Friday, June 02, 2006

Not Wanted on the Voyage

My first foray into Timothy Findley has left me with mixed feelings. Not Wanted On the Voyage has an incredibly appealing preface, but after that, things get a little too bizarre and (on occasion) a little too boring!

I have a deep respect for any artist willing to explore the gaps in long-accepted truth, to feel around in the dark caves of uncertainty and make guesses about the odd shapes they're grabbing at (that's what I call creativity), so when I started this book, I had incredibly high hopes.

The Preface is brilliant. It gives good reason to hope so highly. Here's a taste:

"And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him into the ark, because of the waters of the flood..." (Genesis 7:7)

Everyone knows it wasn't like that.

To begin with, they make it sound as if there wasn't any argument; as if there wasn't any panic... an excursion.

Well. It wasn't an excursion. It was the end of the world.

After that, things get a little depressing. There are some beautiful, bleak moments, such as this one:

Mrs. Noyes was all at once acutely aware of the darkness and the walls around her and the roof above her and the floor below. Her arms ached -- and part of the ache was the memory of why they were in pain. We are truly captives here, she thought; every one of us -- and yet they have called this: being saved.

Maybe that was what she had meant by safety and sadness: that she and all these creatures with her shared their captivity in a way they could never have shared the wood. That when you are caught in the same trap, you share the same fear of darkness and of walls and you also have the same enemy. You fear the same jailer. You share the dream of freedom -- waiting, all together for the same door to open. You also learn to survive together in ways the uncaged would never think of.

The ultimate message, however, that God is dead and that this God-less world, where compassion must bow to paranoid patriarchal fanatics, doesn't exactly make Mr. Findley's novel good bedside reading material.

It is, however, simply because of its subject matter, a fun book to read in the tub. (I'm not the first to admit that: Bill Richardson's Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast makes a similar proclamation...)

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