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Book Title: Century|
The author of the book: Ray Smith
Date of issue: 1986
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 735 KB
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Reader ratings: 6.9
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Century successfully navigates that tricky territory between the conventional and the inaccessible, demanding the reader’s full attention, and rewarding it, while retaining enough mystery to sustain, I expect, many readings. You continually detect movement in your peripheral vision, things you can’t quite spot, no matter how quickly you turn your head. When, halfway through a novel, you find yourself thinking that, man, you just gotta re-read this thing at least once, well, that’s a damn good book.
How to approach it? Century, in essence, explores familiar territory in an unfamiliar way. Yes, this is a Canadian novel: a multigenerational saga that follows the repeated tragedies of a single family, whose women keep kicking the bucket against the sweeping backdrop of history. Of a century, in fact. Oh, it’s not quite canonical Canlit; it lacks a prairie landscape, wendigoes, and snow – but these are mere quibbles. The story, if you like, is conventional.
The storytelling is anything but. The timeline moves back, rather than forward, so the story is necessarily discontinuous, more so because Smith obscures the relationships between the characters. Names are not often mentioned; it is easy to miss who is whose parent, who is whose doomed daughter. Smith follows the family tree back through the generations without leaving a map. Each chapter is a jump cut; one does not lead back to the next, and consequently, one feels that they are separate stories.
But they aren’t. Patterns of behaviour and the concerns of the characters repeat themselves back through the generations. The sins of the parents are visited on their children; the same personal failures play themselves out again and again, to the point that you want to re-read the book just to see how the last chapter may play out in the first, in ways that perhaps you initially failed to recognize. This is, then, a single, unified narrative, not a collection of stories; it simply refuses to play itself out in the way we expect.
Henry James said that the only obligation of a novel was to be interesting. This one is fascinating.
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Read information about the authorLibrarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads database.
Ray Smith (the novelist) was born in Cape Breton in 1941.
For more than three decades, Ray Smith has occupied a distinctive position on the margins of the Canadian literary scene. His work is characterized by an interest in experimentation, but there is no discernible pattern of development. Each of his books is markedly different from the others, and none fits comfortably into the standard academic overviews of Canadian literature.
His first book, Cape Breton Is the Thought Control Centre of Canada (short fiction), is one of the earliest Canadian examples of experimental writing in the international tradition. (Of American writers, perhaps Donald Barthelme provides the closest analogue.) The relentless, witty interrogation of short story form underscores a parallel skepticism about received truths in other areas of life.
Smith's first novel, Lord Nelson Tavern, focuses on a group of about ten characters, most of whom have known each other from their student days. The first of its seven sections depicts that period of their lives as being relatively ordinary, but as their life stories unfold, their individual narratives become increasingly bizarre and exotic. One, for example, becomes a famous poet who marries an Oscar-winning actress. Another—the least likely—becomes a major player in a world-class drug smuggling operation; eventually he is murdered in accordance with Hollywood convention. A third becomes an internationally acclaimed artist, a fourth a producer of pornographic films, and so on.
Smith does not attempt to make such lives seem believable. Instead his interest is in exploring the voices of his characters, both spoken and written. Much of the book is in dialogue, and there are many unusually long speeches; two of the sections are transcriptions of diaries. Though many of the episodes involve comic exaggeration, the novel does address serious thematic issues, especially the nature of love and art, and the factors that promote and destroy them. Taken as a whole (and despite the sometimes frivolous and cynical rhetoric), Lord Nelson Tavern professes an almost Romantic faith in the validity of romantic love and the power of art to redeem human experience.
Read more: Ray Smith Biography http://biography.jrank.org/pages/4747...
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