Thursday, March 14, 2013

Shelf Life [adult]

The Horse in My Garage and Other Stories By Patrick McManus

In the spirit of our “Blind Date with a Book” program in February, I picked up a book by an author I had never read and frankly, thought I would not enjoy. Yes, Patrick McManus has been a humour columnist for years, but my taste generally runs more to Stuart McLean’s gentle tales of nostalgia in the Vinyl Café, so I was not expecting to enjoy the more robust tales of McManus. But McManus’s story-telling is very similar to McLean’s, albeit a bit more, shall we say, manly. There are fewer warm-fuzzies and more camping, canoeing, fishing and hunting stories (and maybe a few whoppers) which are very, very funny; to a point where I kept laughing out loud and startling various coworkers who now want to read the book themselves.

The essays and tales that make up his latest collection are fairly short and do not have to be read in order, so you can skip around and read about the pros, cons and critter encounters of being a volunteer forest ranger, or if in the mood for something sweeter, read about his “pursuit and acquisition” of his wife, known as “Bun”. He provides an account of how he became a successful writer (The Horse in My Garage is one of a few dozen novels, collections and children’s books he’s written), but if you don’t want career advice you can go straight to the adventures of various characters known as Norm, Kenny, Vern, Eddie, Retch, and Rancid. There is even something for the more literary minded – seeing as how McManus was also a professor of writing he has a tale or two that involves Shakespeare (not necessarily a very educational tale, mind you), and the dangers of working with amateur actors in historical productions. McManus has a very easy way with prose, and is eminently readable. He’s a guy’s guy, “shaped like a yam”, “a chainsaw kind of guy”, a guy who can be cool in front of the ladies while hanging upside down from a horse’s neck. I don’t know if that last part is true or not, but it makes for one heck of a laugh. And the best part is, now having discovered McManus, I have a new author favourite and can look forward to reading all his other books.

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on March 14, 2013. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian.

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