Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Reader's Diary #357- Arthur Motyer: What's Remembered (FINISHED!!)

A while ago, Pooker won a Canadian Book Challenge prize but wanted to send me some books in return. While I insisted that it wasn't necessary, I also said that if she must, to please send me something from the Northwest Territories or New Brunswick (I was having trouble finding books to represent these two areas for the challenge). Being a kind and generous BookCrossing sort, she sent me something from both: Elizabeth Hay's Late Nights On Air for the NWT and Arthur Motyer's What's Remembered for NB (Motyer was born in Bermuda but now resides in Sackville). It's a good thing that I liked Hay's book, because the following rant might otherwise seem ungrateful.

What's Remembered is told as half of a conversation between Peter and a painter named Chris whom he'd just met a few hours earlier. Initially the concept of hearing just one voice intrigued me, and I settled in to hear Peter's life story. Before long however, the folly of the idea was apparent: as an entire novel, it becomes just another first person narrative. That it was meant to be told to someone else was quickly forgotten, and a few reminders here and there ("In those first years, you would have been growing up in the Okanagan Valley...") only proved that it wasn't working. Furthermore, it bred some sort of contempt in me, like Peter was monopolizing the conversation and I just wanted him to shut up!

With such harsh feelings instilled, it's no wonder then that the whole book began to grate on my nerves. It took me about 100 pages before I realized the term I was looking for was "self-indulgent." Ignoring the hypocrisy of a blogger calling anything self-indulgent, Motyer's book seemed little more than an excuse to work out his own issues. There was hardly any plot whatsoever, he complained of people being pretentious while he continued to make references to Caravaggio and tries to make relevant an incident involving the poet Shelley and a baby, threw in textbook facts about gay discrimination seemingly to prove he'd done a little research, and transported the story back and forth between Canada and England so many times that I sometimes forgot where he was, and oh my lord was it boring!

At least he had the decency to put some symbolism in there, to give us something to think about. For instance, in this scene Peter remembers the time he almost told his father he was a homosexual...

"Don't tell me."
That's all. Just that.
"Don't tell me."
And he moved to pick up an apple that had fallen nearby.
"Look!" he said, holding it out, "there's a worm in it."

To put this in context, Peter's father is an ex-minister who'd renounced his faith earlier on.

Now, finally, Motyer's book is proving its worth, giving us readers something to ponder over long after the fact. Oh wait. No, I got it. It's an allusion to Genesis. And that took... 20, 25 seconds. Yep, the book sucks again.

The Soundtrack:
1. Recitar!... Vesti la Giubba- Luciano Pavarotti
2. Blow The Wind Southerly- Kathleen Ferrier
3. Maple Leaf Rag- Scott Joplin
4. Want- Rufus Wainwright
5. Pretty Vacant- The Sex Pistols

(On a brighter note, I've now completed my 13th book for the Canadian Book Challenge!)


Cheryl Tardif said...

For another novel set in the Northwest Territories (and the mysterious Nahanni River), you may want to check out THE RIVER by Cheryl Kaye Tardif. ;-)

I lived in Bermuda for 3 years, also lived in New Brunswick and now live in Edmonton, Alberta. :)


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on finishing. :)

Anonymous said...

I second the congratulations on finishing. At least you had a decent soundtrack to read it by.

John Mutford said...

Cheryl: I really want to see the Nahanni. I made note of your book when I first heard of it. I'm moving to the NWT soon and as soon as I see the river, I'll read The River.

Ripley: Thanks!

Carrie: Odd thing about the soundtrack. I'd never heard of Kathleen Ferrier but then she was mentioned in both Late Nights On Air and What's Remembered. She has quite the interesting voice, and one that I'm surprised I like.

Anonymous said...

Why you ungrateful sot! ;)

Really, I'm sorry the book sucked, but I'm impressed that you waded through it. I don't think I would have. As you know I never got around to even starting it. Now I have no regrets (well, except for the bit about you not liking it.)