Farrant fearlessly paints life’s details

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June 8, 2014

The World Afloat

By M.A.C. Farrant

Talonbooks

96 pages, $12.95

 Reviewed by Marjorie Doyle

I’ve been taken on a wild ride, with reflective stops along the way.  I wasn’t scared.  I trusted the driver.

Reading through M.A.C. Farrant’s stories is like taking a tour through the psychedelic album covers of the 1970s – simultaneously laughing and probing for meaning.  These 75 “miniatures” invite us to loosen up a little, see the world through a freshly cut lens.  Many readers will know the Vancouver Island writer for her 11 previous books, especially wonderful 2004 memoir, My Turquoise Years.

Miniatures, yes.  Or if we see Farrant’s new collection like a painting, like a wide comprehensive Bosch-like canvas, these are details, lifted from the whole and magnified, allowing us to look more closely.  We never fear we will go adrift in this world afloat because the narrator is anchored.

Characters roaming this canvas include the teen who talks “outside of humans like a poet.” The couple “speaking to each other in Vain, an old, old language. He said, she said, neither one of them listening.” A man named Mark: “Short, rugged, lovable, and not unhandsome.” The person who arranges a busload of Japanese schoolgirls in a Zen garden: “one schoolgirl to every ten thousand pebbles.” And Muses who “have gone mad and are living as lady golfers in Palm Springs California.”

The distinctive voice is breezy and energetic.  Farrant is playful but never frivolous.  She’s a humorist (that rare breed!), but as with all good humour there is a point.  You can sober up quickly in the middle of a guffaw.

Some pieces are complete stories, but short. Others are teasers or hints or scenes.  And some are small works of genius – laugh out loud funny or thoughtful.  She has perfected this technique – nay, it is an art.

Consider the story “Our Spiritual Lives.”  It opens: “We’ve seen stains on tea towels that look like Jesus Christ’s face so we know he exists.” We then meet a woman who lost all her money to fiscal fraud, “So we pray to the banking industry not to do the same thing to us,” and a man who doesn’t pray.  He’d “rather trust the presence of hamburgers in his life to render it benign.”  The story moves along to composite pictures tacked on telephone poles.  Then:

“It’s Jesus Christ again.  The pictures are meant to show what he’d look like if he were alive today and sixty-nine years old and lost. Like practically everyone we know.”

“Along the Way” satirizes the funeral industry.  As we’re half laughing at embalmed corpses sitting in rocking chairs, we are gently towed into a thoughtful reflection on life and mortality – in a few hundred words.

As with most good art, some pieces eluded me, but who gets everything on one visit to a gallery?  I must, and will return.

 Marjorie Doyle is a writer in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  Her latest book is A Doyle Reader:  Writings from Home and Away. 

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red meizitang June 30, 2014 at 4:13 am

Farrant fearlessly paints life’s details

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