Jesse Green, the young narrator of the first novella, wants to escape the developed world (Vancouver) and with her boyfriend takes a meandering trip down to Panama, the land bridge to South America. The central short story has an ambiguous setting and period, and is about the loss of a child. Charles Darwin, hero of the closing novella, whose historical namesake found his life work’s inspiration in South America, finds his inspiration in studying village life. The collection takes its visual form (novella-story-novella) from the shape of the Americas, North and South, and its psychological trajectory is from the present "daylight" world to the collective unconscious or archetypal. Carl Jung looms in the background and a fictionalized Charles Darwin dominates proceedings.
The collection’s obsessions are Darwinian diversity read into human inner life; what happens when diversity is lost to homogeneity? That is, what happens when we do not accept parts of ourselves; what happens when genre and classification engulf "freedom" and spirit. New storytelling requires diversity within mind underwritten by the implicit paradoxes of the unconscious. These characters’ journeys are as much into the psyche as into the world. Kenyon’s people often find outer form in their lives through inner exploration and vice versa. This book is full of expressions of escape and commitment, knowledge and acts, introversion and extroversion, feminine and masculine.
Michael Kenyon was born in Sale, England, but has lived most of his life on the west coast of Canada. He works as a freelance editor, and has a therapy practice in process-oriented psychology and jin shin do bodymind acupressure. The author of seven books, he is primarily known as a fiction writer. In 1991 Brick Books published Rack of Lamb, a collection of prose poems. His work has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines, and has aired on CBC. For many years, he served on the editorial board of The Malahat Review.
“I wonder what life will be like, every day made of prayers, worship. Prayer. It’s like listening hard for something you’ve never heard before or like working your whole life in silence trying to figure out whether beauty comes from outside or inside.”
“This stone contains the village’s fortune, if only I could read it. Before tragedy, before I began to know where I could and could not go, I held onto this stone. The stone is cold, even on a summer’s day, until I curl my fingers around it and it warms in my hand, a single thought with red veins.”
“What we do without children is artifice; what we do without art is natural. That time won’t bend around me indefinitely, that the civilizing cocoon will not last till morning, that meaning will only help me through daylight hours and when night comes will swallow its subjects – means I can’t sleep.”
“Adventure is an interruption of habit, and those who stay expect news from those returning. But they only tell what we can’t hear – and to kill time we tame the old epics.”