TSR endorses Kenneth J. Harvey’s novel Inside for Canada Reads 2011

October 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

As you are likely aware, I have some problems with this year’s vote-in format for the CBC’s Canada Reads. However, they approached me to endorse a title as a Canadian litblogger, and I was so chuffed by the invitation that I couldn’t possibly refuse. Plus, it provided me with an opportunity to plump for a book I feel deserves a wider audience. That book is Kenneth J. Harvey’s 2006 novel Inside. Here’s what I wrote for the Ceeb:

Margaret Atwood famously identified survival as the abiding theme in Canadian literature, but this has usually been interpreted to mean survival against the elements, or disease, or war, or the depredations of time. Renegade novelist Kenneth J. Harvey reconstitutes this theme in his 2006 novel Inside, about a man who is released from prison after 14 years when his conviction for murder is overturned. Given his freedom and the promise of a government cheque to compensate him for his time inside, the novel’s hero, Myrdon, tries to return to civilian life, but has been institutionalized to such an extent that he finds the experience viciously daunting. Told in staccato sentences that mirror Myrdon’s psychological malaise, the novel is an uncomfortable, at times almost off-putting read. But for all its ferocity – this is a very cold, violent book – it also stands as a stark and precise dissection of one man’s alienation and loneliness. Part Albert Camus, part James Ellroy, Inside is an excoriating examination of modern anomie, of one man’s attempt to survive life outside the walls of a prison cell. Its shattering final scene carries all the force and effect of a Greek tragedy, and only solidifies this novel’s place as one of the most potent works of fiction to appear in this country over the past 10 years.

Eight other bloggers, including Kerry Clare, Chad Pelley, and Sean Cranbury provide their own recommendations, and there’s a poll at the bottom that allows the public to vote for which title they think deserves a spot on the longlist. Hop over to the CBC website to read what each blogger has to say and, if you’re of a mind, cast a vote for your favourite among them.

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