Authors & Events
Look Inside | Reading Guide
Mar 10, 2009
| ISBN 9780307356154
Feb 05, 2010
| ISBN 9780307375544
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Mar 10, 2009 | ISBN 9780307356154
Feb 05, 2010 | ISBN 9780307375544
One morning in Don Mills, Phil and his brother Jay agree to let their friend Norman Kitchen tag along on an adventure down into a ravine — and what happens there at the hands of two pitiless teenagers changes all their lives forever. Years later the horrifying details are still unclear, smothered in layers of deliberate forgetting. Phil doesn’t even remember the names: Ted and Terry? Tom and Tony? It’s only when he descends into a crisis of his own that he comes to realize that perhaps, as he drunkenly tells a crisis line counsellor, “I went down into a ravine, and never really came back out.” The Ravine is Phil’s book — we read it as he types it, in the basement apartment he’s called home since his wife kicked him out for having an affair with a make-up girl. As he writes, and then corrects what he’s written, we hear how he went from promising young playwright to successful, self-hating TV producer. We listen in on his disastrous late-night phone calls, and watch his brother (once a brilliant classical pianist) weep to himself as he plays Ravel and Waltzing Matilda in a desolate bar. The Ravine tells us all about the influence of The Twilight Zone on Phil’s work and his life — how it helped him meet his wife Veronica and then lose her, and how it led to the bizarre death of his friend, TV star Edward Milligan. Sometimes, when Phil’s drunk, a friend will look at what he’s written so far and call him on it — like when Jay tells Phil that he’s remembered it all wrong: that he was just as good as Phil at tying knots back when they were in the cubs. Phil’s “ravine” is his attempt to make sense of things, to try to understand how everything went so wrong just as it seemed to be going so right. But The Ravine is also a Paul Quarrington novel, meaning that it’s hilarious and ingenious, quietly working its magic until the reader is at once heartbroken and hopeful. A darkly funny story about loss and redemption, The Ravine is also about how stories are made — how they can pull us out of disasters that seem too much for anyone to bear — and about how, sometimes, what we need to forgive ourselves for is not what we think it is at all.
The author of ten novels, Paul Quarrington was also a musician (most recently in the band Porkbelly Futures), an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, and an acclaimed non-fiction writer.Paul Quarrington’s novel, Galveston, was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize; King Leary… More about Paul Quarrington
Scotiabank Giller Prize
What first inspired you to write this novel?To be perfectly candid, I was inspired by a therapist who asked, “Have you ever written about your mother?” “Nope,” I replied, so I went home and started writing about a memory I had, specifically when my family got our first television set. I was fairly old when this happened, perhaps eight or nine, and it occurred to me as I was writing that it really had a profound effect on me, the arrival of that hulking piece of furniture with its black-and-white dreams. Other things occurred to me as I worked on that first piece — how my memory was faulty, how much I loved The Twilight Zone, my relationship with my younger brother — and by the time I was finished, I kind of had the idea for the whole novel. This section was, for many drafts, Chapter One, but I believe it got down-shifted to Chapter Four or so, and it marks my mother’s only appearance in these (or any other) pages.How would you describe the connections between Paul Quarrington and Phil McQuigge?Phil and I share certain characteristics and tendencies. Let’s face it, we’re the same guy. None of the specifics are true — the incident in the ravine, the marital demise, etcetera — but we have lived through, fundamentally, the same experiences. How did writing The Ravine, your tenth novel, present different challenges from writing your other books (or in what ways was it similar)? What was the biggest difficulty, and how did you get through it?Because The Ravine was not completely fictional (as was, say, Galveston), the main problem the writing presented was that it demanded a kind of emotional nakedness. I don’t think of myself as a very artistically courageous writer (and I greatly admire those that are) but I mustered what little nerve I could to write the book. The similarity with my other work is . . . writing it was a blast! I always think, “If I don’t have any fun as I’m writing this thing, no one’s going to have any fun reading it.” And even though I can be quite serious-minded, I try to be as entertaining as possible!As well as being an award-winning novelist and screenwriter, you’re an acclaimed filmmaker and musician, among other things. How do music and film and your other work inform your writing, especially in the case of The Ravine?Well, Phil fears that he too easily abandoned the novel (this is his first attempt) and the theatre for the world of television, and I sometimes feel that I have applied too much energy to non-novel — related projects. As for the music, Phil’s brother, Jay, plays piano in a bar, and I intended his music to work as a kind of soundtrack for the book. I have made a short film, Pavane, with a producer named Judith Keenan who has a company called BookShorts. Even though the film is only six minutes long, I think it manages to draw all of these things — the characters, music, film, etcetera — together. I’m really proud of it.What’s next for Paul Quarrington?I’m writing a book about my involvement in music. I used to say my “career” in music, but until I manage to actually get a career, I’m going with “involvement.” It is called The Song and I talk about a lot of songs, and songwriters, that I feel are influential. A kind of companion piece is a novel, The Songwriter. It’s an odd kind of murder mystery, and in many ways it’s sort of a country & western Whale Music.
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