If there’s anything harder than writing a good novel, it’s writing a bad novel well. But it’s this feat that Canada Reads 2008 winner Paul Quarrington accomplishes in his latest comedic romp. A book within a book, The Ravine is egomaniac Phil McQuigge’s attempt to write a memoir. An “enthusiastic amateur alcoholic” and “emotional imbecile,” McQuigge was disgraced out of Canadian television, is separated from his wife and stuck in the mentality of his 11-year-old self tied to a tree in a Toronto ravine listening to a friend being raped.
Quarrington makes it fun to read along as this shallow character with his banal problems tries to wow the reader with deep statements like, “Memory is a funny thing.” McQuigge’s silly literary pizzazz, like writing in a screenplay format, work because the reader laughs with Quarrington the whole way.
At heart, beyond McQuigge’s charming depravity and idiosyncrasies, The Ravine is a meditation on redemption in a world where “shit happens,” memories are lies and evil is everywhere. It’s with Mordecai Richler-like talent that Quarrington puts a smile on your face and leads you into ravines. Quarrington reads at the Keshen Goodman Library Monday, April 21, with his band Pork Belly Futures.