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not wanted. on voyage.

November 13, 2011

guys, bear with me today. i have a blog post planned but i’m also currently wearing a sweat suit and feeding the crows almonds out of my window, because last night i went to hustla: homohiphop! at the cobalt and danced my face off and fell in love with a drag king. the usual, i suppose, for this girl. call it research. actually, it’s all research. anyway, i danced my way home and didn’t fall asleep until 3 30 (that’s late for me, okay?) so i’m zonked.

time to get lit critical.

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keetty.

“not wanted on the voyage” by timothy findley was suggested to me twice, at very different points in time, by very different people. one time was by the guy i was seeing. another was by the salesgirl at chapters, who wrote the name “timothy findley” down on a piece of paper for me. at the time i didn’t make the connection between FINDLEY and NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE, but i clearly kept that paper, because the other week when i was cleaning out my bookcase to start packing my books up to ship home (i don’t get rid of books, remember? too precious. one day the world will have NO books because of the kobokindletablets) and the paper fell out face-up onto the floor.

can i just say that it has been a LONG time since i read a book that good?

fact about me: i’m a speed reader. my mum has commented on it before – “are you actually reading every word, or are you just skimming? are you getting it all?” – i’m a big believer in the human brain. we have so much brain tissue and power that we never ever use on a day to day basis. if a woman can lift a car off of her son in a moment of fear to save his life, i think it’s uber possible that i can read a page faster than anyone i know. (i need to meet some speed readers.) this isn’t the case with every book. mainly the ones that i become addicted to. it was like that when i was a kid, and it’s still like that now. it’s like my brain fills in the words automatically – the little connectors, like “like” and “the” and “and”, and so i don’t have to waste time on it. and don’t think that i tear through things with no thought – often i will bookmark pages and go back to re-read and ruminate. english student.

anyway, i read the 350 pages of NWOTV in a day and a half, and that’s only because i was at work for 8 hours of one day. no doubt that if i could have read at my desk (which i did for a bit, shhhh, it was so good, the book was so good i had to read till the end!!!) i would have ripped it up in one day, maybe half.

first of all, i forgot how awesome it was to READ. maybe i have holes to fill in my life at the moment, or maybe it’s because there is a lot of upheaval and change that is going on, and i identify reading as a familiar thing, something that is soothing, but i got my reading mojo back, when earlier this summer i was griping about how slow i had been on my reading front. but when you cry on the skytrain on the way to work, you know that the book is good. more on this later.

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seriously, there's a 1/2 chapter.

the funny thing is, i recommended julian barnes’ a history of the world in 10 1/2 chapters to the same person who had mentioned this NWOTV to me. which sounds like… what the hell that’s whatever – but.

BUT!

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HOTW is the same as NWOTV!

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somehow, i have not been able to find any blogs on this subject. how is it possible? i feel like people who have read NWOTV are the same literary people who have read at least the first chapter (the pertinent one) of HOTW. and yet, nobody has acknowledged the fact that it appears that julian barnes has … ripped off findley. also: spoilers ahead – don’t read if you haven’t read either of these books.

NWOTV was published in fall 1984.

HOTW was published in fall 1989.

that’s five years difference. actually, i rushed home from work that first day to double check the dates in the front pages of the books, that’s how similar they were. let’s look at the facts, shall we? firstly, both NWOTV and the first chapter (short story) of HOTW deal with the flood myth – noah and his family. in both versions, noah is a shithead, to put it politely. there are other differences in the family members (in one, noah’s wife is sympathetic, and in the other she’s a bit of a biblical harlot) but the mainstay of the story in both is that there is a tyrannical character (or two or four or eight) who is (are) making the animals’ lives hell on the ark.

in both books, the story of the voyage is told through an animal’s perspective – in NWOTV, mottyl (the cat) has a story-line. it’s not for the whole book, true, but she has a voice and i’d say probably at least 1/4 of the book is spoken from her perspective. in HOTW, the story of the voyage is told solely through woodworms, and their observations.

in both stories, the unicorn meets an ignoble (and awful) end. i’ll actually spare you the details of the death of the unicorn in NWOTV, because it’s so, so horrific and so beautiful (that was the scene during which i cried on the subway) that it can only be experienced, not described. i literally brought a hand to my mouth while reading it. i’m sure that the businessman across from me on the expo line thought i was absolutely deranged, but let’s face it – who cares. so there is a unicorn in both stories. and he dies in both. and not only that, it is suggested in both books that specific animals (mythological creatures along the lines of the unicorn – demons, gryphons, etc) are killed off during the voyage because of suspicion or idiocy on the behalf of noah.

one of the strongest points for me was the theme of “apes”. in NWOTV, children who have down’s syndrome are described as “apes” – this was one of the most touching and horrifying and powerful storylines of the whole book, actually – and are disposed of in the way that ancient celts used to leave their unwanted and deformed children to die of exposure. one of the wives on the ark actually gives birth to an “ape” child while on voyage, and the child is disposed of. in HOTW, one of the wives has (rumoured) sex with an actual ape – a sort of human/orangutan mix – and gives birth to a child that presumably looks “ape”-ish. this is … a very striking similarity between the two.

in addition, barnes uses the term “not wanted on voyage” (notice the smooth exclusion of the “the”) to describe specific animals that are excluded from the ark. NOT WANTED ON VOYAGE. that’s… basically the title of findley’s book. with one word missing.

listen, we all rip each other off. but this seemed blatant. and don’t get wrong, i enjoy both. barnes is witty and touching, and findley is sexy and visceral, and both have their place in the lit world, and yeah, the story from HOTW was only a short story, and it wasn’t like barnes copied a plotline in order to make an entire novel but my question is this:

how come i can’t find any damn blogs or websites on this… anywhere!? am i a crazy person?? (yes.) okay but am i crazy in reading the similarities between the two?

i don’t know. read them both. and tell me what you think. now.

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