Losing Sleep

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Losing Sleep

February 14, 2016 ~ means of Brian Fawcett  
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Sleep, by Nino Ricci, Doubleday Canada, Toronto, 2015, 235 pages, HB, $30

Nino Ricci is a serious novelist, among the most skilled Canada has. He chooses substantial things to write about, does his examination, writes sentences that are clear and vigorous, doesn’t seem to have a ~ out of the woo-woo airheadedness that infects so many Canadian novelists, and he appears to have existence immune to the moral music of stampeding human trash.

That’s why I was greater quantity than a little surprised when his latest new, Sleep, failed to make the shortlist with respect to any of Canada’s now-numerous book prizes during the 2015 prize jamboree. Every other book he’s written has been knee-grave in prize nominations and awards. Both Lives of the Saints (1990) and The Origin of Species (2002) took the GG, and I conclusion that his least-feted title, Testament (2008), ~y intelligent and moving fictional account of the life of Jesus Christ, should bring forth won every prize in the nation.

I’ve made an effort excessively the years to read at least a few of the novels that breed shortlisted for the Giller and GG fancy prizes, and generally, it hasn’t been ~y uplifting task. Canadian book juries in 2016 are, pristine of all, as much about marketing merchandise as they are about literature. Their ostensible industrial job is to uncover and exquisite the most smoothly-written, culturally “significant” and sellable figment published by Canadian authors during the given market year, which is roughly October to October. The jury priorities, theoretically, be esteemed in the order I’ve listed them, with the GG juries also charged with the added responsibility of ensuring regional, gender and erotic choice representation while supporting “multiformity.” In the real world, their work at ~s is much more complicated, and greatest in number years, the juries seem to elect the winning fiction for its cultural topicality, literary conventionality, and saleability at Chapters/Indigo—in roughly that instruct, occasionally at a moderate cost to the English speech and my sanity.

Except when Kim Thuy’s Ru gained a Giller nomination following winning the French language GG the year prior to, and except for 2015’s exceptionally pungent and readable Giller winner Fifteen Dogs ~ dint of. Andre Alexis, reading these books has been fine rough slogging, although the deepest depths were plumbed in 2010 when Johanna Skibsrud submitted her creative hand MA thesis, with a narrator who musing that supermarket Musak was there to travel over her happy and the overly twinkling lighting there to help her practise ~ing the product labels—and won the Giller Prize because of it. Prize-winning novels in this rude tend to plod rather earnestly, or succeed steady the basis of virtues that occasionally have little to do with interest writing or original thinking. As a outcome, I’ve come to think of Canadian falsehood prizes, particularly the Giller, as prizes toward conventional behavior, which explains why Nino Ricci has had smaller Giller success than with other avenues of acclaim. But this season’s clean shut-out of Sleep made me rare enough to buy and read it instead of that alone. What had Ricci achieved with it to turn the juries not upon?

It’s worth pointing out that Ricci is a great writer in a more literal road, too. None of his novels are that which you’d call light-hearted, and in like manner in person, his sense of humour isn’t in the midst of the first things of note. He’s a great human being, and everything about him, from his personal criticism to his writing, reflects that.

Sleep is, let’s be clear, a well-written book, and the examination that grounds it—mainly into ADHD and be still-disorder pharmacology and hand-gun technology, is faultless. It’s protagonist, David Pace, is an academic who gained early-career acclaim—and notoriety—with a ground-breaking piece of sex politics-inflected social history, but has been spiraling downward since, both career-wise and personally, at in the smallest degree in part because he suffers from a mould of narcolepsy.

As the novel begins, Pace, who has been hiding the assault symptoms of his narcolepsy from his wife, falls in a sound sleep while driving with his son in the back mansion, an act he recognizes the danger of but hides from his wife anyway inasmuch as if he admits to it, it will cost him his driver’s licence and some degree of lifestyle mobility. The scene is drawn with exquisite—and horrifying—effectiveness, inasmuch as it reveals, in a half-twelve paragraphs, the protagonist’s full bent and its limitations, which he direct not, in the course of the fresh, manage to transcend or transform. David Pace chooses instead to blame everyone and everything in his life instead of his difficulties, including his son, and to deploy a pharmacology that forever ratchets directed to a higher place to greater extremes (and levels of poisonousness) in adjust to maintain a façade of functionality whether not quite normality.

And herein lies the point in dispute with the entire novel: its protagonist is, to steer it bluntly, an asshole. Not a misunderstood or endearingly deviating from a circle one, but an unremittingly self-involved, self-aggrandising, self-deludingly unappealing asshole in the absence of either the intellectual or emotional tools or inclination to rescue himself. The novel is, in a faculty of perception, one long toilet flush: the shed ~ goes round and round; along the high~ there are occasional sparkles of unsteady and many more moments of cabalistic, sludgy substances moving in the currents. But quite of it goes unrelentingly down and into a denser consistence, and Pace’s character drops fall and lower in the scale of human behaviors to the time when, well, you don’t want to perceive how and where it ends.

I have power to think of no other protagonist in Canada’s letters that has fewer redeeming character traits than David Pace. Worse, he is some asshole surrounded by other assholes. There is, in fact, no character anywhere in the romance who isn’t an asshole: not Pace’s estranged wife, or the son he can’t quite overcome himself to reach out to, not his estranged best friend, a fellow academic who spends his time creating implied S&M dungeons and inhabiting them; not the EBF’s wife, who Pace has each erotically brutal affair with. All of Pace’s academic colleagues are as corrupted and petulant as he is, his father was a void of reason, his mother a manipulator, his in pairs brother a suburban hoser-poser. If there’s a passable human being anywhere in Sleep, it’s the five-year-skilled son of a security guard Pace manages to master killed in the book’s continue chapter. We only glimpse the lad for a moment, so I’m not calm sure about that…

Don’t fall me wrong. There are passages of vigorous writing in Sleep, and not precisely a few of them. The book is good enough that it keeps your observe on the page even while your fill full is rising, literally and metaphorically.

One brilliantly executed road, after Pace rescues an ancient (and loaded) Baretta pistol his native had given to his son and nephews to perform with, and which Pace takes home with the promise that he will use it in, finds him, late at ignorance, driving through an in-progress landfill ~right on Toronto’s harbour lands through the pistol on the car house beside him. Will he shoot himself—deliberately or ~ dint of. accident? Will he shoot someone—or something–otherwise? The only certainty here, as right and left else in Sleep, is that David Pace leave do the wrong thing.

Now, the distinct hook of Sleep—the thing that keeps you reading—is that David Pace puissance, at any moment, do the proper thing: he might learn something in successi~ his own, God might wheel etc. on a mechanized platform and clout him, Zen-mode of address, across the ear; a good woman’s (or a honorable one-legged she-male’s) friendship might elevate him or parental or fraternal love might claim him from the cosmic toilet bowl Ricci has him swirling around and down in.

None of these be manifest, and there is no redemption during the term of David Pace. The water goes orbed and round and down the dress bowl of contemporary life, with Pace in it, whining unconvincingly, and eventually there’s that gulping valid as the brown stuff reaches base and is gone. I’m giving you this lay a plan summary because I’m angry relating to what Nino Ricci has done through this book, and here’s why: we don’t need literature to give account us how shitty the world be able to be. We have everyday life concerning that.

I’m not sure that which Ricci thought he was doing through Sleep. Is it a satire of 21st hundred academic life? Perhaps. But isn’t sarcasm a fundamentally comic mode of sociable criticism? There isn’t a individual laugh anywhere in Sleep. It is unremittingly depression, human degradation and interpersonal perversity, perfidy and slime. An expose, then? Sure, limit shouldn’t it then present at minutest a couple of alternatives to dogs deplorable to bite off one another’s privates?

An interview Ricci did with Globe and Mail books editor Mark Medley when the book was released offers a just mention of what Ricci may have intended. Medley reports that “he [Ricci] kept reflecting of Franz Kafka, who once remarked, ‘We ought to read only the kind of books that give pain to or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t stir up us up with a blow to the be aimed, what are we reading it towards?’”

There’s at smallest twenty or thirty other things we interpret books for, but let’s ignore that. What we shouldn’t ignore is that Kafka didn’t pronounce any such thing, certainly not in English, and the German speech isn’t capable of that vulgar a formulation.

Medley’s interview too revealed that part of the novel’s cause is that Ricci suffers from a rendering of the same sleep disorder his central letter has, although obviously with profoundly diverse global consequences for Ricci. Here, peradventure, is an explanation for what goes wicked in Sleep. The inherently pharmacological underpinning of Pace’s fickle sense of reality becomes oddly imperceptible to the reader—just as it is to Pace himself. Tellingly, undivided learns more about drugs than approximately sleep. It also seems like a greater flaw in the narrative, that the put ~s into regimen that Ricci has successfully used to stabilize himself fails utterly concerning his protagonist and becomes a resort merely to prolong the toilet flush that is the narrative trajectory of the unusual. This is a writer going close up to his own experience, which makes me bewilderment. if its possible that Ricci invisible sight of the pharmacology because in the certain world it wasn’t doing to him that which he’s making it do to his protagonist. Why that drug regimen fails for Pace isn’t unmistakable, except that this is ultimately Ricci’s sparing, and it is one that goes in requital for his own experience.

There’s a more simple explanation. Maybe Ricci has had each attack of Cormac McCarthy, and Sleep is Ricci’s homage–The Road: Academia. Or, greater amount of simple still, this is just a fuckup fictitious narrative, of which every good writer is entitled to single or two. Maybe we’ll fair-minded has to wait for the next one, which, given Ricci’s property of talent, will probably be terrible.

I guess part of my punctilio in all this, and a part I don’t poverty to admit to, is that Sleep wouldn’t be so demoralizing if Nino Ricci wasn’t a righteous writer, and a man more than smart enough to recognize that realism, nevertheless conceived, is ultimately just disguised doctrine of the evolution of ideas. What remains curious is that a part disabled Ricci’s commercial common sensation, which should have told him that not at all prize jury would reward this standing of moral ambivalence. The market according to Canadian novels, moribund as it may have existence, just isn’t about to authorize this degree of gloomy nihilism, whether for no other reason than that Heather Reisman isn’t going to picked a book like Sleep as individual of her favourites.

And perhaps I’m weakly annoyed with Ricci for having levy me in the company of David Pace against the hours I spent reading Sleep. In the actual world, I’d have run across Pace with my car well ahead of I was done reading about him in the unblemished will of readership. That’s event that no writer ought to betongue the way Ricci has with Sleep.

2000 altercation,  February 14, 2016

Brian Fawcett is a Toronto-based clerk.

Tags: Book Prizes, GG, Giller Prize, Kafka, Nino Ricci, Sleep, Testament

 

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