Monday, November 03, 2008

Reader's Diary #410- Joseph Boyden: Driving Lessons

Short Story Monday

Joseph Boyden is slowly getting more and more recognition as a Canadian author to watch. His debut novel Three Day Road won a couple awards (the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award), was nominated for the Governor General's Award, and got even more national attention when it was one of the five books debated in the 2006 edition of CBC's Canada Reads. His next book Through Black Spruce is currently up for a Scotiabank Giller Prize (the winner will be announced in November . But before writing novels, Boyden also published a book of short stories, Born With A Tooth.

So, I've gone online in search of a Boyden short story and found "Driving Lessons," which was published by The Walrus back in their July/August 2006 edition.

I was a big fan of Three Day Road (I wrote about it in great length here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) but not so much of this story.

There was a lot to like (the andrenaline-laced pacing being number one), but in the end it felt too obvious as to what his intention was (i.e., to draw parallels and contrasts between two defining moments in a man's life, both of which happened while driving). The details were flashy and entertaining enough but as a whole it seemed rushed and certainly didn't inspire rereads. Perhaps the point shouldn't have kept pace with the plot.


Remi said...

Alas, I am not a fan of Mr. Boyden. Three Day Road had a lot of good parts but overall it just seemed forced. I've read some of his short stories (hoping my initial instincts were wrong - I do want to root for the guy) but, again, it just seems as though he is trying too hard.

I think if he wasn't trying so hard to impress, he would be a much better writer.

John Mutford said...

Remi: Your observation certainly would seem to apply here.

Teddy Rose said...

I also like Three Day Road. Actually, I loved parts. He was just here for the Vancouver International Writers and Readers festival and he got me very interested in reading 'Through Black Spruce'.

It doesn't sound like I would enjoy 'Driving Lessions', but I would be interested at having a look a some of his other short stories.

John Mutford said...

Here's where I offer a retraction, of sorts. I recently met Joseph at the Northwords Writers Festival here in Yellowknife. Believe me when I say he's an amazingly sweet and down-to-earth guy. Does that mean I now have to like everything he's written? Possibly-- I won't pretend that I have some bias resisting force field around me, though I do try. But there's more than that. This was the selection he chose to read at a gala and I was entranced by it. Perhaps it had something to do with his preamble. I didn't know it was true. In hindsight, had I done a little research I would have noted that Amanda is his wife's name. Also, he'd been approached by Walrus to write a piece about "Life and Death," so if the contrasts were obvious, they were also commissioned. My wife and I were also quite intrigued that he started with death. While most people refer to it as "life and death," in that order, Joseph worked in the reverse, even when it meant going against the chronological order. Why'd he choose that? To end on a happier note? To show how he was able to cope with the tragedy later on? To show why he cared? There's much more to contemplate here than I'd first suggested. Plus, I like Joseph.