"Edson’s vivid portrayal of the urban area, as well as the working class and underclass, creates a vision of Saint John that highlights the discrepancy between the pre-modern idyllic notion of life in Atlantic Canada and the more complicated reality of the region."

-The New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Excerpt from THE GOON to be published in CommuterLit.com

CommuterLit.com is a cool new website that publishes short stories, poems, excerpts etc for those commuters looking to pass the time with quick bits of lit. The first chapter of The Goon will appear on CommuterLit in the next week or so.

I've also submitted some poems from my chapbook skeletons, as well as the first chapter of A Place of Pretty Flowers, but no word yet.

It's a great way to introduce new readers to my work and I'm grateful to CommuterLit for publishing it. Go to CommuterLit.com and check it out.

THE TIN MAN published in Salon Magazine

A short story of mine published in Salon:

The Tin Man

Mel Tinsel was an old man who enjoyed hunting birds in the woods behind his house. He didn’t actually enjoy killing them and so whenever he shot he aimed elsewhere. But he loved walking through the woods and he loved sitting on a stump with his thermos full of hot tea and listening to everything around him.

His wife had died ten years before. Together they had raised two boys, Steven and Bill, who had long since moved out and called most weekends but rarely visited. They didn’t live very far away, but Mel had always felt as though he were intruding whenever he went to see them. (Steven managed the family business, Mel’s Shoe Emporium. Bill taught Math at a high school in Sussex.) And so Mel found other things to pass the time, like playing chess against himself or solving a puzzle or reading a good book. But most of all he enjoyed walking through the woods with his shotgun, pretending to shoot at birds.

On his way back home one autumn afternoon he picked up an old tin can that was half-buried in the ground. He placed it on a branch, counted twenty paces and took aim. As he eyed his target through the sight he noticed that a flicker of sunlight had broken through the trees and sparkled in the can. But suddenly he felt the way he did when aiming at a bird and he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. He lowered the shotgun and took a step back. The sparkling can reminded him of a Christmas Tree ornament and he thought of his boys and of his late wife.

In 1966 Mel’s family was the first in the neighborhood with a projector camera and every Christmas he woke up before the boys and hid behind the couch to tape them tiptoeing out to the tree in their pajamas to see what Santa had brought. The camera had a bright light and it reflected off the ornaments, and now, staring at the dirty tin can hanging from the tree in the woods, Mel’s heart fluttered when he realized how long ago those days had been, and how desperately far away they had become.

When he got home he went straight to the attic, found the box of film and loaded it into the camera. And there his family was on the screen; his boys were boys again, his wife played with her hair the way she always did when he filmed her. She had thick blonde hair back in those days and she would curl it in her fingers while pretending not to be flustered by the camera. She would often look into it and tell Mel to shut it off.

“I’m serious, Mel,” she would say.
“It’s not recording.”
“I can see the little red light.”
Mel would smile. “Tell me you love me.”
She would smile back. “I love you. Now turn it off.”

Mel sat in the attic and watched every roll of film in the box. The next day he went to the cupboard and emptied every soup can into the sink. Then he went to the garage for the cans he had saved for minor hockey. He called the grocery store and bought a dozen flats of canned goods and emptied them all. He drilled holes in each one and tied a string through each hole. By noon he was back in the woods, looking for the tree with the old can on the branch. When he found it he placed all the cans on the tree then took twenty paces back and looked at them sparkling in the sunlight. And he dreamed of a time when life was good, when everything sparkled around the Christmas tree, and he was hiding behind the couch, looking through the camera. He heard his two boys coming downstairs in their pajamas.

“Holy cow!” Bill gasped when he saw the Big Wheels parked in front of the tree.
“Look!” Steven said, pointing to the Hot Wheels racetrack that was set up on the living room floor.
“Holy crap!” Bill said.
Mel tried not to laugh when Bill spotted the camera and realized his father had heard him curse.
“Take down your socks,” Mel said, the camera still running. “See what else Santa brought.”

The old man walked home from the woods that night saddened yet again by the very real fact that it was all such a long time ago
The next morning he called the grocery store again. This time he bought almost every canned food they had, nearly a thousand cans—soup cans, tuna cans, dog food cans—it cost him dearly. It took him two days emptying them in the backyard, then drilling and tying the string. It took him three more days to decorate ten more trees. But it was worth it. He spent every day lying on his back in the middle of the woods, the cold earth below him, the cans sparkling and swaying in the trees. And now, with eleven trees surrounding him, he was not only able to dream about Christmas, but of any day he wished. After that, Mel decided to decorate all the trees along the path. He called the recycling plant in the city and had a dump truck deliver the load.

It took him three months to decorate the trees. And every morning he awoke and went into the woods to dream. He returned often to the time when he and his wife took the boys camping in PEI. The ferry ride was especially fun, the boys wide-eyed down where the cars were parked, the waves crashing up against the side of the boat, and then up on deck, a blue sky, a cool and salty summer breeze and the island blurry in the distance. His wife wore big sunglasses and a red and white striped sweater that made her look like Jackie O. The boys hung their arms over the railing and looked out at the water.

“Are there sharks in there, Dad?”
“Of course.”
“Big ones?”
“Huge. Like Jaws.”

They would drive to the other side of the island, to Cavendish, where they stayed at a campground near the ocean. They had to walk through a hay field to get to the beach. The boys used to hide in the hay and Mel and his wife would try to find them and they would laugh and scream and wrestle him down. They took pictures of only their heads sticking out of the hay, and at night they would roast marshmallows on an open fire. Mel’s wife always burned hers but she would eat it anyway, saying she liked it that way. Mel would concentrate and brown one perfectly and then give it to her and watch her enjoy it for real.

Mel often fell asleep under the sparkling trees and he would keep dreaming and sometimes when he woke up he would see the cans and would think, for a brief moment, that he had died and was with his wife in heaven. But then he realized it wasn’t that way and he would pick himself up from off the ground and make his way back home to the quiet house.

One afternoon Steven dropped by. He had a question about the store. When his father didn’t answer the door he walked around to the back of the house and saw the cans on all the trees. He followed the path he knew his father took and found him laying on his back in a pile of leaves.

Mel didn’t hear his son when he approached. He was dreaming of Halloween when Steven was seven and had insisted on being Wonder Woman. He was dressed in his mother’s red leotards, a brown bra and a long black wig. When Mel tried to tell him that he couldn’t dress as Wonder Woman the boy got upset.

“Why not?”
“Because she’s a woman. How about Batman?”
“I don’t like Batman.”

Mel’s wife took a picture of Steven with the leotards pulled up over his belly, and the bra that hung down to his waist. She told Steven it was a wonderful costume and out he went.


Mel woke up. He had wanted to keep dreaming about how Steven and Bill (who was dressed as a ninja) had come home that night, each with a pillowcase full of candy.
“What are you doing?” Steven frowned.
“Nothing,” Mel said, sitting up and brushing himself off. He noticed the wrinkles around Steven’s eyes and realized that Steven was now older than he was that Halloween night.
Steven looked around at all the cans in the trees. “What’s all this?”
Mel smiled. “A hobby.”
“You did all of this yourself?”
Mel nodded. “I did.”
The whole forest seemed to sparkle. “There must be over a hundred trees,” Steven said.
“One hundred and seven,” Mel smiled.
“This isn’t what normal people do, Dad.”
“Go home, Steven.”

Steven looked around again. “I don’t like it,” he said. “I don’t like it one bit.” He held out his hand. “Come on, we’re going to see Dr. Christiansen.”
Mel pulled back. “I’m not going anywhere.” He lay back down in the leaves and closed his eyes.

Steven took him by the arm to try and lift him up, but Mel slapped him till he let go. Steven took another look at all the cans, sighed heavily then left.

The next day Steven returned with Bill. Mel was lying in the same spot. They snuck up on him, grabbed him by the arms and lifted him up.

Bill leaned in close to his father. “This is for your own good, Dad.”

Mel struggled but there was nothing he could do. Steven and Bill dragged him out of the woods and had him committed to the mental hospital that overlooked the St. John River. Mel tried his best to show that he was competent but he was in his eighties now, and when he worked himself up he would become flustered and confused, and the boys` lawyer easily spun it into delirium. It didn’t help that his sons had taken pictures of the backyard and had showed them to a judge who ordered Mel into the hospital’s care.

And so nothing sparkled for Mel Tinsel anymore. Doctors came in every day at the same time and treated him like a child, asking him silly questions about what day it was and how he felt. Whenever Mel got upset a nurse would come and poke him with a needle that made him sleep without ever dreaming. Steven and Bill visited him the first few months but after a year they stopped coming altogether.

Years passed and Mel got used to living in the room and sleeping without dreaming; he had completely forgotten about his wife and sons. There was a young doctor whose first name was Steven, and Mel was drawn to him but he didn’t know why. Sometimes a nurse would wheel him out into the hall and he would notice things sparkling in the hall lights, the silver of a pen, raindrops on the windows, and this would excite him and he tried to get out of his wheelchair to lie down on the floor but they would stick him with a needle again and he would wake up in his room.

One day a nurse working with Mel had a can of pop and Mel asked if he could keep the empty can. He was allowed. Soon Mel had a collection of cans and when December came he asked if he could decorate the Christmas tree in the lobby using his cans. Everyone agreed, and it was a very humble but very beautiful tree. They didn’t know what it was about the tree, but that it made everyone feel happy when they were around it, a giddiness they attributed to it being the holidays.

On Christmas Eve, Mel sat in front of the tree where he told stories of his family, of his two boys opening gifts and how beautiful his wife had been and how she used to curl her hair in her fingers when the camera was on her.

He died on Boxing Day. He was 98 years old. The following year the nurses decorated the tree with cans again, in Mel’s honor, and every year after that. They called it Tin Man’s Tree. Whenever visitors asked about it they would be told about the little old man who had first decorated it with pop cans and who had come alive that one night to tell stories of his family, and who had died a few days later. And for some reason when they were told this story, they found that they could not stop staring at the tree and smiling.

Monday, December 26, 2011

THE CLIMB by Anatoli Boukreev

After reading Into Thin Air I read The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev. Boukreev was criticized in Jon Krakauer's book for heading down the mountain too quickly when the blizzard hit, leaving clients behind. Little did Krakauer know that that was the plan all along for Boukreev--to get down and rest in case an emergency arose where he would be needed to ascend again. Krakauer wasn't even in Boukreev's expedition, so to make such an assumption is brutal. And in a total lack of journalistic integrity, not only did Krakauer never bother to check this fact, Boukreev himself claims he told Krakauer this, yet it still ended up in the book. The truth of the matter is, while Krakauer was asleep in his tent, too exhausted to move, Boukreev went into the storm and saved lives. I'm so glad I read this book afterwards; I'd thought Boukreev was indeed the villain Krakauer paints him to be, but the truth is, Boukreev is a hero. In my opinion, Krakauer's book, written as well as it is, should be on the fiction shelves. Anatoli Boukreev died in an avalanche a year later, but his book remains, unearthing the truth about what really happened on Mount Everest on May 10, 1996.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer

This was yet another book that had been on my shelf for years and I finally picked it up this week. My wife has been telling me to read it since forever. It recounts the 1996 Mount Everest disaster where eight climbers lost their lives. Jon Krakauer takes you right to the summit of Everest -- every passage, every face of the mountain is told in such vivid detail that once the storm strikes, you have become so familiar with the mountain that you know what places he is talking about; the many different spots where eight climbers -- including Rob Hall, one of the best climbers in the world -- lost their lives while caught in a blizzard with hurricane-force winds and temperatures at a staggering 100 degrees below zero. You get to know the climbers so well you are left reeling after the last page, unable to take your mind off of what had happened, the gravity of the tragedy, and feeling as though you too had lost friends that day. I've now begun The Climb by Russian guide Anatoli Boukreev, who was also there. I know nothing about mountain climbing; I used to think the dangers of the sport were all about the mountain itself, but with high altitude climbs like Everest (29,035 feet), the elements are far more dangerous than the actual climb. Krakauer takes you there with him, as though you are roped to him and experiencing it all with each page. It's one of those books that will stay with you forever.

***See the post above this one for my new opinion of Jon Krakauer's book***

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Ottawa's Matthew Firth has been referred to as Canada's Charles Bukowksi--putting some lofty expectations on him every time he sits down to write. With the release of his short story collection Shag Carpet Action (Anvil Press), Firth lives up to the billing. I'm a big Bukowksi fan so I'm always hesitant to ever make that comparison (and I'm sure Firth would also agree that Hank is incomparable). Bukowski has many imitators who try to throw in some over-the-top perversity or crudeness meant only for shock-value. Firth, on the other hand, makes no such attempt--he simply writes what he wants to write, shocking or not. There's no phoniness to his work. Shag Carpet Action sucks you in from the beginning, literally. Tatiana masturbates with a Spider-Man action figure, and her voyeuristic neighbour enjoys it too. Another story takes you inside Firth's own experience getting a vasectomy. "Three Women on the Bus" reads more like a script, in the tune of Hemingway's "Today is Friday". Essentially, Firth's writing implies a universal truth most writers don't have the balls to say: That everybody's shit stinks. And he does it with considerable humour. There are moments in this collection that will have you laughing out loud.

So for those who are too skittish to step into Firth's world, I have just one thing to say: GET OVER YOURSELVES--it's the world we all live in. Firth's stories remind us of the realities of being human; what we think, feel, and do. The writing is easy to read, raw-to-the-bone honest, and refreshingly real. And that's why I highly recommend you forget about your clean-cut CanLit filler and get your knees dirty with something a little more to the floor--Shag Carpet Action.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Beauty and the Greatness of David Adams Richards

An amazing night last night at the Westdale United Church in Hamilton where I saw David Adams Richards give a public address on "Beauty and Human Greatness" from his book God Is. Richards spoke about the meaning of beauty and greatness, while saying that beauty did not come in spite of evil in the world, but because of it. It was a powerful and moving reading. I spoke with him beforehand and we chatted about a few things (I hadn't seen him since 2005).

I met briefly with him afterwards as well and got a nice picture with him (above, taken by my good friend Clive). He is such an amazing man--one of the best writers alive today but as humble and as down-to-earth as anyone you could ever meet. He makes me so proud to be a Maritimer. His message was about greatness and goodness, and he personifies both. In an age where some writers walk around thinking they're above others because they once won a prize, here is a man who has won everything and still stays the same. He's a genius in the truest sense of the word; under-appreciated in his own lifetime, but nonetheless miles above every other writer around him.

The world will be talking about Richards for as long as humanity has literary discussions, and I think it's about time he should be seriously considered for, in the words of Hemingway, "the Swedish thing"...(You can bet if he'd written about Toronto his whole life instead of small-town New Brunswick there'd be a weekly column in the Globe and Mail calling for it.)

Photos by Clive Baugh

Friday, November 4, 2011

More praise for THE GOON...

"I found it compelling. Jack comes across beautifully; you don't waste a word; there's tons of atmosphere; nicely drawn tensions and conflict. Best of all you evoke the inner life, of Jack especially, and in fact portray the community in general without any strain whatsoever, by just keeping the narrative moving along."

--Tom Henighan, whose sixth YA novel, The Boy From Left Field, comes out with Dundurn this winter.

In 1999 I was lucky enough to have studied creative writing under Tom at Carleton, and it's no coincidence that within a year my first book was published.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Eden Mills

Today I read from The Goon at the Eden Mills Writers' Festival and what a great day...I was slotted to read alongside Hal Niedzviecki and Andrew Pyper (Andrew and I are sitting in the photo, with Hal standing in the white shirt) -- two phenomenal staples on the CanLit scene -- and it was awesome chatting with these two...they were fun and relaxed. I chatted with Terry Fallis who was a delightful guy, and I caught his reading this afternoon where he had the crowd in stitches...I also shared a couch with 2010 Giller Winner Johanna Skibsrud as we ate our lunch -- what a down-to-earth sweet person she is...2010 GG Winner Allan Casey and I chatted about Hemingway...It's very cool for me to rub shoulders with these CanLit stars but even better when I find out they're great people too.

Friday, August 26, 2011


The Goon has made the shortlist for the 2011 Relit Awards...The longlist of 60-odd novels has now been whittled down to 10 and I'm still in the running...This was my third time on the longlist but the first time being shortlisted for any literary prize.

Founded by Newfoundland master storyteller Kenneth J Harvey in 2000, the Relit Awards are probably the most honestly-judged literary award in the country and being on the shortlist will no doubt get The Goon some much-needed exposure. This is a big boost for me, regardless if I win or lose...but damn, I want to win it.

Here's what Chad Pelley recently said about the Relit Awards:

The ReLit Awards honour and shine a light on some of the best books of the year published by Canadian independent presses … and in that sense, they’re one of the most important, purposeful, and beneficial awards out there.

Click on the link below for the announcement of the shortlists in The Globe and Mail:


Click the link below for the Relit Awards Homepage:


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chuck Palahniuk's FIGHT CLUB

"Have you ever read Fight Club?" my brother-in-law asks.
"No," I say. "But I've got it on my shelf."

The Chuck Palahniuk novel had been sitting on my bookshelf for ten years; one of many books I'd stockpiled for another day. Once I was asked if I'd ever read it, I was interested again.

I just finished it, and wow, what a great book--a quick and easy read that keeps you glued. I'd like to go on about the differences between the book and the movie, or about Palahniuk's flowing, straightforward style, but I won't. After all, the first rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club.

Read it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2011 Eden Mills Writers' Festival

I'll be reading from The Goon at the 2011 Eden Mills Writers' Festival. This will be my second time reading there. I have also been asked to be one of the judges for the Fringe Literary Contest so I'll be busy in the next few weeks reading submissions.

Below is my author's bio on EMWF's website:

According to David Adams Richards, “Read Jerrod Edson. He is one of our best young writers.” Jerrod was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, and attended Carleton and York universities. His novels The Dirty Milkman and A Place of Pretty Flowers attracted some attention, but it was The Goon published in 2010 by Oberon Press that has established Jerrod as one of the best New Brunswick writers. In telling the story of main character Jack Jones, once an enforcer in the NHL, “Edson embodies his hometown—tough, rough, haunted, full of equal parts unfulfilled ambition and heart,” says the Saint John Telegraph-Journal.

If you are interested in attending this year's festival, here's the link:


The Goon reviewed in Front&Centre Magazine

The Goon
June 25, 2011
by Jerrod Edson
Oberon Press, p. 153, $19.95
Review by Matthew Firth
The Goon tells the story of Jack Jones, a washed-up former NHL enforcer adjusting to life after his glory days have passed. Jack played twenty seasons in the NHL, followed by two seasons of senior hockey in St John, New Brunswick. He then settled in St John to work as a bridge toll-booth operator. Jack boasts that he is writing a memoir of his playing days to anyone who will listen when he drinks and rehashes the past.
Roy Sweeney is Jack’s neighbour. His son Cam is a flashy, offensively-gifted rookie hockey player in the same senior league Jack played in at the close of his career. Roy is a retired teacher. He’s gay and in mourning for a partner who is five years deceased. Jack and Roy start an unlikely friendship one afternoon when Jack accidentally shoots his gun near Roy. Jack gets the idea that Roy – being an educated man – can help him write his book. Roy agrees, mostly because he is bored and lonely in retirement. They grow closer, attending hockey games together, drinking and providing each other with companionship. All the while, the book doesn’t get written but this doesn’t really matter. The real story is how these two men cope with life after their passions have fizzled and died.
Cam’s hockey career is a sub plot. He’s a small player who ends up being ostracized by his teammates for not taking part in a bench-clearing brawl. Eventually, Cam goes to Jack for help, the sort of help that lands Cam in hospital as he tries to win back the respect of his teammates.
The Goon is an entertaining and fluid novel that works well because Edson does not resort to cliché in telling the story. Sure, Jack Jones drinks, chases after a waitress, and dismisses the current generation of hockey players for being too soft but his compassion for Roy shows human depth and courage well beyond what is needed to drop the gloves in an NHL hockey game. Likewise, Edson avoids cliché with Roy: a gay painter who is also a hockey dad in a rough, mid-sized Canadian city. These are memorable characters to be sure.
One particular criticism stands out and it’s based on the fictional statistical record of Jones provided at the end of the book. Looking at the numbers, I’m not convinced they are plausible, based on the time when Jack would have played (from 69-70 to 88-89 in the NHL). I have a few beefs: the penalty minute numbers are way too low. Anyone who would have been a fighter with Boston in the mid-1970s would have had way more penalty minutes. Recall Dave Schultz set the NHL record for PIMs at this time with 472 in a season. Jack has less than half this much in any season. Also, Jack’s goals and assists are way too low for a 1970s enforcer. That was before current fourth-line enforcers who do little more than fight were on NHL rosters. Schultz and others took a regular shift and were also decent hockey players. Schultz was a 20-goal scorer one year; Tiger Williams once scored 35 goals. Edson has Jones scoring 0 goals in 76-77, which is inconceivable over a full season. Likewise, many NHL tough guys were decent scorers in junior. Williams was a 50-goal man in junior. Enforcers adapted to their tough guy role in the NHL in the 1970s and 1980s. Edson has Jack scoring only 6 total goals as a forward in his entire junior career, which never would have put him on an NHL roster in the early 70s. The statistics presented are more like the numbers of guys like Colton Orr and Trevor Gillies, current, talentless NHLers who truly almost never score and only fight. In the 1970s and early 80s when Jack Jones was supposed to have played, it was a different story entirely. Edson should have ensured Jones’ numbers were more in keeping with the era in which he played. This might seem like a minor quibble but to me it affects the authenticity of the novel’s lead character.

Find more Front&Centre Book Reviews here:

The Goon Longlisted for the 2011 ReLit Awards

The Goon has been longlisted for the 2011 ReLit Awards in the "Best Novel" category. It really is a very long list so there's no real accomplishment here. If it gets shortlisted then it would be cause for celebration. I don't have any expectations.

From the ReLit Awards website:

Canada's ReLit Award--founded to acknowledge the best new work released by independent publishers--may not come with a purse, but it brings a welcome, back-to-the-books focus to the craft. -Amazon.com

Here's the link:


Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Moon is Real

Yesterday I finished the first draft of a new novel called The Moon is Real...It's kind of a sequel to The Dirty Milkman where it revisits Charlie and Prin and we find out what they've been doing the last five or six years. It also dips into A Place of Pretty Flowers where Jeremy Wiggins and Jimmy S. find themselves in the middle of a dangerously absurd predicament.

The story looks at that very thin line between fantasy and reality and how we sometimes need to go a little crazy in order to stay sane. The structure of the novel is similar to A Place of Pretty Flowers where the story starts at a scene then breaks off into separate stories that intertwine and find their way back to where it all began. I had fun with that template for Flowers and I think it works with this story too.

It's still a few years away from publication but it's exciting to have a full manuscript in front of me to work with. It currently sits at 51,000 words and am hoping to reach that 60,000 mark that has eluded me in the past.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Year Mrs. Montague Cried

Sue White has written her first novel, The Year Mrs. Montague Cried, and I've just started reading it and can't put it down. Dubbed as a Young Adult Novel, it's a book everyone should read--it's got heart, sadness, and redemption; something every good story has. The writing is clean and simple and what a pleasure to read. I highly recommend it.

a fitting quote on the last school day of the year...

"A writer who can both write and teach should be able to do both. Many competent writers have proved it could be done. I could not do it, I know, and I admire those who have been able to."

-Ernest Hemingway

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jonathan Franzen's FREEDOM

There have been a few books I've read that have had a big influence on my writing; books that are so good that by the time I finish them I think, "I'm a better writer now that I've read that book." I learn different things from different writers; things like dialogue or flow or some little way something was done that opened my eyes. I am just finishing Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and am a better writer for having read it. What a book. And any writer who openly defies Oprah is someone I'd like to read--sure, he reneged, but it was still something that added some credibility of, well, cool. Freedom was named the best book of 2010 by TIME Magazine and for good reason. It's one of those masterpieces you stumble on from time to time.
Here are some other books that have greatly influenced my writing in some way or another that I recommend for any aspiring writer:
Post Office by Charles Bukowski
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
The Bay of Love and Sorrows and Hope in the Desperate Hour and The Friends of Meager Fortune by David Adams Richards
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Paradise Lost by John Milton
My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Thursday, May 26, 2011

THE GOON reviewed in HERE Weekly (May 26, 2011)

Finding the words

Published Thursday May 26th, 2011
In The Goon, an inarticulate hockey player gains his voice
by Charles Mandel
Here's a picaresque romp through the underside. Jerrod Edson's The Goon has plenty of brawling, bawling and, of course, drinking. Lots of drinking. Lots and lots of it. Geez, you might pass out just from reading the book.
The titular goon of Edson's novel is a retired NHL enforcer. At 58, Jack Jones lives off his reputation. A former player with the Boston Bruins, he's returned to Saint John, where he has little else to do but drink himself senseless every night. He boasts about the memoir he wants to write and yet is incapable of even beginning. Jones drinks at the same dive every day, where he longs for the waitress, Ruthie. And it is to her that he swears he will produce a book. Unable to, Jones works himself deeper into misery over his inability to string the words together that will create the book and win him the woman.
Instead, he falters. Not having bothered to read books before, he hasn't the faintest clue how to go about creating one. Yet to convince Ruthie that he's working on his, he tells her that he's reading several in order to research it the way the pros do it.
Unconvinced, she wants to know what Jones is reading. "Books, Jack had said, stumbling on his words. So many I forget the names. He knew Ruthie didn't believe him."
Suddenly his slacker life of getting pissed becomes a nightmare of pressure as a result. "What a mess he'd gotten himself in. He'd talked it up too many times not to mention it again."
One day while Jones is out hunting he runs into Roy Sweeney, a gay painter who's lost his partner. These two men - the brutish hockey player and the mourning homosexual - become unlikely and uneasy friends. After the chance encounter, Jones turns up on Sweeney's doorstep, asking him to help write his book because Sweeney worked as a teacher - never mind that he taught art.
To the mix, add Sweeney's son, Cam, who is a talented junior league hockey player, whose timidity is hampering his career, and you have a fairly swift-moving story about damaged people all trying to find their way in the world.
Edson's prose is straight-up, deceptively simple in its style. Likely, it took a lot of hard work to arrive at his pared-down narrative. And it's a given that the ending will be feel-good; in these days of deep cynicism, that's almost refreshing. Yes, The Goon can be a bit choppy in its prose, but don't let that stop you from dipping into this slice of life set in our own backyard.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Is Hemingway's Catherine Barkley English or Scottish?

Catherine Barkley, the nurse who sweeps Lieutenant Frederick Henry off his feet in Hemingway's masterpiece, A Farewell to Arms, is clearly described early on in the novel as English. But later, when Barkley is discussing with Henry what would happen if they got married...

"But darling they'd send me away."
"Maybe they wouldn't."
"They would. They'd send me home and then we would be apart until after the war."
"I'd come on leave."
"You couldn't get to Scotland and back on leave..."

So which one is it?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wine & War

My wife recently bought me Wine & War by Don and Petie Kladstrup and I read it over the weekend. It's the story of the German occupation of France told through the perspective of French winemakers; how they hid their most precious vintages from the Nazis; how their wineries suffered as badly as the people, and how, ultimately, by saving their wine they saved themselves.

This book read like a novel--like a World War 2 thriller, filled with stories of winemakers hiding their best bottles behind newly made walls (one winemaker got his sons to round up as many spiders as they could find so there would be cobwebs to make the wall appear old) or deep in caves where they couldn't be found. It talks about how France was forced to sell all of their wine to Germany (they were cut off from their main clients such as Britain and the US) and how the French tricked the Nazis by sending them bogus bottles--bad vintages while labeling them as something much better, and smirked with pride when the Nazis couldn't tell the difference.

For me, it was one of those books I just couldn't put down. It really is a great read and a book I'll definitely be giving as Christmas presents next year. Cheers to you, Don and Petie Kladstrup!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stephen King on Writing

A few weeks ago a friend of mine suggested I read Stephen King's On Writing. It wasn't the first time someone told me to read it. So I bought it on Saturday and finished it on Sunday. It taught me a few things, for sure, and I disagreed with a few things too. But the biggest lesson I learned from this master writer is the value of discipline. I am brutal with my writing habits and have now decided to wake every morning at 5:30 and get in one solid hour of writing before the baby wakes and the day begins. Thank you, Stephen King, for getting my arse in gear.

PS--Happy 1st Birthday to my baby girl!