Stories in anthology have local connection
— does he therefore work, or does he therefore play?
His constant griping about injuries and aging is a front for a childlike joy that oozes from every page of Running with the Pack.
Nimble young Mark likes to run as fast and as far as he can. Decrepit “old” Rowlands likes to engage Spinoza and Descartes and even Plato.
So as he runs, he strives to use the metronome of his steps to impel his quest, really, for the meaning of life.
We learn soon enough the whining is a mask for the joy because of the second theme that shapes the book. Not only does Rowlands love his job as philosopher, not only does little Mark love running, but they both love animals. Dogs specifically.
Rowlands’ professional writing consistently engages the questions in and around the nature of animals and our treatment of them. Throughout his entire life, he has been accompanied by dogs.
The principal canines in this part of his story are all now extraordinarily dearly departed but they live on in stories and at least one life.
The main character here is Brenin, a massive dog whose long partnership with Rowlands was chronicled in his bestselling The Philosopher and
(2009). Through much of Running with the Pack, Brenin is teamed with younger Nina and Tess. This trio forms a daily quartet with Rowlands as he wanders so briskly.
Does Rowlands run with them because he needs them to be exhausted? Does he run with them to clear his mind? Does he run to enjoy their humanlike companionship?
As all runners do, Rowlands ends where he started: with the frame-story of his 2011 marathon attempt. This.mighty endeavour was massively hindered by yet another recent injury and, for this cranky prof, too little proper homework/ training done.
As he stretches, runs, walks, limps, thinks and runs again, he must decide whether to stop at the temptress, the half-marathon, or go for the gold.
En route, he has a final philosophical epiphany (this time with Sartre) and presumably now can die in peace.
This, though, is not because he finished the marathon. That’s not the point. The point is Rowlands had already named his first child “Brenin.” THREE stories with Winnipeg connections will be published by McClelland & Stewart in this year’s Journey Prize anthology, collecting the best short stories published in Canada in 2012.
Winnipeg bookseller and writer Steven Benstead was selected for his story Megan’s Bus, originally published in Saskatchewan’s Grain magazine. Benstead, who has published stories in several other literary journals, has recently finished writing a novel, entitled Soldier, Soldier.
Two stories originally published in Winnipeg’s Prairie Fire magazine also made the Journey Prize anthology: The Egyptians, by Toronto’s Jay Brown; and Team Ninja, by Thunder Bay’s Amy Jones.
Is the book review dying or getting a new life? If you’re in Carl Sandburg’s City of the Big Shoulders, it depends on which newspaper you look at.
The U.S. trade journal Publishers’ Weekly reports that the Chicago Sun-Times is shutting down its books section, which had already dwindled to the point where it was mostly wireservice reviews.
The Sun-Times — a once-proud newspaper that was home to nationally known writers like Mike Royko and Roger Ebert — has obviously fallen on hard times, having also laid off its photographers.
The “new life” side of the story comes from the Chicago Tribune, which last year launched a standalone 24-page weekly tabloid called Printers Row Journal, containing reviews, interviews, book news and short fiction.
Everyone knows that the Wolverine is a Canadian. And doesn’t Superman have a secret base in the Far North?
Maybe that explains the depth of comic book fan fervour in Canada.
A recent Publishers Weekly blog posting surveys attendance at North American comic book expos and ranks Toronto’s Fan Expo Canada, with attendance of 91,000, as the third-biggest comic and science-fiction gathering in North America.
Calgary’s Comic and Entertainment Expo, with more than 60,000 attendees, is the sixth largest.
Reviewed by Laurence Broadhurst