Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cockpit readers

I was down at Gyro Beach this weekend, taking our kids to the (rainy) Easter festivities there, when I bumped into my colleague, the prolific novelist / short-story writer / hockey memoirist Bill Gaston. We got to talking, and I remembered that Gyro Beach was the setting for an early scene in his novel Sointula. The main character—a suburban mayor's wife who goes off her meds and heads to the West Coast in search of her damaged son—slept on the beach (Bill pointed out the spot where he imagined it happening), hijacked a kayak and then headed up the east coast of Vancouver Island on her quest.

Bill retold a funny story related to the book. He recently sold a pair of kayaks, and the young guy who bought them—a local outfitter—asked who he should make the cheque out to.

"Bill Gaston," Bill said.

"Like the author?" the outfitter asked.

Bill's voice, needless to say, swelled with pride, as he said, "Well, in fact..."

It turns out the young guy had read at least two of Bill's novels, including Sointula. I suggested to Bill that he should have signed the kayak—how often does a writer get to do that?—as its connection to his novel made it an important artifact of Can Lit history.

Last week, I also acquired a funny little kayaking-related anecdote about my own book. My cousin Bernie and his wife had been visiting Victoria from Calgary. He mentioned that his mother—my aunt Karen—had been reading Fatal Tide at her home in Manitoba. When she got to the climactic storm scene on the Bay of Fundy (spoiler alert: the book doesn't end well), she actually climbed into the cockpit of the lake kayak she owns and finished reading the chapter there.

How cool is that? Every author dreams of writing a story that transports a reader so completely. Maybe if Penguin ever prints another edition of Fatal Tide (spoiler alert: highly unlikely!), it can be sold along with a small inflatable kayak, so other readers can share the same "immersive" reading experience.

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