- Paperback: 424 pages
- Publisher: Emblem Editions (July 17 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0771009909
- ISBN-13: 978-0771009907
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.1 x 21.2 cm
- Shipping Weight: 431 g
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #429,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Garneau Block Paperback – Jul 17 2007
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"Babiak’s highest achievement, though, lies in introducing us to the motley charms of the people and the city, whether they be bohemians who shop at Value Village or grandees who dine on bison with blueberry sauce at the Hardware Grill. If there really are a million stories in Champion City, let this one be the first."
— Quill & Quire
“The Garneau Block is screamingly funny. There is at least one laugh on every single page. This novel is fast-paced, savvy, bursting with vivid characters. A celebration of Edmonton! Satire that sucker punches everything sacred. Babiak comes out swinging.”
— Lisa Moore, author of Alligator
“As only the best writers can, Todd Babiak has taken a small patch of turf and, through sparkling satire and a passionate eye, made it a world. A neighborhood in Edmonton is about to get a lot of honorary citizens.”
— Ian McGillis, author of A Tourist’s Guide to Glengarry
“Babiak’s book will make you snicker and guffaw in public places. The Garneau Block is about an oddball cast of characters in a make-believe cul-de-sac in Edmonton, where life is one nonstop block party rife with political intrigue, neighbourly shenanigans, death, and romance.”
— Canadian Living
“...cleanly written, inventive, fast-moving, stuffed with zingers about everything from Satanists to cellphone ringtones, extremely affectionate toward its nutty cast of players, and laugh-out-loud funny. . . . Babiak’s highest achievement, though, lies in introducing us to the motley charms of the people and the city, whether they be bohemians who shop at Value Village or grandees who dine on bison with blueberry sauce at the Hardware Grill. If there really are a million stories in Champion City, let this one be the first.”
— Quill & Quire
“Mr. Babiak is blazing a trail — every city should have a story like this.”
— Alexander McCall Smith
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Todd Babiak is the culture columnist for the Edmonton Journal and author of the #1 bestseller The Garneau Block, which was longlisted for The Scotiabank Giller Prize. His first novel, Choke Hold (Turnstone, 2000), won the Writers Guild of Alberta Henry Kreisel Award for Best First Book and was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Also an award-winning screenwriter and the former Lord Mayor of Old Strathcona, Babiak lives and writes in Edmonton.See all Product description
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'The Garneau Block' is also a remarkably boring book. The citizens of Edmonton randomly intrude into the lives of the main characters merely to irritate the reader with foolish comments, and there is no appreciable action to speak of. There's also a bunch of genital jokes, pointless masturbation jokes, innuendoes that go nowhere, and some really repulsive implied shagging and infidelity. The immodesty gets on one's nerves, and the motionless plot goes nowhere, and does nothing. I can say quite categorically that Todd Babiak's Edmonton is not my Edmonton. I don't even RECOGNIZE his Edmonton, which thankfully exists only between the covers of this "book," and nowhere else.
'The Garneau Block' does not contain any obvious clichés in its writing, but instead uses a whole bunch of DIFFERENT clichés, which most people might not be familiar with - but which I unfortunately recognize all too painfully well. I work in theatre, and my theatre colleagues and I all know the stereotype of the bad actor, which we all laugh at from time to time. (And keep in mind, this is JUST a stereotype; I am not singling out any particular one individual; and we can all laugh at a stereotype.) And bad actors, according to the stereotype of them, tend to talk exactly the way Babiak's characters often talk in 'The Garneau Block:' with silly theatre references, bad in-jokes that only they can understand, artsy-fartsy humor that makes no sense - they also tend to be prima donnas and drama queens, desperate for their moment in the limelight, who are obsessed with living a Bohemian lifestyle on the fringes of society, and who worship obscure (and badly-made) German art-house silent films. 'The Garneau Block is simply choke-full of irritating stereotypes like this (practically every single character, even those who are not portrayed directly like this.) Seen from this perspective, 'The Garneau Block' is fantastically unoriginal and clichéd, filled with the stereotypical comments and the stereotypical worldviews that every (ideally-imagined) bad actor seems to hold in common. If Count Olaf (the bad actor villain from Lemony Snicket's 'A Series of Unfortunate Events') was to have written a novel, doubtlessly it would be rather like this: Babiak's irritatingly smug, self-congratulatory tribute to Edmonton, which he portrays as being filled with prototypical bad actors and drama queens. Imagine my surp-reez!
Is this really 'satire,' as the critics have said? Or is this in fact just plain bad writing? I am unfortunately inclining more towards the latter.
Also, am I perhaps being too hard on this "book?" I regretfully have to conclude that I am not. Perhaps I would be moved to be more favorable to Babiak's so-called "novel" if it wasn't so dull, as well as so flatly annoying. As author Stephen King says in his book 'On Writing,' there is plenty of bad writing about; often produced by people who 'hold forth at open-mike poetry-slams, wearing black turtle-necks and wrinkled khaki pants; they spout doggerel about 'my angry lesbian breasts' and 'the tilted alley where I cried my mother's name.'' Babiak's work, unfortunately, fits right in with the sort of bad writing mentioned here, and it shows. 'The Garneau Block' is one long, badly-written, bad-acting cliché. It doesn't get much worse than this. Save your money and don't buy this book. I know people will often say 'save your money and don't buy this book' on Amazon, but believe me, I really REALLY mean it in this case; don't support bad writing or incomprehensible Bohemian in-jokes. Please oh please.
Like a modern day griot he spins forth a convincing local history but adds a few ideas of his own to make it more entertaining.
When you listen to Bach, Beethoven or any of the great composers who can write a piece of music that gives you something new and something different everytime you listen to it, then you have an idea of the multiple threads running through "The Garneau Block".
With "The Garneau Block" there's a thread of melancholy, tragedy, the whimsical, the satirical, a sense of yearning, a nod to the past and a look to the future that weave together into an intriguing tapestry.
With great music you can listen to the piece as a whole where all the instruments and moods blend into one. You can isolate elements, the strings, the percussion, woodwinds and brass, and discover something hitherto unknown. In this way "The Garneau Block" proves to be a book that affects its audience like a great piece of music. Sometimes it takes years of listening to a piece before you are enlightened to a certain element of it. In some cases I've had to experience life and mature and then a piece speaks to me differently.
I love that music plays a big part in The Garneau Block. When I walked into Manulife Tower with the characters I had to go over to my computer and download the Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour songs mentioned to see what mood was there. Listening to the lyrics I see they identify quite well with lyricism of the novel. Those French singers really know how to capture mood in a song.
There are many "local" elements that resonate as well. When the
performance artist at 38 Manulife Place starts spouting Brion Gysonesque type poetry, I thought that was appropos. One can disect and project but Gyson was yet another person who could never come to terms with the good experiences of his Edmonton years: they shaped his writing and his view on life whether he liked to say so or not [ed's note: please read John Geiger's book "Nothing is True - Everything is Permitted" - it's quite good].
I just want to say "bravo". I was mentioning to a friend that the appeal of the book is broader than just an audience who knows Edmonton, it's for an audience who knows people. An audience who can identify with situations, see their friends, their family or themselves in the characters and nod knowingly at it all. Edmonton and Alberta as the setting are just grace notes on a wonderful compostion.
But something in the book made me carry on reading it without feeling that I had to. The humour is different, but it's there, but it's not a book that is leading me to buy more from the same author. Not right now. Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to really get my head into the plot.
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