Saturday, March 25, 2006

Reader's Diary #60- Lisa Moore: Alligator (up to p. 10)

I find it incredibly hard keeping up with newly published books. I'd like to have read more that were published in the last year, but they're hard to come by. The local library doesn't get many new books, and hardcovers are just too expensive to buy. Even the paperback versions which come so much later are often too highly priced. Lisa Moore's Alligator is probably the most recently published book that you'll find in my blogged archives, and even it is getting a bit old to a lot people. I'd like just once to hit on that one book that's just been released and has everyone talking. But since Alligator has already won the regional Commonwealth award, been shortlisted for both the 2006 Commonwealth Award and the Giller award, and was mysteriously overlooked for the Winterset, most conversation about Alligator has probably come and gone. But better late than never I guess.

My first reaction to the book is puzzlement over the title. I'm curious as to what a book set in contemporary St. John's could have to do with any reptile other than the occasional giant turtle that's washed up on our shores. So far I've only read the first chapter, and I must say it certainly grabbed me (much like putting my head in an alligator's mouth). In the cover jacket biography of Lisa Moore, it says she's a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. It shows. Scenes are described very stylistically and she seems to have a very acute ability to paint a picture in words that's both vivid and surreal. Ugly scenes. The opening chapter is being told from Colleen's (a seventeen year old) point of view. Right from the get go, we see Newfoundland in a light I have not yet seen in Newfoundland literature. Instead of the fishing/fairy/Beothuk story we're so used to here, we see Newfoundland as a part of the world at large. This placement of Newfoundland in the larger global context is accomplished both in reality and in Moore's novel via the media- and many of us are shocked by the ugliness and drawn to it at the same time. Like in Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, the internet is a large part of this window to the often cruel world (and perhaps to ourselves). We see kids at party in Mount Pearl watching a "bum fight" they downloaded, a St. John's teen who habitually watches beheadings, etc. Moore brilliantly clips these (f)ugly images together, slips in the occasional incongruous image (it's from a pink room with a pink canopy bed that Colleen looks at beheadings over the internet) and all the while she is creating a collage of Colleen, an intriguing character who seems somewhat jaded but likeable nonetheless (she turns away from the beheadings at the last moment, feeling it's important the victim not be "alone").

If all of the characters are this compelling, I'm in for one heck of a read.

1 comment:

Sure b'y said...

Oooh, I've been looking forward to this one. Haven't read it yet and have only heard vague and strange things about it from reviewers using terms like "metafictional humour", "non-linear narratives and hyper-sensory details".