Sunday, March 02, 2008

Canuck Book 7 - The Architects Are Here by Michael Winter

I just finished book 7 in the Canadian Book Challenge.

Michael Winter's The Architects Are Here is a book I was really looking forward to loving. What was there not to love? After The Big Why, Winter returns to a story focused on his fictional alter-ego Gabriel English, the protagonist of one of my favourite books, This All Happened. Furthermore, the book is a road story of sorts, winding from Toronto to Newfoundland with stops and detours along the way. Again, this is something I normally love.

At the end of it all, the book did not live up to my expectations. It would be easy to say I set my sights too high, but I don't think this is the case. Mr. Winter is an excellent writer and there is some excellent writing in this book. It's just the story gets muddled in a series of outlandish coincidences and strange acts that did not always ring true to me.

To be clear, this is not a bad book. I enjoyed reading it. Gabriel English is one of my favourite fictional characters and I hope Mr. Winter returns to him in the future. It's just the story did not hold together as well as I had hoped. Near the end of the book, you get this feeling that the end is near. . . And then he pulls back. Then he builds another climax, then pulls back. You start to feel as if you're floating close to shore, feeling the waves push you forward, draw you back, then push you forward all over again. By the time you land on the shore, it feels less like a conclusion, then that you simply ran out of room.

With that said, I must make it clear that I do love his writing. There is a sharpness to it that I love. Like his fellow Burning Rock alumnus, Lisa Moore, Winter's writing style jettisons all extraneous punctuation to create a text that is very fluid. Dialogue mingles with description, thoughts with actions.

A long time ago, I read a review of one of his earlier books by a blogger who complained about this. She took the lack of punctuation to be a sign of disrespect for the language. It stuck with me all this time because I could not believe how wrong she was. To write the way Mr. Winter does, requires a great deal of respect for the language. He is not simply forgetting to put in punctuation. Instead, he is actively withholding the punctuation to better serve the story he is telling, in the way he wants to tell it. It works because he has taken the time to make sure it is done right.

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Winter's work, I would recommend picking up This All Happened first. Get yourself acquainted with Gabriel English and his world. After that, pick up The Architects Are Here. It's not perfect, but it tries.


John Mutford said...

After talking with people about Saramago's Blindness and McCarthy's The Road, I've discovered that liberties with punctuation is one of the great divides. Personally, I enjoy it when done for artistic merit as you imply Winter does. I've not read any of his books yet, but when I do, I'll take your recommendation.

Teddy Rose said...

Nice review. This is one that's on my TBR and I think I will give it a try one of these days. It still sounds worthwhile.