A fun, slightly tongue in cheek, read that scores more times than misses.
Story blurb: Jeremy Papier is a Vancouver chef and restaurateur who owns a bistro called The Monkey’s Paw. The novel uses a “Bloods vs. Crips” metaphor for the philosophical conflict between chefs such as Papier, who favour local ingredients and menus, and those such as his nemesis Dante Beale, who favour a hip, globalized, “post-national” fusion cuisine.
Papier also endures conflict with his father, an anthropologist studying homelessness in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, who draws him into investigating the death of two children in the park.
About the author: Timothy Taylor is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. Born in Venezuela, he was raised in West Vancouver, British Columbia and Edmonton, Alberta. Taylor attended the University of Alberta and Queen’s University, and lived for some years in Toronto, Ontario. In 1987 he returned to British Columbia. Taylor currently resides in Vancouver.
Taylor’s short story “Doves of Townsend” won the Journey Prize in 2000. He had two other stories on the competition’s final shortlist that year, and is to date the only writer ever to have three short stories compete for the prize in the same year. He subsequently served as a judge for the 2003 award.
His debut novel, Stanley Park, nominated for the Giller Prize and chosen to be the 2004 One Book, One Vancouver, was followed by Silent Cruise, a collection of eight stories and one novella.
Review by Gerry Burnie
Two things attracted me to Stanley Park: A Novel by Timothy Taylor [Counterpoint; Reprint edition, September 25, 2003]: It’s Canadian through and through, and it’s about food.
I’m a self-confessed—and self-described, ‘foodie.’ Not the faddy fusion foods, or the trendy I-eat-it-because-it’s-the-thing-to-do dishes, but good, well-prepared standard fare. I think I may be a ‘Blood’ too (as apposed to a ‘Crip’), but I must confess I have no idea what these two terms mean, let alone their derivation.
Taylor’s novel has three lines of focus: Food, Stanley Park, and corporate domination. Regarding food, his attention to, and reverence for, the preparation of imaginative dishes may be a bit slow reading for non-foodies, but otherwise it’s entirely in keeping with the theme. It is also, in some ways, a metaphor for dedication and loyalty to a conviction in spite of forces to the contrary.
Regarding Stanley Park, one can hardly discuss Vancouver without including ‘Gastown’ or Stanley Park. To Vancouver it is what High Park is to New York, so it is quite natural that the author would lavish it with detail—to put it on the map, so-to-speak. And what other way is more appropriate, or imaginative, than to have the main character Jeremy Papier’s father live there studying the homeless.
The imaginative choice of names is clever, too—i.e. Jeremy Papier (“Jeremy Paper”) and Dante Beale (owner of “Dante’s Inferno”). I have long maintained that authors don’t give quite enough consideration to names. In my opinion, they are as important as choosing just the right descriptor for anything else. In any event, Beale is corporate-lowest-common-denominator-mentality personified, and Taylor has a great deal of fun tweaking this concept (while take a well-deserved pop-shot at Starbucks.)
Whether these three somewhat disparate themes stitch together effectively is a matter of opinion. They worked reasonably well for me, although I must admit some disorientation at times. Nonetheless, there have been comments expressed on both sides of the discussion.
What I found didn’t work—although I understand the author’s wish to include it as a bit of local lore—is the unsolved discovery of the two skeletons in the park. It is a sub-plot that just didn’t fit, and left this reader looking for a resolution that didn’t come.
Altogether, it’s a fun, slightly tongue in cheek, read that scores more times than misses. Four bees.
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