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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reader's Diary #444- Don McTavish: Big Rig 2

Last year I read Don McTavish's Big Rig as my Alberta selection for the Canadian Book Challenge. While it didn't exactly top my list of nonfiction books, I did enjoy it.

So for this 2nd round of the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, I decided to follow suit. Once again, Don McTavish is my Alberta selection with his follow up book, Big Rig 2 and once again, he didn't disappoint.

My biggest fear was that he'd have used up all his good anecdotes in the first edition. Turns out, he used up most of his longer anecdotes but still had a lot of short gems up his sleeve. Last time I seem to recall that most of his stories dealt with the characters he'd met or worked with in his 40 years in the trucking business. This time there seemed to be more of a focus on close calls and changes in the trucking industry.

While he pretends to rant from time to time, McTavish keeps the book fun, entertaining, and incidentally educational. When he addresses the public perception of a trucker's life as dangerous, he only half-heartedly makes claims to the contrary. When he addresses common questions faced by truckers, I found it quite interesting that he steers completely clear of stimulants ("uppers"). A part of me wishes he tackled some of the more serious issues, but then it wouldn't have been the same book. Perhaps those are best saved for another time.

As with the original Big Rig, I was again amused with McTavish's quirky expressions; expressions that he never seems to run out of and admirably refuses to use the same one twice. Check out the way he describes the cold on three separate occasions: colder than a bank manager's handshake, colder than a grave-digger's shovel, colder than your ex-wife's divorce lawyer.

Interestingly, this favourite form of expression by McTavish sent me on a fact-finding mission. I've always been taught that a simile uses either "as" or "like." So what are these expressions known as? They are certainly not metaphors, as the comparison in more clearly defined than those, and metaphors usually state one thing is another ("It was a grave-digger's shovel outside."). If the internet can be trusted, "than" can also be used in a simile. Can anyone tell me otherwise? Is it known as a specific type of simile? A grammar lesson wasn't what I'd expected from Don McTavish, but it's quite the by-product, don't you think?

3 comments:

Ali said...

I would've said simile, too, for "colder than a witch's hat" and the like.

Can't let my 8 year old see the cover of these books or he'll want me to read them to him. (I'm guessing, not appropriate for 8 yrs old?) Like you did, he has dreams of being a trucker one day. Definitely not on the ice road, though.

John Mutford said...

Ali: McTavish talks about when he was that age and how he dreamt of one day driving the big rig. As for appropriate for an 8 year old, he keeps it clean for the most part, with an exception or two depending on your values. It's pretty amusing how he censors a lot of the language of other truckers by inserting "bleeps." That said, nowadays many 8 year olds can pretty well fill in those blanks.

Ali said...

Ooh, really? I could at least read him an excerpt or two, couldn't I? He'd love it. And he would appreciate the humor in the bleeps.

Except my library doesn't have it. Hmmm. Interlibrary loan, here I come!