Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book review: 419 by Will Ferguson

Once we feel cozy and warm in North America. Once we've identified the good and the bad. We travel with Mr. Ferguson to Nigeria--and everything is set on its ear.

' "[W]hen it comes to obtaining wealth through false pretense, the white man is still the expert. I'm afraid the black man is an amateur when it comes to 419ing others. One might say, my entire country was obtained under false pretenses." ' (p. 304)

What attracted me to this book?

Well, as I've shared with you before, I'm a fan of Will Ferguson. And 419 won the Scotiabank Giller in 2012. Put them both together and you'll know why I read this book.

What did I find?

What a master storyteller can do...

-talk directly to the reader...

'Despair comes slowly, crawling its way up inside you until it threatens to overwhelm everything; it buckles the knees, makes you falter, makes you break stride.' (p. 88)

This type of writing is like being able to peek under the curtain and watch the Wizard of Oz at work.

-the two word transition...

'Outside:  chinook winds dividing the sky, the clear blue pushing dark clouds forward in a single wine arc. 
Inside:  Laura's father sitting on one of the mall's benches, staring at the ground, frowning thoughtfully.'

"You can't do that." Would be my immediate response, if I were to think of trying this. Yet, he has the confidence to try. And it works very well. I wonder how many writing rules we invent simply because we are afraid to try.

-like a skilled weaver, releases one strand (character) and picks up a different one. Both are woven flawlessly into the story.

-uses beautiful imaginary...

'She fell into sleep, like a body down a well.' (p. 95)

'It was a wisp of a dream, like trying to catch wind in your hand.' (p. 100)

-poses a question that resonates...

'The final block is fear...What if you denied fear its foothold? What if you refused to be afraid?' (p. 149)

-shares his trademark humour...

' "The only reason I never because you never lose." ' (p. 225)