Wednesday, February 29, 2012

10. The Words of my Roaring by Robert Kroetsch

I cannot even remember why I picked this book up.  I think it was early on in our Maritimes trip and at one of the first used book stores in PEI, so I was a little overeager (like women or fish, you need to let them come to you).  I was interested in it because it was Canadian and looked like a fun read.

It's a story of a man, Johnnie J. Backstrom, running in the Prairies during the Depression and a drought, running for office. His main opponent is an old doctor, who is also his mentor and father figure.  Backstrom himself is quite reckless and irresponsible, constantly drinking, spending money he doesn't have and neglecting his pregnant wife.  The whole story is told from his perspective and I guess we are supposed to sympathize with him.  His big move is to spontaneously predict that it will rain the day of the election and then he spends the rest of the book wrestling with the attention and potential success this gives him, while getting drunk and sleeping with the doctor's hot daughter back from an eastern college.

It's an enjoyable read, but doesn't really resolve itself in the end.  It seemed a bit of a celebration of masculine excess, without excusing it, but just lacked a concrete narrative for me to really like it personally.

One thing to note is the sticker with the author's name on the lower-right-hand corner.  Wow did somebody fuck up the printing of this book!  How pissed would you be to have been that author?  I can only imagine the conversations that went on behind the scenes when this book hit the shelves.


Castaway said...

I kid you not -- this is one of my all-time FAVOURITE books. Sadly, Robert Kroestch died in a car accident last summer at the age of 83 - He has written some other excellent reads (and, frankly, more highly acclaimed) -- The Studhorse Man (which won the GG Fiction price in '69), Badlands, and What the Crow said are all well worth the effort.

I re-read this book late last year and, despite my enthusiasm for this work, I have to agree with your conclusion about the ending.

OlmanFeelyus said...

That is so cool. I felt my instincts were telling me something when I saw this book. There is no doubt that he is a talented, lively writer. I can see how The Roaring is a sort of Catcher in the Rye for irresponsible thirty-something married men.

I had meant to do some research on him before I did my blog post, but didn't have enough time. I'm looking forward to following up on that link.

Jason L said...

My first English teacher in college was this Can Lit guy from Lantzville named Ron Smith. He was super big on Kroetsch and we had to read a bunch of his books. I think he may even have brought him in to class to speak with up.

I do remember that I quite enjoyed Badlands.