Format: Hardcover, 224 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
ISBN: 978-0-385-25918-7 (0-385-25918-2)
Pub Date: October 18, 2011
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David Adams Richards takes us behind his gun and into the Canadian forest for his most powerful work of non-fiction yet.
In his brilliant non-fiction, David Adams Richards - first and foremost one of Canada's greatest and best-beloved novelists - has been writing a kind of memoir by other means. Like his previous titles Lines On Water, about his pursuit of angling, and Hockey Dreams, about the game his disabled body prevented him from playing, Facing the Hunter explores the meaning of a sport and the way in which it touches lives, not least that of the author. And as with God Is, his recent book about his faith, it is also an impassioned defence of a set of values and a way of life that Richards believes are under attack.
Lovers of David Adams Richards' novels will be fascinated and enlightened to note the interplay between his former life as a keen hunter - he hunts less and less these days, as he explains - and the narratives and characters of his fiction. But this is also a perfect starting point for anyone coming new to Richards. The storytelling in this book, the evocation of the Canadian wild and those who venture into it, the sheer power of the prose, show a great writer at the height of his powers.
"Progressive" is such a damnable word. In the middle-class lexicon "progressive" now means that most of the people I have known and loved are somehow less than others, who think and rationalize about compassion and fairness.
As a case in point, I grew up with boys from rural New Brunswick who would bring their guns to school, so they could hunt on the way back home. I know we cannot do this today – I am not saying we should. But rifles were not something naturally feared when I was a boy. They became a part of a society feared by whole sections of intellectuals, who tell us that it is only conservatives and right-wingers who are paranoid about the "other." Most of the people determined to align rifles with murder and thugs have never handled rifles – and don't know the differences between them. In our modern novels, most often the hunter is also the subhuman, not a man of any grace or courage – unless the hunter is a First Nations man. They cannot be seen to be the "other." Of course I am not saying they should ever be – but in a strange paradox, First Nations people are actually recognized as "other" by many academics now, because of a kind of moral favouritism.
But there is little favouritism shown to those who wish to stop the gun registry. Those who want that are, well, conservative, and less compassionate. And they do not think like us, the fair-minded ones.
A few years back I was in a house in Edmonton, Alberta, overhearing how deplorable it was for men to work in the oil patch, to hunt with weapons, to kill the ecology we all must share. It was as if I was listening to a lecture directed at me by a neophyte poet across the room. The poet who was deploring all of this was warmed by oil and well fed by buffet and had a captive audience everywhere about him that night, as he sipped a Chardonnay. Of course I suspect in his whole life he had never gotten truly drunk, or at least never gone on one. And he lived in a society every bit as closeted and insulated as did those tenured clerics in the time of Old John of Gaunt. Perhaps he never considered this.
I suppose I have always disliked men like this, clever enough to have expensive cloth covering their arses, and pleased to carry with them a register of human complaint and a suspicion of certain jobs and of so, so many people. Their ideals are those of a subversion to a tradition that, so often, they have never themselves encountered. They are the transgressionalists who have chosen their targets very carefully, so as never to be alone. It is a very strange way to show liberal empathy. Which, of course, is what they promote among themselves. Or at least what that poet promoted that evening.
“Facing the Hunter is a thoughtful book and a serious book. It is a tribute not to hunting but to the hunters that have graced Richards' life, and it is spectacularly written. In 1998, he won a Governor General's Literary Award for non-fiction for Lines on the Water, Facing the Hunter could earn him the same.”
—New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
DAVID ADAMS RICHARDS has received numerous awards and prizes throughout his career, and is one of the few writers in the history of the Governor General's Award to win in the categories of both fiction (Nights Below Station Street) and non-fiction (Lines on the Water). Mercy Among the Children won the Giller Prize in 2000 and was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award and the Trillium Award; it was a Canada Reads pick in 2009. The Friends of Meager Fortune (2006) won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book (Canada and Caribbean). His most recent books are God Is (2009) and the novel Incidents in the life of Markus Paul (2011).
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