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August 11, 2010

Vicious Circle reads: Galore by Michael Crummey

The Vicious Circle assembled again last night in a beautiful backyard in the East End of Toronto to eat cheese, drink delicious wine (and gin), and discuss Michael Crummey’s Galore. Oddly, those of us who’d been dreading this “epic, intergenerational saga, a sweeping tale of two centuries” (which begins with a man being cut out of the belly of  a whale) found that we enjoyed it, while those who’d higher hopes had found it ho-hum. Two of us hadn’t managed to finish the book, and reported that it was not so much “putdownable” as “unpickupable”.

One of us (who was me, incidentally), was hung up on the peniserrific nature of the story (and I took to opening the book at random to spot the penis on the page, and there usually was one). Others confessed to not so much minding the sexy bits, but it was argued that women didn’t have sex in this book as much as simply sit on the enormous penises. Someone wondered at there not being more bad sex in the novel, but we speculated that these lives were so bleak, surely the people were deserving of some kind of compensation.

What is magical realism, we wondered. No one knew, though of course we’d all tossed the term around from time to time. None of us had ever read Gabriel Garcia Marquez either, and everyone felt better (and less alone) once that was out in the open. None of us had a problem with the man from the belly of the whale, though we never quite understood what he (and his various attributes) was meant to signify. All of us wished we knew more about the bible (and Absalom Absalom, though less so with that).

Everyone loved Mrs. Gallery’s story, and we felt that she and Bride were the only women we really felt close to. The other witchy midwife women were more mysterious, but not in a way that was wholly satisfying, as we didn’t understand their motivations. Why was Mary Tryphena allowed to be sacrified? Why was she called Tryphena? The novel took pains to tell us that the men in the story lived in the shadows of their women, but we were not convinced. Some of us were also disappointed at the strands of the story that sailed off into nowhere and were never seen again.

We loved the writing, and how he rendered Newfoundland. Some of us did not love dashes instead of quotation marks, but we came to terms with it. We loved the arrival of the doctor into the community, and the stories told (in biblical begetting fashion) by the Trim brothers, but we also kept losing track of characters and getting names mixed up. We were grateful for the family trees in the beginning, though did they make the narrative too inevitable (but then wasn’t that the very point)? One of us who had been dreading this book has read another Michael Crummey since then, and is looking forward to more. It was also remarked upon that he wrote about breastfeeding in a very realistic fashion, which is unusual for any writer, in particular a male one.

It got very dark outside, and we talked about other things, but about the book mostly, and soon the cheese was nearly gone. At around 10:00, we started to leave, but conversation continued as such that we didn’t get out the door until nearly an hour after that.

5 thoughts on “Vicious Circle reads: Galore by Michael Crummey”

  1. I’m definitely intrigued by this one; I’ve had his books on my mental TBR list for ages. It sounds like the discussion was a good one even if not everybody was won over by the work as a whole.

  2. Kristin says:

    Oh, this makes me miss my book club very much. I started one in grad school and we met every month for about 8 years. We too drank a lot of wine and ate fantastic food and talked until way past bed time. I read so many great books that I probably wouldn’t have chosen on my own. But then some people moved away and some had babies and life got too hectic for others. So we disbanded. But I’m ready to start up a new one, I think.

    Also, peniserrific is a fantastic word! I’m going to have to figure out how to use it in conversation today…

  3. patricia says:

    I love that Kerry can create delightful words like ‘peniserrific’.

    It was a magical evening. Perhaps even a bit of magical realism that night? But no penises in that backyard, other than the ones in Galore.

    I’ve been thinking a lot Kerry, about your suggestion of Galore being actually a bible of sorts, and I think you’re on to something. Part I and Part II, Old and New Testament, perhaps? If only I wasn’t so biblically-challenged…

  4. Laisha says:

    I’ve not read this book & may or may not read it in the future but, I have to say, I love the way you wrote this post!

  5. Carrie says:

    You have to read Garcia Marquez! Or Latin American fiction, perhaps, much of which is rich with magical realism (you’ll know it when you read it).

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