03 April 2017

Ray and Robert #nlpoli

With the release of Ray Guy:  the final columns, 2003 - 2013,  almost every column Ray Guy ever published is now available in book form.

This compilation is edited by Brian Jones,  published by Creative,  and contains a decade's worth of writing Guy did for The northeast Avalon Times.  The topics are all familiar fodder:  provincial politicians.

Let's be clear about one thing up front.  You will buy this book to fill out your collection of Ray Guy's work.  You will not be buying it as a penetrating insight into a decade's worth of politics in Newfoundland and Labrador. Sure the cover blurbs are effusive in their praise - "brilliant writing"  and "unequalled style" - but by the time Ray was clacking out his opinions on Danny,  Jerome or Roger,  he was clearly tired.

What's more evident is that his touchstones,  his go-to references had become cliche,  stale and lifeless through overuse.  And what's worse, his writing lacked any sign of crispness, clarity, deftness of phrase, or any of Guy's other hallmarks.

October 2012.

Good example.

Column about Muskrat Falls.

Musk.

Rat.

Churchill Falls.

Stalin.

D. Williams.  "Danny we can explain.  A self-made man in love with his creator..."

Kathy Dunderdale, a mystery.

Sounds as if "Danny Williams has his hand up her jumper."

The end.

A paragraph is a sentence.   A sentence is a jumble of words.  Thoughts appear to connect them all up but the thoughts are implied,  lost in whatever fog had enwrapped Ray's head by then.  The effect is annoying, at best.

It feels like the editor had once worked as a government access to information co-ordinator, randomly deleting sentences.  What you have in front of you is the bits left after all the blacking out.

There are flashes of insight.  The self-made man in love with his creator is certainly spot on but it is a half-dozen words in the midst of 750 or so that do not lead you to it nor take you away from it feeling as though you've got something worthwhile out of the experience.

Thankfully, the body of work on which Ray Guy built his reputation are already in print, thanks to Boulder, a small, private publishing house that gave us two massive tomes a few years before Ray died.  One captured the work from the Smallwood era;  the other Frank Moores. Missing in book form are the columns from the 1980s and 1990s for several newspapers, but they are not the equal of the earlier stuff.

You should buy this book to fill out your collection.  March up to the counter, though, knowing full-well what you are getting in advance.

If you buy the Guy book for the shelf,  consider pairing Jones' compilation with a new account of Sir Robert Bond's life published by Creative and written by local author Ted Rowe.  The title - Robert Bond:  the greatest Newfoundlander - is a bit much but the book itself will not disappoint anyone looking for a readable, reliable account of Newfoundland politics and the prime minister who played such a pivotal role in its history.

Rowe doesn't break any new ground here. His main sources are all secondary surveys of Newfoundland politics by Patrick O'Flaherty and Sid Noel.  or  Rowe has added a bit of work from Bond's papers, now housed at Memorial University and found other references to Bond in small places from diverse sources on British relations with the empire from Bond's time.  Some of the observations Rowe makes will come across as a bit dated  both in style and interpretation. That's unfortunate because overall the result of Rowe's work is a serviceable and accessible account for a wide audience. Rowe will not steer anyone wrong on the major aspects of Bond's life and political career.

-srbp-