It’s odd. I was sitting here this evening contemplating writing a short (two line) review of a novel I just finished listening to, a novel I’d alluded to in a handful of previous “running” posts because I’d been listening to it while I’ve been out and about running the last couple of weeks. I contemplating writing this post and — as is my inclination in such projects — I started Googling aspects of the novel as a bit of a refresher. Googling led me to Wikipedia, and as Wikipedia tends to do, this quickly led me to the author’s page.
I’m not exactly one to believe in the epic, random interconnectedness of all things. I mean, coincidences happen: get over it. It’s only that Courtenay’s novels, at least the one’s I’ve read, are usually stories of (to borrow a phrase) the circle of life. They’re grand narratives of regular people who do big things, and how those things shape their lives and ultimately their deaths. And important people, characters who have had significant and plot-driving roles in Courtenary’s novels (spoiler alert) tend to die as the books move towards their climax. It is in so many ways a terrible loss to literature that he passed, but it is so soon after reading his novel that for me my brain is still (somehow) processing it as just another an odd twist of that plot.
Not that it has anything whatsoever to do with me. I just doesn’t.
For whatever reason I’ve often made an exception in reading Courtenay novels. Anyone who knows me might also know that I don’t read a lot of general fiction; I’m a science fiction reader at heart and tend to lean towards the grand, philosophic journeys offered by speculative narratives set in the future or in alternate histories. But, for whatever reason, I got into Courtenay novels a dozen or so years ago and have been consuming them at a slow but steady pace ever since. They have been a kind of grounding for me. So different from my normal buffet of zombies-plague, post-apocalyptic, space-battle, hacker-dystopian fare that almost feel I need to occasionally read one just to centre my own world in something more real.
And yet there it is. Another of what I could fairly consider one my favourite authors has vanished, another gem of literature has written his last masterpiece. He could hold a mirror towards humanity so that we could all get a good look, a proper look at what we should see and understand about ourselves, and it seems to me to be such a rare gift. Fortunately he left much of himself behind: and you should read some of that. In fact, fellow Canadians, his last story turned that mirror on us, in a novel set in Toronto: Jack of Diamonds.
Above image is of a eucalyptus fire, a major plot element in the novel Four Fires. Borrowed from the Australian Government Geoscience Gallery