I just finished reading Miriam Toews‘ latest, The Flying Troutmans (US Cover pictured above, Canadian cover below). I was annoyed that I missed the book launch at McNally Robinson. I remembered at 10:00 that night, so I went down there the next day and bought a copy. When I stepped up to the cashier, I asked if they didn’t have any flatsigned copies (they usually do after an author event like this). He checked and was also surprised that they didn’t, but told me I could just bring my book back, “She’s in here often enough.” True, she’s a local author, but somehow I don’t see myself hanging around the bookstore like some kind of stalker waiting for her to appear so I might accost her with pen in hand.
Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed the novel, and though it’s a work of fiction, I got a real kick out of one particular passage (p.176-7).
Once, after she’d deep-sixed another one of her art projects early in its infancy, Min decided that what she really needed was religion and she started going to some church in the north end, in some dilapidated neighbourhood off Main Street.
At first it was great but then the pastor of the church told the congregation that they were going to start locking the doors of the church during the Sunday sermon because prostitutes were coming in off the street to warm up in the lobby and kids in the hood were coming in off the street to steal coats from the cloakroom.
Min was enraged. Since when does a church lock its doors, and especially to the community’s most vulnerable individuals? The next Sunday she brought a lawn chair and plunked it down by the front door, which she’d propped open with a sign that said All Are Welcome, and then, clipboard in hand, counted the number of prostitutes and street kids and other disenfranchised folks entering the church.
None! Zero. She did this Sunday after Sunday, there was no thieving going on at all, and then, when her good work was finished, she stormed the pulpit in the middle of his sermon, grabbed the mike and presented her findings to the entire assembly and said if this was Christianity she didn’t want any part of it, she’d rather sell her ass for crack.
This is pretty much the only scene in the book relating to Christianity, but what gets me is how entirely completely plausible this whole scene is. She completely nails the attitude of a lot of churches, not just in the “needier” communities.
Now, in the book, Min is a little, er, mentally unbalanced, somewhat beyond the point of that endearing sort of eccentricity. In this case though, she gets it right. Well, not about selling her ass for crack, but about the fact that the church — of all places — should be open to — of all people — those of the community who are most vulnerable.
Actually, for some odd reason, this reminds me of Wendy McAlpine, of the McAlpines doing the road trip from Kelowna to Tijuana. When I told some friends on Sunday about the decision not to stalk an author for an autograph (hey, it’s not like it was a difficult decision, I’m not weird or anything), K jokingly accused me of having a crush on her. I figure she must have that backward, but my wife said she wasn’t worried. Now that I’ve posted this, K might be though. I like to keep people relatively confused — it makes me feel more coherent by comparison. All I have to say is that I enjoyed the book, and as an author labouring with some difficulty to finish a book — okay, more than one — I have to respect a completed and published project, particularly when it’s a worthwhile read. Today I jotted down the some of the basic idea for a novel I’ve been nursing along in my head for the past year. I wrote about a chapter and a half, maybe, and I think it may have some potential. It’s my first attempt at something that length, fiction, told in the first person. I do have the sudden urge to read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, but that might possibly distract me from the task at hand. We’ll see.
But oh, uhm, about those locked doors… horrible to for the church to get all antisocial like that out of fear. Even if it is just fictional. We all know that too often it isn’t, really. So, anyone care to comment on the alphanumeric vomit that is this post?