Sunday Morning! “What we Salvage” (2015)


Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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15 Responses

  1. Avatar Aaron David says:

    Mmm… Trojan records. Two Tone. SHARPs. That does sound interesting. As far a place in a novel goes, if done right, it becomes an additional character. Living, breathing and with a heartbeat that sets the pace of the story. Think McCarthy’s Suttree.

    I just finished (finally!) Killing Commendatore. I had a big work project that was eating up time and thought, so was only reading a chapter or so a night. Wow, that was good. Towards the end, I came across a sentence so beautiful it about killed me. I had to put the book down and just let that course through me.

    I just picked up a rather nice copy of The Road to Wigan Pier, so that and Steinbeck short stories are the order of the day. Also, some more weirdness from older Arkham House books.

    Oh, and as far as listening goes, PJ Harvey just released a soundtrack for a movie I have never heard of, but it is nice and moody. Sets a tale well.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Aaron David says:

      Did you write the sentence down? I’ve got pages of favorite sentences from books.

      Yeah, it’s hard for me to imagine Ulysses taking place in any other time or place than Dublin, June, 1904.
      I also thought of L’Étranger, which I kind of suspect could be transposed to any other place and still work.

      It’s funny you mention the Orwell- I also read Coming Up for Air this week and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not always the case for me with Orwell, but that was the right book at the right time in my life.Report

  2. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I don’t know if he was quoting something, but Ta-Nehisi Coates used to say to us “from the particular comes the universal”. I think this worked well in “The Beautiful Struggle” (which was a memoir, not fiction). His neighborhood of Baltimore was quite different than what I knew, and yet, through his patient exploration of it, I could understand and relate to him and the other people he described.

    It seems like that’s what you’re describing here.

    As to plot, I think it’s true that the sort of skills that one uses to write a paragraph or a scene that flows and engages one with a character, their world, and their feelings are quite different from the skills one engages to write an interesting plot.

    Fascinatingly, it does not turn out that an interesting, well-structured plot requires an author to have a happy ending. I hold up as an example “The City and The City”. The ending is clearly an ending. We’ve been on a journey, and now it is clearly time for our journey to end, though it continues for the characters. But the author (China Mieville) is clearly refusing to tell us whether he thinks it is happy or sad, or anything it all.

    Anyway, as a read I like both the scenes and the plotting. I could imagine that with a title like “What We Salvage” the aimless meandering is the point, though.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      Yeah, I’ve read Robert Creeley saying the same thing. I think that’s right.

      I’m a fan of ambiguous endings in film. David Cronenberg is good at those, although he might overdo them. I’d have to think about it to come up with an example in literature.

      Yeah, on the meandering- that’s pretty much what our teenage years generally consist of for the most part, so it rings very true.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Rufus F. says:

        There is a John Sayles movie that has one of the most ambiguous endings I have ever come across. When I first watched it I was angry. But as time went on, I realized that it was the only way to end it.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Aaron David says:

          L’Eclisse by Michelangelo Antonioni has an ending that I find extremely unnerving, but I couldn’t begin to say why. It might be a good week to dig into Antonioni again.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Tennessee Williams famously said “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”

    I imagine that Canada has Montreal and Cleveland.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

      Torontonians would strongly disagree with that. They like to say that theirs is a “world class city… like London or Paris”. I used to respond “I’m from the US, so I’m just surprised to find out that Toronto isn’t in Ohio.”Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

      Oh snap. Vancouver might also be a big deal in Canada. In the United States, Los Angeles became one of our cities after World War II. Chicago also has a strong literary presence during the 19th and 20th centuries because of Sister Carrie and Al Capone. It’s hard to imagine a story about Prohibyion that isn’t set in Chicago.Report

  1. May 31, 2020

    […] wrote previously about Baillie’s first novel, What We Salvage, a bracing, beautiful, difficult story about a young […]Report