…that I won at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words was cracked almost immediately in the washroom of the Moose Jaw Mineral Spa. There I drooled at the fortunes of my good luck. Within my basket were Richard B. Wright’s Adultery, Sharon Butala’s Real Life and a hardback copy of Lilac Moon: Dreaming of the Real West, Patricia Pearson’s Playing House, Ian Brown’s What I Meant to Say, Peter Robinson’s Final Account, and Anthony Bidulka’s Amuse Bouche. I gave Brenda the copy of Tony’s book, as I already have the series of three and proceeded to plot out my August reading schedule by beginning with Adultery. I had heard Richard B. Wright read in MJ an excerpt and he explained to the audience it was going to be his last reading from this novel.
And so, you’re asking yourself while eager to click the mouse to another more interesting page, what was it like? (Or you’re asking yourself why you came here to read this in the first place).
I have to say that I was disappointed with Adultery. I don’t know if my expectations were high (I enjoyed Clara Callan (although what I enjoyed most about CC was the unusual narrative developed in the letter exchange)) or if it was just me. I thought the concept of Adultery was interesting, the violent murder/infidelity/unravelling of the life of one average Canadian man, a witness as well as an active participant to his own demise, and his consequent need to “feel” something. I think the book is successful at depicting the vacuousness of grief, the emptiness one feels in dealing with grief, and there is a certain loneliness which I feel in this book that is caused by the inability of the main character to be in control of the situation, and somehow to be in control of the emotions of others. I understood the whole aspect of need in the main character, the need to feel something, is integrated throughout the plotted out text, and through the oftentimes dullness of language; however, I as the reader, needed to feel more from this language. I understood the numbness of the text, but I wanted to experience something more.
What I missed within this novel was the lack of depth. There were opportunities for depth. The main character Dan Fielding is a senior editor for a publishing firm, and throughout the novel he is reading a non-fiction book on the history of water. The metaphor of the drowning man is obvious, but I guess (maybe I’m too fussy) I thought the metaphor could have been greatly expanded, blown out of the water–ha– with interesting original stories, ideas, and facts about water (there were only small facts, nothing really to sink into); the snippets of the non-fiction novel integrated with the life and the “real” events that happened to Dan. But I wanted more of the unreal, more of the meaningless details that bog lives down, day in and day out, yet details that enrich our lives and appear as the seemingly real. Or not.
The novel contained too much description and not enough of the “show” for my taste. In this plot driven story, I never really had the sense of sympathy for Dan. I wanted to sympathize with him; albeit I understood that my sympathy wasn’t necessary to the overall structure of the text, but I felt that to really enjoy this book I needed to grasp Dan as sympathetic, I needed to grasp the meaning of Dan’s life within the language of Dan. The plot held me, but the writing, while good enough, was not strong enough to satisfy me. I wanted so much more.
Next on my list will be Patricia Pearson. She was very amusing in MJ. Stay tuned for the next installment of–wait for it: The Basket of Books–or not.