Jeremy Papier, the new Alice Waters of the Vancouver food world, is fast becoming known for his radically rear-guard cuisinetradition-steeped dishes that celebrate the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. His restaurant, The Monkey's Paw Bistro, is always fully booked, but, unfortunately, it's more an artistic triumph than a reasonably run business. Far too costly ever to turn a profit, it is kited by Jeremy on dozens of maxed-out credit cards. An old family friend, Dante Beale, owner of a worldwide chain of cookie-cutter coffeehouses, is willing to bail the restaurant out for the price of sole control. It's a business proposition made in hell, one strenuously opposed by Jeremy's pretty young sous chef, the incorruptible, plainspoken Jules.
Jeremy's problems deepen when his eccentric-academic fathera "participatory anthropologist" half Joseph Mitchell, half Joe Gouldloses himself among the homeless in Vancouver's Stanley Park. He lives as they do (he's especially adept at catching and roasting sparrows) and soon involves Jeremy in researching a "cold case" crime, the true-life murder of two children slain in the park in the early 1970's.
Timothy Taylorthe writer who "everyone in the Canadian literary community today is talking about" (Globe and Mail)weaves together the disparate, brightly colored strands of his story with unerring skill and unflagging comic invention. Stanley Park, already a Canadian best seller, is a comic novel of the first orderand a memorable literary debut.
chef of Canadian Letters." (Winnipeg Free Press)
Author Biography: Timothy Taylor is a winner of the Journey Prize, the Canadian equivalent of the O. Henry Award, and the only writer ever to have had three stories chosen for a single volume of the annual Journey Prize Anthology. His debut collection, Silent Cruise and Other Stories, will be published by Counterpoint in Fall 2002. Born in Venezuela in 1963, he lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is currently at work on a second novel.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Timothy Taylor is the Journey-Prize winning author of the short-story collection Silent Cruise. His second novel, Story House, will be published by Knopf Canada in April 2006. He was born in Venezuela and now lives in Vancouver.
Read an Excerpt
They arranged to meet at Lost Lagoon. It was an in-between place, the city on one side, Stanley Park on the other. Ten years of rare contact, and they had sought each other out. Surprised each other, created expectations.
Now the Professor was late.
Jeremy Papier found a bench up the hill from the lagoon and opened a section of newspaper across the wet boards. The bench was between two cherry trees, the pink blossoms of which met high over his head forming an arch, a doorway. It wasn’t precisely the spot they’d discussed–the Professor had suggested the boathouse–but it was within eyesight, within shouting distance. It was close enough. If he had to wait, Jeremy thought, settling onto the paper and blowing out a long breath, he was going to sit. He crossed one long, aching leg over the other. He fingered the tooling on a favourite pair of cowboy boots, ran long fingers through tangled black hair.
He sat because he was tired, certainly. Jeremy accepted that being a chef, even a young chef, meant being exhausted most of the time. But there had also been a family portrait taken here, on this bench, years before. Also early spring, he remembered; the three of them had sat here under the cherry blossoms.
Jeremy on the one side, seven years old. His mother, Hélène, on the other. The Professor had his arms around them both, feet flat on the grass. He looked extremely pleased. Jeremy’s mother was less obviously so, her expression typically guarded, although she made dozens of copies of the photo and sent these off to relatives spread across Europe from Ireland to Spain, from the Czech Republic to as far east as Bulgaria. Documenting settlement. He wondered if his father, who had no relations other than those in the photo, would remember this detail.
Now Jeremy lit a cigarette and watched an erratic stream of homeless people making their way into the forest for the night. When he arrived there had been seawall walkers and hotdog eaters, birdwatchers, rollerbladers, chess players returning from the picnic tables over by bowling greens. Then lagoon traffic changed direction like a freak tide. The flow of those heading back to their warm apartments in the West End tapered to nothing, and the paths were filled with the delusional, the alcoholic, the paranoid, the bipolar. The Professor’s subjects, his obsession. The inbound. Four hundred hectares of Stanley Park offering its bleak, anonymous shelter to those without other options.
Of course, Jeremy didn’t have to remind himself, the Professor had other options.
They had discussed meeting on the phone earlier in the week. When Jeremy picked up–expecting a late reservation, maybe his black-cod supplier, who was due into Vancouver the next morning–he heard wind and trees rustling at the other end of the line. Normally reticent, the Professor was animated about his most recent research.
“… following on from everything that I have done,” he said, “culminating with this work.” From his end, standing at a pay phone on the far side of the lagoon, the Professor could hear the dishwasher hammering away in the background behind his son’s tired response.
“Participatory anthropology. Is that what you call it now?” Jeremy was saying. “I thought it was immersive.”
“Like everything,” the Professor answered, “my work has evolved.”
He needed help with something, the Professor said. He wanted to meet.
“How unusual,” Jeremy said.
“And what advice can I give on running a restaurant?” the Professor shot back.
“None,” Jeremy answered. “I just said there was something I wanted to talk to you about. Something that had to do with the restaurant.”
“Strange times,” the Professor said, looking into the darkness around the pay phone. Checking instinctively.
Very strange. The stream of those inbound had slowed to a trickle. A trio of men passed, bent behind shopping carts that were draped and hung with plastic, heaped to the height of pack horses, bags full of other bags. Jeremy could only wonder at the purpose of them all, although the Professor could have told him that the bag itself captured the imagination. It held emblematic power. For its ability to hold, certainly. To secure contents, to carry belongings from place to place. But even the smell of the plastic, its oily permanence, suggested the resilience of things discarded.
Jeremy watched the three men make their way around the lagoon and disappear into the trails. He glanced at his watch, sighed. Lifted his chin and breathed in the saline breeze. It brought to mind the ocean beyond the park, sockeye salmon schooling in the deep, waiting for the DNA-encoded signal to turn in their millions and rush the mouth of the Fraser, the tributary offshoot, the rivulet of water and the gravel-bed spawning grounds beyond. Mate, complete the cycle, die. And then, punctuating this thought, the rhododendron bushes across the lawn boiled briefly and disgorged Caruzo, the Professor’s manic vanguard.
“Hey, hey,” Caruzo said, approaching the bench. “Chef Papier.” He exhaled the words in a blast.
He dressed for the mobile outdoor life, Caruzo. Three or four sweaters, a torn corduroy jacket, a heavy coat, then a raincoat over all of that. It made the big man even bigger, the size of a lineman, six foot five, although stooped a little with the years. Those being of an indeterminate number; Jeremy imagined only that it must be between fifty and ninety. Caruzo had a white garbage bag tied on over one shoe, although it was only threatening to rain, and pants wrapped at the knees in electrical tape. His ageless, wind-beaten face was protected by a blunt beard that fell to his chest. Exposed skin had darkened, blackened as a chameleon might against the same forest backdrop.
“The Professor,” Caruzo announced, “is waiting.”
Reading Group Guide
1. The novel is called Stanley Park and much of it is set in Stanley Park. Have you been there, by any chance? Has Timothy Taylor's novel changed the way you look at city parks?
2. The park is important in the novel, but so is food and, in particular, the creative menus at Jeremy Papier's restaurant, The Monkey's Paw Bistro. Many critics wrote that they loved this aspect of Stanley Park. What do you think the novel says about our relationship to food? Do you think the author believes in the old adage, "You are what you eat"?
3. If there's a villain in the novel, it is Dante Beale. Do you see him as a villain? Who do you think is better equipped to live in the modern world: Jeremy or Dante?
4. If Dante is a villain, what is the Professor Jeremy's father? What do you think of what he calls "participatory anthropology"? Can his experience ever truly emulate the experience of the park's real inhabitants?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Loved the foodie, living-from-the-land theme of this novel and its overall message of the importance of working out what it is that is really important in a person's life. At one point in the first half of the book I got slightly frustrated with Jeremy's financial woes and thought it wasn't entirely convincing that he wouldn't have talked to Jules and to Olli about them sooner than he did. But once that part was past, I really enjoyed the second half of the book.
Please tell me that someone is going to make a film of this book - the climactic scene when Jeremy opens his new restaurant is just begging to be filmed.
Creepy, unsettling book of food and mystery and politics.
I found this book to be such an easy and enjoyable read. The characters are really interesting and well-developed, especially Jeremy, the Professor, Caruzo, Jules and Benny. I love Timothy Taylor's way with words; I could totally picture the scenes he describes.I loved the behind-the-scenes look at the kitchen of a busy restaurant, plus most of the food described is mouth-wateringly delicious!There are several subplots in Stanley Park, and most of them are interesting. For the most part, I like the way they intertwine with each other, but I'm not sure all of them are necessary, or that Taylor ties them all together well. For example, the little boy Trout has some significance in this novel, but I never did figure out where he fits in.Overall, this is a fun and thought-provoking book, but I wouldn't say it's one of my favourites.
A really interesting read which manages to combine such seemingly disparate themes as food (described in passionate detail), the homeless of Vancouver and father-son relationships. I bought this book with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I look forward to future works.