Affiliation with UVic English: Emeritus
Special Book: The Charlatan Variations, David Gurr
When did you first read this book: I read the manuscript in 2002, in its first stage, and again in 2011 when it was accepted for publication. And of course in between.
Which sentence from this book has special significance for you?
“More changes of names and hiding secrets. Before your daydream of a first novel was ‘aborted,’ did it have a title?”
The C-for-Charlatan Scenario. Unsaleable, but this is at the time of The Hitler Diaries so it seemed logical. A Con writer rips off publishers by floating “Great Man” memoirs – God knows, we’ve Vanity-ghosted enough of them! – complete with Edwardian Bordered title-pages of Errata, Professional Associations, & Meaningful Verse; the superfluous Preface to heighten non-existent suspense, before the inevitable Big Name Dropping, and “accidentally-included” edit-notes from Gay or Widowed secretaries in love with their Author.
What does the sentence mean to you?
Seeing through the charlatanism of so much of life – and literature – helped me understand how a novel comes into being: variations on one’s life combine and recombine in every artistic work. This book reveals that process: its author searches for who (literally) he is, but the peeling back of layers holds true for all of us when we think we know who we are.
Since my graduate work on Joyce’s “Ulysses”, I had not found another modern book that plays so richly with text and allusion. Of course my writing about and teaching of biblical literature, I realized, was more of the same: just keep telling and re-telling the story, hoping you will eventually get it right, knowing that the variations are endless.