Sunday, January 21, 2007

Reader's Diary #220- Timothy Taylor: Stanley Park (up to p. 225)

If Stanley Park was a restaurant, reading it would be like going to the weekend buffet. You just know the chef is getting rid of the scraps and leftovers that otherwise would be discarded come Monday.
And going the one step further, the food which smelled a bit funky in the pantry would be buried up under copious drops of Tabasco to mask any potentially offending taste.
The scraps, I've alluded to before; the bits and pieces of a love story, the occasional chunk of a mystery novel, and the tiniest morsels of satire. The Tabasco would be Taylor's obvious and annoying attempts at symbolism and metaphor. In case you're wondering how the actual park comes into play in the book, its trees provide the springboard for Taylor to talk endlessly about roots. People need roots, blah, blah, blah. Page after page of this.
And there's also Dante, the CEO of a chain of hip coffee joints known as "The Inferno". If this hint that the tycoon is evil, perhaps even the devil himself, is too subtle, not to worry. Taylor will ram that angle down your throat. Instead of leaving it to clever readers to perhaps see similarities between this character and Satan, Taylor treats the readers like idiots and does all the work for them. Just in case they missed it, he has other characters come right out with it, asking if he is, in fact, the Antichrist. (I cared so little, I don't even remember what the answer was.)
So if this book is as bad as I'm making it out to be, how the heck did it get so much praise (even becoming a finalist for the Giller)? My immediate answer to that question is to guess that he knows people, or has an agent that knows people, something along those lines. But there must be more. I suspect that many artists are caught up in the business story. I also figure that might be a part of the reason Jim Cuddy has chosen to defend it for this year's Canada Reads debate. While the business storyline doesn't do anything for me personally, I understand that there's a point being made about the turmoil an artist (in the case, a chef) must go through living in a capitalist society; do I create true art, the art I love? Or do I pander to the masses, pumping out products designed with market research in mind? I do think such a topic could make for an interesting story, I just don't think Stanley Park is it.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

It would be interesting to find out how Jim Cuddy came to this book. Maybe it will come out during Canada Reads. Or maybe Taylor will pull it off at the end and make this a stellar book.

I await.

John Mutford said...

He's got 100 pages to pull this thing together. And I'm not holding my breath.