Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Canada (and the art of crawling to famous authors)

I was and am a big fan of Richard Ford. I impressed him one afternoon at the Sydney Writers Festival when I carried out an expert sucking up manoeuvre via an ingratiating critique of his powerful descriptive abilities. Best consumed slowly like a rich cake, I think I said in a metaphor possibly richer even than his prose.

Well, I’m certainly pleased to meet you! he said, implying there had been a number of people who had not been so thoughtfully grovelling. Maybe they’d mistaken his rugged American countenance for Charlton Heston (still alive at the time) and harassed him about gun laws. Who knows.

So a couple of years later when I heard he was in Leichhardt signing his new book Canada, I dashed down to catch him at Shearers bookshop.

What do you know? He didn’t recognise me. And me, one of the only people in Sydney not to confuse him for someone from the NRA! Nonetheless, he exuded considerable southern charm as his young minders tried to shuffle him onto another engagement.

At the time I’d recently made an acquaintance with a Canadian, and when I told him what book I was reading he said, well that’s one way to sell thirty million copies.

Not this one I don’t think. It’s hardly a tourist brochure as the young protagonist gets trapped in very tricky circumstances in a desolate, lonely and sometimes terrifying Saskatchewan environment, peopled by unstable, unreadable desperadoes.

Although the prose is rich like a mud cake, there is plenty of story as well, and Ford wisely starts by giving us a good indication of what to expect with his opening line:

First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then the murders, which happened later.


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