Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Andy Winslow looks out from his grain tower

“I became attracted to Prince Rupert, because it's, in a word, depressing... It rains all the time, and it's dark and the economy is in the tank.”— author Bill Gaston, on why he partially set his latest novel in Prince Rupert.

Author Bill Gaston was here and he was watching you and you and maybe even me. The British Columbia author spent some time on the North Coast in 2006 researching material for his latest work of fiction, The Order of Good Cheer.

The novel which splits the time lines between Samuel de Champlain’s arrival in the New World, to Prince Rupert’s existence in the current one, the work described by the Tyee as a fluid prose in which “Gaston charts Canada since colonization from coast to coast, re-imagining history and offering a fresh vision of the modern world.”

Of particular interest to Rupertites will be his impressions of the local subject matter, the result of his observations and conversations with residents during the course of his visit. Thoughts observed through his character of Andy Winslow, a fictional Rupertite, a rather broken kind of guy searching for answers.

From the Tyee website we learn a few of Andy's and by fictional divinity, the thoughts of Gaston's on our little corner of the world Champlain sought to conquer.

Contrasted with Champlain is Andy Winslow, a down-on-his-luck grain worker in down-on-its-luck Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Andy's life is characterized by entropy, the slow decay of Canada's mystery. With global warming encroaching on his land, Andy spends his life at the height of a grain elevator, reading Champlain's journals, and nursing a broken heart. As his grip on his loved ones becomes increasingly tenuous, Andy invokes Champlain's Order in a final bid to fend off emotional ruin.

On spying on the people of Prince Rupert

"I flew up to Prince Rupert with no real expectations. I guess you could call it research, but I just wanted to hang out in the town, and absorb what it feels like to be there. I hung out in the Tim Horton’s and the restaurants. I walked endlessly. I rented a car and zoomed off to Terrace, just to pretend that I was bored of Prince Rupert and had to get out of town for a while. I didn't aggressively interview people, I just met them here and there. I got all sorts of nice colour from them. One person in particular, who worked at the hotel I was at, she had a really nice overview of what it meant to live there.

"I became attracted to Prince Rupert, because it's, in a word, depressing. That'll anger some people who live there, but a lot of people who live there would agree with me. It rains all the time, and it's dark and the economy is in the tank. When it came time to write, I tried not to stereotype anything, and I think I caught it pretty accurately -- the depressed population, people going a bit nutty. I'd be interested to hear what [people in Prince Rupert] think."

Suffice to say we’re pretty sure that he will hear a few things from locals and former locals alike, some of them will be in full agreement having long ago moved on from the north coast, while most likely a few others will consider his thoughts and words nothing but heresy.

A full review of the book is available from the Tyee Website as well as a synopsis of the work over at the Chapters website, and of course it will be available in book stores everywhere (even here maybe?) for your full evaluation.

We somehow doubt however, that the book will be used by civic officials for those ceremonial gift giving purposes with visitors to the city any time soon..

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