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de Ian Williams
Black Authors (269)
Giller Prize Winners (25)
No hi ha cap discussió a Converses sobre aquesta obra.
Structured in a 'clever' way, to be clever, not to add to the value of the story. Did not finish. ( )
I finally got around to reading this 2019 Giller Prize winner; actually, I listened to it as an audiobook, and that may not have been the best idea because of the experimental style.
In the late-1970s, nineteen-year-old Felicia Shaw, a black immigrant from a “small unrecognized island,” meets Edgar Gross, a much older and affluent white man of German background. Their first encounter is in a Toronto hospital room where their mothers are patients. Felicia’s mother dies and Edgar convinces Felicia to take care of his mother once she is discharged. Their short-lived relationship results in Felicia becoming pregnant. The novel then jumps fifteen years into the future. Felicia and her teenaged son Army rent part of a house from Oliver, a bitterly divorced man. In the latter part, Army is 36 but still living in the house shared by Oliver, Felicia, and Riot, a college-aged young man whom they have raised since his birth.
The novel examines relationships and unconventional family structures and how they are formed. Often relationships are established only because of proximity. That is certainly the case with Felicia and Edgar and Felicia and Oliver. When Felicia and Army move into part of a house owned by Oliver, they form a sort of family with him and his children. Later Oliver and Felicia adopt Riot, even though they are not a couple. Army tries to form a relationship with his father and even forces others to accept him as part of their already unorthodox family. On the other hand, some characters use distance to separate themselves from relationships. This is certainly the case with Riot’s mother and father.
The structure is unusual. Williams explained it in an article in Quill and Quire: “it’s in four parts and each part approaches reproduction differently. In part one it’s biological. It’s in 23 paired chapters so it’s chromosomal. Part two has four characters, so we go from those two characters to four characters and 16 chapters. And part three [grows] exponentially, from 16 to 256 small sections [16 x 16]. At the end of part three the book gets cancer and you see those tumours growing in the superscript and the subscript [rendered by the text flowing intermittently above, below, and along the sentence lines]. That is the final form of reproduction beyond human control” (https://quillandquire.com/authors/poet-ian-williams-experiments-with-structure-to-tell-a-classic-love-story/).
The style is also irregular. For instance, song lyrics, German words, and Caribbean patois are included. Some sections are like stream-of-consciousness. My issue with the style is that, especially in the later sections, it becomes more of a focus than the content. What’s with the many different spellings of Edgar’s names?
The characters are certainly distinct, but the men are all unlikeable. Edgar’s surname is so appropriate for a self-absorbed, arrogant manipulator who treats women abhorrently. Oliver is a wanna-be rock star who frequents strip clubs and constantly mocks his ex-wife’s appearance. Army is full of get-rich-quick schemes even as an adolescent; in his mid-30s, he remains a hustler, even in his romantic relationships. Riot is another man-child who expects others to support him while he makes art films which include recording a man’s death. And don’t get me started on Skinnyboy!
Women are forced to shoulder more responsibilities than men. Edgar has no qualms about leaving his mother without a caregiver, knowing that Felicia will feel a moral responsibility to step in. Felicia raises Army as a single mother without any financial support from the wealthy Edgar; in fact, he blames her for getting pregnant, even though he had lied to her about having a vasectomy. When Army brings a terminally-ill man into the home, his care falls mostly to Felicia. I kept wishing Felicia would develop a backbone and stand up to the men; if she had been more forceful with Army and Riot, they might have become more mature. I can understand a 19-year-old being manipulated, but it is more difficult to understand in a 55-year-old.
I’ve read two other titles that were on the 2019 Giller Prize shortlist: The Innocents by Michael Crummey (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/2019/10/review-of-innocents-by-michael-crummey.html) and Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/2020/03/review-of-small-game-hunting-at-local.html). I think both of these are of better quality. When compared to these two novels, Reproduction suffers because of more focus on style than substance.
I don't know when I have been so disappointed in a book. This book won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2019, chosen from a short list that included Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Coles and The Innocents by Michael Crummey. I gave SGHatLCGC five stars and The Innocents 4.5 stars but I feel I am being generous in giving this book 2.5 stars. The jury which included some Canadian writers that I have admired very much blew it in my opinion.
Felicia and Edgar meet in a hospital room that their mothers are sharing. Felicia is a teenager and Edgar is middle-aged. Felicia is from the Caribbean and poor; Edgar is German and from a very wealthy family. It would seem that they have little in common but after her mother dies Felicia agrees to move into Edgar's house to care for his mother (Mutter). Edgar has sex with Felicia telling her that he has had a vasectomy but it turns out that not only is he a sexual predator but he is a liar. Felicia gets pregnant and Edgar asks her to leave the house. Fast forward a number of years and Felicia and her son, Armisitice (Army) are renting half of a house from a Portuguese man, Oliver, separated from his wife. His two children, Heather and Hendrix, come to visit for the summer. Army is a little younger than Heather but that doesn't stop him from wanting to sleep with her. Does he? It's unclear but when Heather is found to be pregnant after she returns to live with her mother everyone assumes Army is the father. Heather comes to Toronto to have the baby and leaves the baby behind with Army, his mother and her father as a new family. Meanwhile Edgar has resurfaced because he has been accused of sexual improprieties at his work. He wants Felicia to refrain from telling anyone about their relationship but he also wants to get involved with Army. Or perhaps he just thinks that if Felicia thinks Army will benefit from Edgar's involvement she will not spill the beans.
At over 400 pages this book was way too long. As well, the author threw in all kinds of different writing structures the point of which, as far as I could see, was to prove how clever her was. I couldn't care about any of the characters although Army was at least interesting. Very, very disappointing.
This novel is uniquely structured. The first part alternates perspectives between Felicia Shaw and Edgar Gross. Their mothers are sharing a hospital room. Felicia is a nineteen year old recent immigrant; she is poor and is completing high school as her Caribbean diploma was not recognized in Canada. Edgar is a successful business man, originally from Germany, at about 20 years older than her. They bond over the health of their mothers (one dies; one doesn't) and form a relationship that lasts, in different ways, for the rest of their lives. I really enjoyed this part.
In part two, Felicia is a single mother (yep, Edgar's the dad) of Army -- a fourteen year old boy. They rent part of a house from Oliver, who has custody of his 16 year old daughter and 10 year old son for the summer. I found my interest waning a bit, Army doesn't seem like the kind of person Felicia would raise and I was distracted by bringing in new characters to the detriment of hearing more about Edgar.
Part 3 takes us forward another few years, and Heather is having a son of her own. By Part 4, Edgar is back as Army wants a relationship with his father even if Felicia doesn't.
The novel does a good job of portraying life and relationships in all their complexity. Felicia doesn't have a chosen family so much as she has one thrust upon her. I found it too long, a bit unreal in how some characters interact and there is a stream of consciousness in the final part that just confused me.
I'd say the book was okay, with flashes of brilliant writing and insight.
Experimentally Structured Family Saga
Review of the Vintage Canada paperback edition (Sept. 2019) of the original hardcover (Jan. 2019)
Reproduction has a genetically/mathematically inspired structure of 4 Parts (which each jumps a generation or so) consisting of 1) 23 pairs of stories, 2) 16 short stories, 3) 256 (i.e. 16 times 16) paragraphs, and 4) an extended disintegration. These are separated by interludes called The Sex Talk which can be read as sequences of short poems and fragments. The 4th Part is likely the most disorienting section as it consists of a through plot line where one character's name begins to gradually deteriorate (from what I at first thought was a transposition typo) into randomly re-ordered letters and at last into a final long wheeze of a single extended vowel. Part 4's through plot is subverted by seemingly randomly inserted fragments of a lowercase subscript plot which covers topics such as high school science lab & Gregor Mendel's genetics discoveries. Although the subscript plot seems independent, it does occasionally chance to comment on the main plot.
I mention all of this structural play right off the top as a possible guide for readers who might be uncertain or hesitant about the experimental prose aspects. None of this was a barrier to understanding this extended family saga which still made you feel for and understand these characters along the way. From matriarch Felicia, absentee patriarch Edgar, striving entrepreneur Armistice (Army), stand-in patriarch Oliver, sister & brother Heather and Hendrix, and budding filmmaker / artist Chariot (Riot) each character has their hate or love, cheer or cringe moments.
Es mostren 1-5 de 8 (següent | mostra-les totes)
A hilarious, surprising, and poignant love story about the way families are invented, told with the savvy of a Zadie Smith and with an inventiveness all Ian Williams' own, Reproduction bangs lives together in a polyglot suburb of Toronto. Felicia and Edgar meet as their mothers are dying. Felicia, a teen from an island nation, and Edgar, the lazy heir of a wealthy German family, come together only because their mothers share a hospital room. When Felicia's mother dies and Edgar's "Mutter" does not, Felicia drops out of high school and takes a job as Mutter's caregiver. While Felicia and Edgar don't quite understand each other, and Felicia recognizes that Edgar is selfish, arrogant, and often unkind, they form a bond built on grief (and proximity) that results in the birth of a son Felicia calls Armistice. Or Army, for short. Some years later, Felicia and Army (now 14) are living in the basement of a home owned by Oliver, a divorced man of Portuguese descent who has two kids - the teenaged Heather and the odd little Hendrix. Along with Felicia and Army, they form an unconventional family, except that Army wants to sleep with Heather, and Oliver wants to kill Army. Then Army's fascination with his absent father - and his absent father's money - begins to grow as odd gifts from Edgar begin to show up. And Felicia feels Edgar's unwelcome shadow looming over them. A brutal assault, a mortal disease, a death, and a birth reshuffle this group of people again to form another version of the family. Reproduction is a profoundly insightful exploration of the bizarre ways people become bonded that insists that family isn't a matter of blood.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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