When I refer to “it”, I’m not exactly talking about the one from Let’s Fix It, the mysterious call to action printed and posted on every street lamp and historic tree in Todd Babiak’s fictional cul-de-sac. For me, “it” is a negative voice that seems to seep into the collective consciousness of Edmontonians. That naysaying bit of neurosis that attempts to convince oneself that the external circumstance that we inhabit called Edmonton, is simply not good enough. Flawed most definitely, but Edmonton is not some abysmal frontier where our innate freedoms and sense of self-worth, joy, and opportunity are so easily washed away like the accumulation of a winter’s worth of road crush and refuse down a side street sewer. That kind of thinking is simply just a disruptive narrative, an inner voice from social and cultural structures that have adopted this false view and have attempted to hand it down, nearly barrier-free, to the minds of our citizens.
I’ve been ruminating over thoughts like this since I picked up The Garneau Block, a book which I think is a culturally significant piece of fiction for Edmontonians, and here is my reasoning: the author sets out and successfully provides a broader understanding of a very distinct time in the city’s history. This understanding is channeled through characters that despite not everyone being able to identify with on an intimate level, they still manage to create a kinship that we share with them through the novel’s satire, specifically through their experience of those universally sad, but funny, then hopelessly sad, but funny again moments of life that we all seem to endure. What is left on the page is a story that is universal in its themes, but at the same time remarkably remains so very Edmonton in its delivery.
Also, I cannot go without mentioning how the author successfully removes the negative stigma surrounding mortality in our culture, by offering a healthier take on the relationship between life and death. What is implied is that we need to embrace death in life, to sort of cajole us into becoming accountable for our own actions, which may give us a greater say in our own narrative. In turn, we are left with something that truly outlasts death- our stories.
The power of these stories is a central theme in this novel, and we see it best when channeled through its cast of eccentric characters who despite embodying varied socioeconomic backgrounds, education, ethnicity, political and sexual orientations, still find a way to share a collective narrative that holds a kind of mythical power that is strong enough to overcome their common foe and other antagonizing forces such as the “it” I speak of.
Not bad for a serialized satire about a city with a view (Richler, so smug, but I love em’).
See you tonight,
Here are the goods on a good Edmontonian:
Selected Articles and Interviews: