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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

The Numinous In The Ordinary

Canada - Richard Ford

Canada is the story of Dell, a boy growing up in America in the nineteen sixties, whose parents try to rob a bank and make a mess of it. They're imprisoned and Dell only avoids institutionalisation by fleeing across the border to Canada where he is given a kind of refuge by Arthur Remlinger, the brother of a friend of his mother's and another incompetent criminal.

Ford's work celebrates the numinous in the ordinary and, in theory, that's something that appeals greatly to me. In practice, however, I find the effort of reading his prose outweighs the reward. There's too much opaque deliberation, too much that is circular and repetitive; the wisdom always feels incremental at best.

For me, reading Canada was like walking round and round the exercise yard of a detention centre, noticing tiny details in the brickwork of the prison building and finding relief in the sight of weeds that had taken root in the mortar, while all the time I could hear the sound of people at liberty and enjoying themselves beyond the prison walls.

Many people whose opinions I respect think he's a wonderful writer. Unfortunately, I cannot share their opinion.