Sunday, 16 April 2017

Caroline vs. The Best Laid Plans & The High Road

The Best Laid Plans & The High Road
(sidenote: WOW this has been sitting in my drafts for a while.  I'm trying to get back into writing regularly...please bear with me while I work through the backlog!)

Like a lot of Ottawans and other Canadians interested in political satire, I tuned into the CBC miniseries The Best Laid Plans when it aired in early 2014.  Unfortunately the show wasn't very successful and was not renewed for a second season, but the novel upon which it was based continues to be popular among politicos.  I actually met Terry Fallis while the miniseries was airing, and had him sign a couple books for me and Clem, and corresponded with him throughout the spring after DHL lost the books en route to Clem in Berlin, but it took me until this autumn to actually read his first two novels.  Canada geared up for a pretty important election that happened in October 2015, and I figured the record-breaking campaign would be as good a time as any to read some political satire based in my own home town.

Both novels are really partisan in favour of the Liberal Party of Canada, which might annoy readers of other political stripes, but I was too excited to read a book actually based in Ottawa with landmarks I grew up seeing all the time for it to really bother me.  Fallis has a quick wit, which translates well into the characters in the novels, and often had me giggling to myself on my morning commutes.  I am also a big, big fan of the way he brought feminism into the stories, which is something I haven't really seen in a lot of mainstream novels.  Women's rights are a crucial election issue, and I'm glad that came out in the two fictional elections Fallis writes about.

Here are some quotations that made me laugh and made me think:
"In the minds of the dock-lounging committee members, I was more than qualified to teach undergraduate English. After all, I knew my ABCs and had never been to prison." (The Best Laid Plans, xvi) 
"'A broken promise in politics? Stop the presses!' she quipped." (The Best Laid Plans, 6) 
"'Muriel, we're not in public school. I'm not going to pass you a note to give to her.' I feigned disinterest for as long as I could, which was about nine seconds, before turning towards her again. 'Okay, you got me. What do you mean you think she'd say yes if I asked her out? Has she been talking about me? If so, I need all the details just so I don't put my foot in the wrong place, like in my mouth.'" (The Best Laid Plans, 101) 
"'Scout's honour,' I replied. She burst out laughing because I'd raised my hand in the traditional Vulcan split-fingered greeting when invoking Baden-Powell's promise. What a guy. What a wit. I figured I should strike when my stock was high." (The Best Laid Plans, 136) 
"I hit send and shut down (the computer, I mean; I'd shut down personally two days earlier)." (The Best Laid Plans, 147) 
"'Hey hey, you dinnae make jokes about drugged drinks when the availability of Rohypnol and the incidence of date rape are both on the rise,' he thundered, shaking his head and looking as if bodily harm was in my immediate future." (The Best Laid Plans, 216) 
"'Aye, but societal change hasn't often come through polite and courteous discourse. That approach would simply take too long.... the emergence of various factions within the feminist constellation reflects a social movement that is maturin' and is confident enough to nurture divergent viewpoints. This is the natural evolution of social change.'" (The Best Laid Plans, 217) 
"Nothing calms bellicose belligerents like free food." (The Best Laid Plans, 285)
"Ottawa is one of the world's coldest capitals, and we're used to it now. The snow falls early, often, and heavy, yet slows the city rarely and barely.... Few Canadians are more relieved to reach their offices in the morning than Ottawa walkers." (The Best Laid Plans, 296) 
"I knew from childhood birthday parties that in moments of shock, or even hilarity, milk can actually pass from one's mouth up through the sinuses and project out the nostrils. I'd seen it myself and even experienced it once or twice. But I confess I had no idea that a chunk of Swedish meatball could make that same perilous journey." (The High Road, 22) 
"Why does everyone always assume Marin turned me into a feminist? I was at that particular rally of my own volition.' .... 'Okay, okay, I'm sorry. I just have never met a male feminist who got there on his own, particularly an engineer.'" (The High Road, 71) 
"He actually waved a copy of Marin Lee's book Home Economics and Free Labour to justify his claim that Angus had some sort of secret feminist agenda ready to unleash on an unsuspecting nation." (The High Road, 147) 
"'To my way of thinking, a feminist is anyone who believes that men and women should be equal. That men and women should have equal rights. That men and women should have equal access to opportunity. That men and women should be paid equally for work of equal value and should be equally free from the threat of violence. Being a feminist simply means believing in equality. Mr. Fox has said, and repeated with some vehemence, that he is no feminist. I should think by this definition that he is part of a very small and declining minority. Equality is not a radical idea. And equality should not be a distant goal.'" (The High Road, 147-148)
Have you read these two novels?  What did you think?  I'm hoping to dive into his other novels soon...

xx, C.

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