Mister Blue Paperback – Deckle Edge, Dec 9 2011
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One of my favorite writers in the world is Jacques Poulin. —Rawi Hage
This is a great and very beautiful novel. —Le Devoir
Poulin shares a mix of detached humor, fantasy, and compassion with Vonnegut and Salinger. —Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
The writer hiding from the world in his house on the beach is as shy and charming and friendly as this light, generous, refreshing novel. . . told with Hemingway-like sparseness and minimal melodrama...Poulin earns his lump-in-the-throat ending. —Shelf Awareness
About the Author
Born in Saint-Gédéon-de-Beauce, Jacques Poulin is the author of fourteen novels. Among his many honors are the Governor General's Award, the Molson Prize in the Arts, the Gilles-Corbeil Prize, and the France-Québec Prize. He lives in Québec City.
Translator: Sheila Fischman has published more than 125 translations of contemporary French-Canadian. Fischman was named to the Order of Canada in 2002 and to the Ordre national du Québec in 2008; in the same year she received the Molson Prize in the Arts.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
One day Jim walks on the bank of the river, and he is surprised to see footsteps in the sand, leading to a nearby cave. He enters, and finds evidence that someone is living there. A copy of "The Arabian Nights" is alongside remnants of a campfire, which has been inscribed with the name "Marie K." The novelist changes her name in his mind to "Marika", and she serves as the inspiration for the woman in his novel.
He later meets a matronly woman, who knows Marika and gives him an enticing description of her. As he is befriended by the matron and a young woman, referred to as La Petite, Jim's heart is filled with Marika's presence and his growing love for her, while he awaits a reply to his letters of invitation. His friendship with La Petite deepens, as the two damaged souls find kinship and draw each other out of their emotional shells:
In spite of the difference in age and the other differences, which were many, La Petite and I had several things in common. And the most important of these common points, at least the one that brought me closest to her, was perhaps this: most of the time we were, both of us, walled up inside ourselves and busy trying to stick back together the fragments of our past.
Jim continues to search for the elusive Marika, as his heart progressively fills with love, longing and despair.
"Mister Blue" is a richly layered, haunting and deeply moving novel of love and memory, in which reality and fantasy blur and merge. It is both beautifully and simply written, and I adored and identified closely with Jim and La Petite, who will reside in my heart for many days. I can't recommend this novel highly enough.
Jim and Mr. Blue have seen her anchored sailboat, her footprints in the sand and a few possessions in the cave including a copy The Arabian Nights inscribed with her name, Marika. Yet, he refuses to overtly intrude into her life, certain that he will ultimately meet her by slightly nudged chance. When he cautiously visits the cave, the sees her bookmark's progress through Scheherazade's fanciful stories for the Persian king, but Marika is never home. Jim's life suddenly shifts from that of an aging, divorced man dwelling in solitude with a cat to to an awakening writer in a shifting world of daydreams and obsession that mirror the fits and starts of a manuscript in the attic.
Before his obsession begins, he wonders if he's picked the wrong subject for his novel. A former Hemingway scholar, Jim sees that he has broken Papa's first rule: write what you know best.
"I had to acknowledge that I'd broken this rule. I was trying to write a love story without being in love myself. I'd probably chosen this subject because, as I felt myself growing older, I was afraid it was too late to fall in love one last time."
Poulin's compassionate story about a man searching for himself flows from beginning to end as smoothly and effortlessly as the river outside Jim's attic window. The 150-page novel appears deceptively modest because the prose is just as unadorned as the protagonist's gentle life of promising days and lonely blue days.
On days of hope, Jim's novel moves forward and he almost finds Marika. Though he is forever just missing her, the marching bookmark in "The Arabian Nights," the movements of her sailboat and other hints of her presence nourish him. On blue days, he sees no sign of her and loses himself in memories of the past and mourns the fact that his haunting, off-stage muse eludes him like words in his book.
"Words are independent, like cats, and they don't do what you want them to do. You can love them, stroke them, say sweet things to them all you want - they still break off and go their own way."
Poulin's novel is a powerful masterpiece of understatement. What is real and what is dream? Neither Jim nor the reader can be sure in a story where seemingly disparate elements--an idealized woman, tennis games with a brother, the friendship of young girl who suffered an abusive past, and Mr. Blue--rise and fall like the tides in the bay without the heavy handed intervention of novelists and their characters.
This novel rubs up against a reader's emotions with a soft, but persistent purr.