the lobster kings-alexi zentner

“Size is one of those odd things about art, because it can change the way you view a painting.” (254)

i think this one ties (station eleven) for my vote for this year’s ontario librarian’s association evergreen book selection. i was on it this year-i’ve read (or tried to read) all of them except somewhere in france, so that’s a reminder to activate that on my holds’ list.

what i always appreciate about this annual list is how good the librarians are at picking across genres, and how committed they are to bringing out regions, stories, and authors that wouldn’t otherwise get the attention.

i suppose it’s hard to tell an east coast story without the water, as it is the east coast. unlike the other side, there seems to be a strong focus on canadian art on the land, the forest, and the mountains, and less of the west coast-but all the times i’ve read about the east, it’s the water.

“It doesn’t usually take more than one winter for those people to realize that the reason they fell in love with Loosewood Island wasn’t because of what the island was, but rather because of what Loosewood Island wasn’t. It wasn’t the life they wanted to leave behind.” (24)

my librarian’s reaction to this book was that she didn’t think the king lear metaphor really worked, but i didn’t think that it was the intention to make it a direct translation (also-as an aside, the other book that i liked also had lear at the wavy centre-huh) but like the pull quote, it was a story within the story-the intentions of a dad naming his daughters, not the actual story structure, because i don’t think it was that spike lee self-reflexive, where the creator goes beyond meta-phor, to truly create an entirely parallel universe. as a theme of the story within the story, or changing the scale of the painting, it completely works.

i was also reading it at the time that whale rider was showing at david pecault square and i remember seeing that for the first time in the theatre, at cinecenta at UVIC, which was where i truly got my university education-reminder to send a thank-you note to whomever curated during those years*.

“With Scotty gone, Daddy took me on for a full share of what he pulled out of the ocean, and in response, my sisters separated themselves from him with a violent absence that turned me into the bridge between them and Daddy; it was as if the only way they knew how to figure out who they were was to obliterate the ground around them, a teenage policy of scorched earth. Or maybe it was the other way around, maybe it was Daddy responding to Rena and Carly pushing away by pulling me tighter.” (61-2)

“That his talking was meant to be an ocean in and of itself, so that we’d be washed away by the words and never wonder about the things he didn’t talk about: Scotty, my mother, Vietnam, his own father.” (73)

“That’s the only way he talks about my mother anymore, as if she were some sort of prank he pulled.” (7)

“I loved Carly, but sometimes it seemed like she’d never gotten over the day I accidentally dropped Mr. Pickles over the side of the Queen Jane.” (94)

“I could see how he’d already started seeing the damage of too much beer and drugs etching lines on his face, and how in a few years he’d look hollowed out and only a woman as empty as him would be drawn in.” (127)

“She was someone who you could tell had once been pretty, but it was as if she’d sunk into herself, faded out, and she looked both older and younger than the twenty-four or twenty-five she must have been.” (128)

“And I know it sounds naive, but it hadn’t occurred to me that being sad that he was gone and missing him were two separate things.” (303)

the protagonist’s negotiation of who she is as a woman, daughter, sister, and heir to the family business is one that is universal, as well as her decision-making (and options) when it comes to romantic relationships. i feel about her, i think the way she thinks about herself. i think i like her, but i’m not sure-she’s a bit distant, but i can tell that detachment has been hard-won.

the most interesting painting within the painting, of course, is the running of meth through the waters, as we know that we’ve exhausted the fishing industry, and times of rampant poverty bring desperate measures indeed. i’d like to look more into this but in the meanwhile-chrissy is a killer y’all-try to stay away.


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