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A World Elsewhere (2011)

de Wayne Johnston

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1125203,067 (3.46)27
A World Elsewhere is the tale of an extraordinary man betrayed by his closest friend - from an author described by Annie Proulx as 'a brilliant and accomplished writer'. Landish Druken, son of a Newfoundland sealing captain, is a formidable figure - broader than most doorways, quick-witted and sharp-tongued. He turns his back on family tradition and leaves St John's to head to Princeton University, where he is befriended by 'Van' Vanderluyden, son of the wealthiest man in America. When Landish is betrayed by Van he is banished from Princeton and his hopes crumble. Back in St John's, Landish adopts an orphan, Deacon. With nothing but trust, humour and compassion, he raises Deacon alone until poverty leaves them with nowhere to turn, but to Van. They journey to North Carolina where Van has built Vanderland, a huge and magnificent castle. There they are swiftly pulled into Van's web of lies and deceit, and Landish and Deacon's bond is truly tested.… (més)
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Landish Druken is from Newfoundland and, while attending Princeton, meets George Vanderluyden. They have a falling out, but years later, Vanderluyden has since built a mansion, is married, and has a daughter. He takes in Landish and the boy Landish has taken in, Deacon.

I have to admit to being quite distracted as I read the first 2/3 of the book, so I know I missed some things. For the first 1/3 of the book, I kept reading Landish’s last name as “Drunken”. Oops! It got better (though still wasn’t terribly exciting) for the last 1/3 of the book, when I was able to better focus on it. There were a few twists at the end.

I actually smiled at the dedication and the acknowledgments: I knew his parents and it was dedicated “in loving memory” of them. I was a good friend of his youngest sister so have met some of her siblings, as well (all mentioned in the acknowledgments), though I’ve never met Wayne. Of course, that’s just a personal reaction to those parts of the book that really don’t have to do with the book itself! ( )
  LibraryCin | Oct 10, 2017 |
This book was witty and it treated the business of life in the book with humour. Although it is not the best writing I have read, it was a good read, and the story was heartwarming. It took place in Newfoundland and North Carolina in the late 1890's . ( )
  sashakristyana | Oct 5, 2012 |
A book by a Canadian Author, this was on the list for one of the book prizes, Giller i think. It's about two men, Landish and Padget (Van) Vanderluyden who meet at Princeton just at the end of the 19th century. Landish comes from Newfoundland and Van is rich, based on one of the Vanderbilts. Van and Landish are close but Van seems to use that friendship. Van is spoiled and selfish and Landish is a bit of a hanger on and a bit over fond of the drink but otherwise not a bad fellow. Van's actions cause Landish to be expelled and he goes back to St. John's but since he will not follow in his father's footsteps and become a fishermen on the seal boats, he is disowned. His father is responsible for the death of some of his crew and one of them has a little boy. Landish feels somewhat responsible and when the boy's mother dies, he takes the child in though he is barely able to feed himself let alone take care of a child.

They are very poor but manage to get on. Soon, however, he's desperate enough to write to Van for help. He is refused at first and then is sent tickets on a ship and train to come to the huge estate Van has built in North Carolina, called Vanderland, based on the Biltmore estate the Vanderbilts built. He is beholden to Van and is one of a band of tutors that live there to teach Van's little girl. The little boy, Deacon, takes classes with her.

The book has a lot of father-son themes running through it, not just about Deacon and Landish but the relationships the two men had with their fathers also plays an important part in their lives. The book is well written though there's not a huge amount of plot. Lots of play with words and expressions and the characters are drawn quite well. ( )
  tvordj | Nov 17, 2011 |
Landish B. Druken is a struggling Newfoundland writer who adopts Deacon, a child whose father died while sealing with Landish's father. Destitute because he is disowned by his father for not taking up sealing, Landish contacts his one-time friend, the ultra-wealthy Padget (Van) Vanderluyden, for help. Their friendship ended because of a plagiarism scandal in Princeton but their relationship, albeit a toxic one, is resumed when Van "rescues" Landish and Deacon by bringing them to Vanderland, his great American castle in North Carolina. (Yes, the Vanderbilt's Biltmore is the inspiration.)

Landish is totally unsuccessful as a novelist; he made a vow to "'write a book that will put in their places everyone who has ever lived'" (1) but "Landish wrote every night, and every night burned what he wrote because it wasn't good enough" (10). His best stories are those he tells Deacon to explain the world. For example, he explains the duties of a ship's crew: ". . . the men in charge of engines had what were known as 'engine ears,' which meant that they were deaf from the noise the engines made. Also there were pursers who made sure that no one's purse was stolen. There were men called stewards who were in charge of serving stew. And other men called porters who were in charge of serving port" (109). Landish is a drunkard and wastrel, but one cannot but admire his quick wit, and his love for Deacon is certainly a redeeming quality.

Van, on the other hand, is an emotional cripple. He is a totally selfish man who sees people as possessions which he can control with his money. He will stop at nothing to get what or who he wants. In Princeton he devises a scheme to have Landish expelled in the hopes that Landish will then have no choice but to join him as his "'lifelong guest'" (22) in the Vanderland he proposes to build. When the two are eventually reunited, Van tells Landish, "'You may not leave Vanderland for any reason without my permission . . .'" (138). Likewise, he keeps his daughter a prisoner: "'[Godwin] has lived all her life at Vanderland and will not leave it, not even for a minute, until she is twenty-one . . . '" (138). Deceit, bribery and blackmail are techniques he employs with skill.

A major theme is father-son relationships. Van's father rarely spoke to him and treated him with scorn when he did; he even left him only one-tenth of what the other children received. Abram Druken disowns Landish and bequeaths him only a whitecoat hat. It is the relationship between Landish and Druken that seems to be the exception.

The outstanding quality of the book is its prose. Anagrams, puns, rhymes and neologisms abound. Food is a pre-occupation when Landish and Deacon have barely enough to survive; to take his mind off his hunger pangs, Landish makes up food puns: "The Merchant of Venison. Broth fresh from the brothel. A sacrificial lamb was a mutton for punishment. . . . He would write Van and tell him they had dined tonight on Sham Chowder, Lack of Lamb, Crazed Ham and Duck a Mirage. Steam of Mushroom Soup and Perish Jubilee" (52). Landish's description of the stages of life is ingenious: "You go from the Womb of Time into the womb of your mother and from there into the world. The world leads to the Tomb of Time, the place from which no one knows the way back home. . . . [Y]ou passed from the Womb of Time into what he called your birth 'Murk,' which was the interval between your 'commencement screech' and the first moment of your life that you remembered. . . . Landish also told Deacon about Just Mist - the realm of things that at one time were possible but had never happened" (35 - 37).

It is this wonderful prose that makes the book worthy of reading. It is not my favourite of Johnston's books, but I would recommend it for its wonderful playfulness with language.
1 vota Schatje | Sep 20, 2011 |
An absolutely unique read. The main characters Landish B Druken and his Princeton friend/nemesis Padgett Vanderluyden- "Van", are both dismissed by their fathers and seek recognition on their own merits. Landish, seeks to become a novelist but succeeds only in writing and burning every page he writes, and adopting the son of a whaler whose death is the responsibility of his father. "Van" designs and has built an enormous estate in North Carolina which he calls Vanderworld. The humour and play on words is hysterical. The last part of the book holds together best. Worth reading for the experience, the freshness of the characters and the unlikeliness of their situations. ( )
  CarterPJ | Sep 5, 2011 |
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A World Elsewhere is the tale of an extraordinary man betrayed by his closest friend - from an author described by Annie Proulx as 'a brilliant and accomplished writer'. Landish Druken, son of a Newfoundland sealing captain, is a formidable figure - broader than most doorways, quick-witted and sharp-tongued. He turns his back on family tradition and leaves St John's to head to Princeton University, where he is befriended by 'Van' Vanderluyden, son of the wealthiest man in America. When Landish is betrayed by Van he is banished from Princeton and his hopes crumble. Back in St John's, Landish adopts an orphan, Deacon. With nothing but trust, humour and compassion, he raises Deacon alone until poverty leaves them with nowhere to turn, but to Van. They journey to North Carolina where Van has built Vanderland, a huge and magnificent castle. There they are swiftly pulled into Van's web of lies and deceit, and Landish and Deacon's bond is truly tested.

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