the resilient old lady of the West End risen for a nocturnal glass of grapefruit juice just then, she might have looked down and seen a small, charged scene on her quiet street. A rumpled figure, tired, authoritative, holding court on the grass by the curb, his arms crossed, his head back looking at the sky. And opposite him, a leaner, younger frame of a discernibly similar type, angular, also in black, hands in his jacket pockets rigidly, critically, dubiously. Staring at the older cast of himself.

"From the file in the library," Jeremy said.

The Professor pantomimed applause.

"And if you've read it," Jeremy went on, "may I ask why I—"

"Because you are a part of what is going on here."

Jeremy stared. He didn't want to know. He plunged.

"I accepted an offer." Even to his own ear, the words clanked coldly out into the night air between them, but he couldn't have predicted that the statement would bring the Professor's arms limply to his sides, that it would pull him a step forward. Out of the park. Onto the curb. Into the gutter. The Professor was staring at his son, his blood. Standing in the street, in the city. "Oh, you have made such a mistake."

"It's a good deal. It gives me freedom."

"Freedom. So many things done in this name."

Freedom from debt, Jeremy tried to say, but the Professor was looking past him now. Over his shoulder and up between the buildings. Beyond. He was whispering.

"Too often, I think, the desire for freedom masks the desire for destruction."

The words a thin stream. A last breath.

"You want to destroy everything around you, everything you have created for yourself or been given by others. To be free."

Tapering. Diminishing. Losing angularity, presence, power.

"Natural for you, perfectly natural," the Professor whispered. "Natural to refuse the key that is given. To be blind in the darkness of knowing. To be filled with a dark light that we must shine on the people around us. A light that makes us weep and pull down our own houses."

The wind spoke in the cherry trees, a hissing speech through purple leaves and thin black branches. The city hummed, hypnotic. Winding through the deepest part of a Wednesday night.

"Come stay with me," Jeremy said. He could hardly hear his own words. "Do your research but sleep in a bed. Write your notes at a table. You could shave."

"Stay involved," the Professor said. Back. Alert. "Stay interested."

No second for an answer. He turned. He descended the hill at a determined trot. He threaded through the cherry trees, from the branches of which hung the fruits of their joint linkage to this place.

Around the lagoon went the Professor, dwindling down, then swallowed by the darkness (195-7).

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