26 October 2012

Library Limelights 16

Brent Pilkey. Savage Rage. Toronto: ECW Press, 2011.
Following close on the heels of Lethal Rage (reviewed last time), I became even more absorbed in constable Jack Warren's life—on the streets, in the precinct house, and in his conflicted family. Many police recognize that constant exposure to violence and crime could alter their own psyches to become as ruthless, or possibly corrupt, as the criminals they despise. Some are unaware of the warning signs; some struggle to remain balanced. Faced with daily victims of ignorance, addiction, and mental illness, Jack fights to control his own temper, wondering if he is morphing to the dark side. We don't know how successful he will be or if his wife Karen will bail (the next in the series is being published in the fall of 2012). Pilkey himself is now a Toronto Police Services veteran who battled major depression along the way (http://www.brentpilkey.com/darkdays.html). Hard for a cop to admit, harder still to recover. It's a wonder that he can convey the character's mixed emotions so articulately.

Answering a domestic call:
Diapers. They were fighting over diapers. Is that what Jack had waiting for him? Not that he thought Karen would ever fight over something as stupid as that, let alone call 911 about it, but what if she was pregnant? She said she wasn't, but how accurate was that test? And when had she used it? Fuck, she could be pregnant from last night.
His mood, which had been sour all morning thanks to images of him dancing woodenly as his mother-in-law jerked strings attached to his limbs, dropped even further. God, I want to hit someone.” (163)
Finding a coke addict:
“Jack shook his head to throw off the red haze that had saturated his vision. He looked at the man sprawled on the floor. Did I do that? He didn't remember hitting him or pulling out the knife but he must have, because there it was in his hand. Numbly, he handed the knife to [partner] Manny.
'Thanks, man.' Manny closed the knife, then studied it. Grinning, he snapped it open with a flick of his wrist. He pointed the blade at the crackhead, still grinning. 'Flick knife, bud. That's prohibited and you're going to jail, dude.'” (165)

Miriam Toews. The Flying Troutmans. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf/Random House of Canada, 2008.
Ahhhh! A favourite author and a delicious, sweet book between A Complicated Kindness (2004) and Irma Voth (2011). In fact, I may have read it before. No-one does quirky, dysfunctional family better. No-one. Her three main characters here are totally endearing as they straggle along the world's weirdest road trip to find a missing father—confused aunt, inarticulate 15-year-old in a hoodie, and precocious 11-year-old non-stop talker with an impressive slang vocabulary. They all have to come to terms with mother's mental illness. For someone who adores character development through dialogue (moi), Toews is superb. A publisher's blurb says she “created some of the most engaging characters in Canadian literature: Hattie, Logan and Thebes are bewildered, hopeful, angry, and most of all, absolutely alive. Full of richly skewed, richly funny detail, The Flying Troutmans is a uniquely affecting novel.” That's it, exactly.

Aunt Hattie:
“The whole time I was thinking about Min. Well, I was also thinking about Marc and I was thinking about Cherkis, and I was thinking about what a world-class champion of fucked-up I was. One week ago I'd been a carefree bon vivant in the City of Lights ballin' in the mad cheddar, as Thebes would say, and now I was passing out in gas stations and drinking wine out of the bottle with an imaginary animal for a boyfriend and a fifteen-year-old at the wheel. I didn't know if we should turn around and go back home, head straight to the hospital, or crank it up a notch and haul ass to Twentynine Palms. Maybe drive all night. But in which direction?” (158)

"Other kids were staring at her hair and her holster and her general prodigious strangeness. The fake tattoos she'd had all over her arms and legs had smeared and faded in the pool the other night and her skin had a rainbow glow to it that was pretty and unique in a way, but could also easily be mistaken for some awful skin disease. ... [We] watched cowboys get thrown off raging bulls and be rescued by clowns. She had pink cotton candy all over her face and arms and hands and legs and feet and shoulders and back. I wondered if maybe she didn't have scabies too." (116-117)

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