The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, November 02, 2007

Underground

By Anne Chudobiak

A few posts back I mentioned my plan to read A.L. Kennedy’s novel Paradise en route to Toronto. Although I did start the book on the train, I finished it at home, which later seemed to me like a missed opportunity for some kind of life-literature synchronicity: Paradise climaxes on a cross-Canada train journey, beginning (dramatically, of course) in Montreal. There are lots of little jokes that couldn’t possibly be funny unless you’ve already had reason to travel at least parts of the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. The main character has trouble, for example, even pinpointing the not ironically named Central Station in order to begin her trip:

And after half an hour I’m sure I must be close. The summery day has exhausted me, left me sticky beneath my shirt, and I have toured this block at least a dozen times – this block where the map says the station has to be. I have followed a railway-looking sign into a shopping mall and out again. I have scrutinized offices, tower blocks, shops, a statue and a Catholic residence. I have looked for trains. I have listened for trains. Nothing.
You can’t hide a whole railway station.
Why would you try?

In time, she realizes that the station is buried underground, a fact that continues to stymie me. I can get to the train station, but I can’t tell you how it’s done. Kudos to the Scottish Kennedy for capturing a particular-to-Canada reality. Talk about verisimilitude!

At another point in the book, she explains how a recovering Montreal alcoholic acquired a speech impediment, “running across the Place Dupuis and falling unluckily and waking up in a hospital with a ragged hole through the floor of his mouth and a very much shorter tongue.”

And I thought, “Place Dupuis? Where’s that? Maybe she made it up. It sounds like a plausible name for a place in this city. Why not?”

But no. This week, I received a letter from the government of Quebec, summoning me to the very real Place Dupuis, where I can apparently renew my health card and driver’s license in one fell swoop. I will be very careful when I go not to run.

Pictured: Massage chair in the Panorama Lounge at the also "buried" Union Station, Toronto

10 Comments:

Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Kennedy was such a great reader at the Anansi event! Is it true she was a stand-up comedienne? I would travel by train to hear her read again, that 's for sure. Even by bus. Atop an incontinent camel. By rickshaw, even if I was the driver. Via circus cannon. you name it!

Fri Nov 02, 11:43:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

What? A comment already? I'm still editing in what I assumed would be anonymity. In my last post I used the word "possibly" three times in one short paragraph, and now I'm really nervous about repeating the same mistake, ha ha.

Did you go to her website yet? It's funny.

Fri Nov 02, 11:48:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Hi, I did go and it's hilarious!
http://www.a-l-kennedy.co.uk/

Fri Nov 02, 12:00:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

That train station drove me nuts! And there are no escalator to the Metro. What kind of fool designed such a thing; a train station near a metro, but god forbid you try to cart your luggage to and from the metro. Sigh. Only in Montreal, I say...

Fri Nov 02, 02:46:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

Tamara, I thought that you might chime in. :)

Fri Nov 02, 02:59:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Heh heh. Yeah, I guess I have strong feelings about that...

The Kennedy book is on my list though...

Fri Nov 02, 03:13:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure. Locomote right past our house, and don't visit us. Did you feel a flash of guilt as the entirely above-ground Barrhaven station passed you by?

Unrelatedly: have you read Sinclair Lewis' "Main Street"? I feel that you should.

Mon Nov 05, 04:32:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne C. said...

I didn't go through Ottawa, did I? Kingston, yes. Ottawa, no.

Mon Nov 05, 08:34:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Mike said...

Oops, guess not.

Doesn't matter though. We weren't home. Oddly, we took the train to Toronto.

Tue Nov 06, 07:41:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Anne C. said...

I know! Therein lies the real shame. It would have been fun to meet up in a different city.

Tue Nov 06, 08:58:00 am GMT-5  

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