FLY­ING CA­NOE

Geist - - Endnotes - —patty Os­borne

When I tried to de­scribe the weird and won­der­ful book Ac­cordéon by Kaie Kel­lough (ARP) to two Québé­coise friends, I had to resort to read­ing a few ex­cerpts be­cause my own words failed me. How do you de­scribe a book whose nar­ra­tor may or may not be a man who rants out­side a Jean Coutu drug­store in Mon­treal and/ or an in­former for the Que­bec Min­istry of Cul­ture who is writ­ing his “con­fes­sion” in the form of a book that claims to con­tain “the most de­tailed known ac­counts of the fly­ing ca­noe”? My Québé­coise friends told me that the Fly­ing Ca­noe (or Chasse-ga­lerie) comes from a Québé­cois folk tale about some log­gers who wanted to get home to their wives for New Year’s Eve but they were snowed in, so they made a deal with the devil who agreed to fly them home in a ca­noe if they agreed not to fly over any church steeples or men­tion God’s name. From there the tale veers off in sev­eral di­rec­tions, de­pend­ing on which ver­sion you read or which movie you watch, much the way Ac­cordéon wan­ders around Mon­treal (“a great North Amer­i­can hub of dis­or­der”) and moves back and forth in his­tory from Louis Riel to Marc Lépine to the Plains of Abra­ham and from a box of books aban­doned on the side­walk (which is likened to the ca­noe), to the Ea­ton Cen­tre, yoga pants, the “mo­bi­liza­tion of the global work­ing class,” things that get lost in trans­la­tion and the “rest­less an­ces­try” of Que­be­cers. Side­bars con­tain com­ments from the mys­te­ri­ous “MC” and “MC2”, the iden­ti­ties of whom may have be­come clear to me by the end of the book. Ac­cordéon is a hi­lar­i­ous, mind-bog­gling romp of a book about Mon­treal and the ever-chang­ing and un­man­age­able Que­bec cul­ture. Read it to your friends!

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