The Canal Paperback – 15 Jul 2010
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About the Author
Lee Rourke is the author of the short story collection Everyday [Social Disease Books]. He is also one of England's leading young literary critics, writing regularly for The Guardian, The Independent, TLS and the New Statesman, as well as leading book blogs such as RSB [readsteadybooks.com]. He is Contributing Editor at 3:AM Magazine [www.3ammagazine.com] and also blogs at Sponge! [www.leerourke.blogspot.com] He lives in London.
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Top Customer Reviews
One man is drawn to the canal where he sits all day instead of going to work. When he is joined on the bench by a stranger, he develops a need to know more about her, but she's not giving much away. The only witnesses to this are the ever present swans and geese and, at times, the local gang from the housing estate while opposite the bench the trendy office workers carry on without noticing them.
Rourke draws the reader in and we want to know about the mysterious stranger just as much as the main character does.
The writing style is wholly without pretension. There's an almost Pinter-esque sense of threat and danger to the dialogue. Unexpectedly great stuff.
The dialogue is worth a particular mention, it is very engaging and feels very real.
Reading the book gives a very calming sensation. I think this is because the writing is very intense and almost forces you to read it slowly and savour every sentence.
I would recommend that you take your time with this book (it is less than 200 pages long) and enjoy the experience.
The text was drenched in a ponderous portentousness and was awash with threadbare expressions and devices: a swan so weighed down with significance (see all romance from classical antiquity onwards) I'm surprised it didn't drown in a pool of stagnant allegory long before it was killed by a crossbow bolt; 'playful' meditations on 1970s arcade games (see every edition of FHM since its inception); a hero who 'drinks in' the object of his affection (see the collected works of Dame Barbara Cartland); the Irish girl in the narrator's class at school who had the 'mellifluous' accent (see Frank McCourt/Titanic/Far and Away/Boston on St Patrick's Day/every taxi driver in Dublin); sentimental reminiscences of childhood with no obvious relevance to what there was of a story (see all high-school reunions); things 'nestling' all over the place (see, I dunno, Nestlé)...
The writing style was actually quite good and spare on the whole - albeit very closely modelled on Tom McCarthy's unassuming prose - but for me it was constantly marred by a creeping verbosity and the author's inability to rein in an unnecessary flourish.Read more ›
It was the joint-winner of the Guardian's "Not the Booker Prize" for 2010 and perhaps deservedly so, because "The Canal" represents the kind of brave, edgy approach to fiction that the Booker Prize seems to so consistently shy away from in favour of the tried and tested, safe bets that come in the shape of established authors treading already-trodden routes.
Rourke's short book clips along at a fair old pace, despite essentially being an existentialist novel full of heavy themes. His prime theme is boredom: "It is the power of everyday boredom that compels people to do things - even if that something is nothing."
In the case of Rourke's narrator it is his boredom with work that causes him to quit and spend his days sitting on a bench by a north London canal.
Here he sits and observes everyday goings-on - people at work; kids being vandals - before eventually being joined by a female companion. Their relationship is the narrative drive behind the book, as the two characters explore their outsider status - this woman too seems to be out of work of her own volition - while a kind of muted love story develops.
The book opens with a quote from German existentialist Martin Heidegger - "We are suspended in dread" - that accurately reflects a lot of the characters observed in the novel by the narrator, and even the narrator himself to an extent.
Everyone is suspended in the dread of becoming bored, forced to while away the time to prevent themselves from becoming bored by working, keeping up with fashion, or "watching TV, for no other reasons than there was nothing else to do, because that's what we are supposed to do.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Arrived in a great state and the book would be recommended to all that think there must be more to life and question the workings of reality.Published 18 months ago by Auriel Joina
I bought this book because I thought it would be about canals.
It was interesting to start off with then got totally bored as it was the same day in day out about this man... Read more
I don't know anything about depression but wonder if the two characters are manically depressed. I was horrified by the vandalism but know that in certain areas and cities it is... Read morePublished on 15 July 2013 by Amazon Customer
A great first novel , where's the second one? Get off your park bench rourke, dust off the type writer and do itPublished on 3 April 2013 by Nicholas Clarke
This book seems to be literary Marmite.
I can't say it does it for me. I found it a dreary read and pretty hard to get into. Read more
The Canal's simplicity washes over you like a hot shower on a cold winter morning and leaves an everlasting taste of hollowness that is palpable and heavy. Read morePublished on 12 May 2011 by B. Salavati
OK, so this is a book written about someone who basically enjoys being bored. He spends his days sitting on a bench by a canal watching the world go by. Read morePublished on 13 April 2011 by I. H. C. Mellor
Well, this is a strange one for sure. It's the tale of one man and his decision to jack in his job and spend his days sitting by a canal in North London. There, he meets a girl... Read morePublished on 15 Mar. 2011 by D. Thurgood
Lee Rourke's début novel is a short but gritty work of nihilistic existentialism, set in contemporary North London. Read morePublished on 6 Mar. 2011 by Steve Benner