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The worlds of sports and entertainment provide the subjects and settings for much of Quarrington's work. Paul Quarrington's early novels, The Service , Home Game and The Life of Hope , introduce the author's comic vision and explore the mythic and moral structures of human behaviour. While the instability and disorder of experience are dramatized in his work, individual renewal through trial and suffering makes reality partially sensible.
In King Leary , which won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour, his interest in the quest narrative is reflected in the portrayal of Percival Leary, an aging former hockey player who remembers his past actions and their effects on people close to him.
Whale Music , which won the Governor General's Award , examines the world of rock music through the drug-addled brain of its narrator, Des Howell. Like Leary, Howell comes to understand his earlier lack of compassion.
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Quarrington's Logan in Overtime is another comedic hockey novel. Paul Quarrington also produced non-fiction works exploring his favourite fictional subjects and recreational pastimes. Fishing with My Old Guy , a humorous reflection on angling, was published in Paul Quarrington wrote plays as well as the Gemini-Award winning screenplay for the film Perfectly Normal , starring Robbie Coltrane.
His other screenwriting credits include the screenplays for Whale Music and Camilla , which was directed by Deepa Mehta.
Chest-Deep in Little Fish and Big Ideas
His novel Civilization and Its Part in My Downfall takes place in Hollywood, in the early years of film, while The Spirit Cabinet is set in the backstage world of professional magicians. Quarrington drew on his familiarity with the entertainment industry again in his novel, The Ravine , whose protagonist is a now down-and-out television producer.
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If literature is meant to engage our emotions, exercising more rarified sensibilities like mercy and grief, then fishing is the activity for the fundamental feelings. It is plunging your finger into the beating heart of something. Quarrington agrees fishing is both meditative and comfort for the soul. In his introduction he places fishing in a philosophical context, something he does throughout the memoir, subtitled Chest-Deep in Little Fish and Big Ideas :. The two are intimately bound for me, although there are different sorts of interweavings.
When everything in my life is fine and good, fishing becomes a celebration, my senses harmonizing with the surroundings. When life becomes turbulent, fishing is a respite, troubles driven away by single-mindedness. And when things are downright miserable, the repetitive nature of the pursuit can approximate ceremony, ritual, and small, sad gods come to stand along the riverside. The small, sad gods stood along the Bow River, in downtown Calgary, when Quarrington sought solace from an uncomprehending world on 11 September — a year in which his father died and his marriage dissolved against a backdrop of terrorism in the skies.
It would diminish the power of this intellectually engaging and emotionally resonant chapter Fishing Through Disaster to quote anything less than its entirety.
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From what I have said so far, a reader might get the impression that the memoir is heavy slogging. On the contrary. Although he writes movingly about moments of solitude and reflection, fishing for him is a social, communal pastime. My sons, Dylan and Robin, purchased the present because I had talked so enthusiastically about my recent fishing trip. Although highway traffic was within earshot, myriad insects and birdsong presented a pastoral symphony. But more pleasing to my ear than the sounds of nature was Robin, who was seven at the time, sitting on a rock in the river, singing sweetly while casting into peaceful waters.
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