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Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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The Canal Paperback – June 15, 2010

3.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Finding himself more drawn to a drab stretch of London canal than to his boring job, the unnamed narrator of this ambitious debut quits and begins to spend his days cultivating a zen state immune to boredom's pernicious possibilities. He meets a woman who has succumbed to those possibilities, and over soon learns of the terrible effect that can come from submitting. Rourke skates over the potential pitfalls of a novel crafted around boredom: descriptions of hours spent staring at a building alternate effectively with emotionally charged, mysterious drama. From his disengaged protagonist to the heinous actions of the woman he becomes obsessed with, Rourke evokes a more systemic emptiness, of which boredom is but a symptom: a post 9-11 nihilistic alienation from meaning. The characters themselves are flatter for this, and seem mechanized by some philosophic endgame rather than genuine psychology. Accepted as such, though, and seen in the context of their realistically-detailed environment--aimlessly vicious teenaged gangs, marching gentrification, and omnipresent technology--they are telling emblems of a modern condition: adrift, bleak yet gentle, and terribly vulnerable to the amoral march of time. (June) (c)
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From Booklist

British writer (Everyday, 2007) Rourke's charming debut novel unflinchingly tackles a subject many more experienced writers might balk at: boredom. The unnamed narrator not only admits his life is a drag; he embraces banality. Finally disgusted by his inane office job, he quits and spends every morning on a bench along a London canal. There he watches waterfowl in the park and aircraft above, dredgers cleaning the water and commuters headed to and from their deathtrap jobs, and a man in an office in a building across the canal. When a mysterious young woman begins to join him on the bench, recounting strange stories and confessing lies, and a gang of thugs begins to pester him, the narrator questions the meaning of love, violence, and nature, especially after discovering that the woman has some connection with the worker across the way. A meditation on boredom's propensity to both inspire inner peace and instigate acts of terrorism, Rourke's surprisingly entertaining tale will keep readers glued to their seats. --Jonathan Fullmer

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (June 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935554018
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935554011
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,411,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Derek White on November 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
From a longer post on my 5cense blog:

If you stop to consider anything long enough, even boredom, you should be able to find interesting connections lurking beneath the otherwise banal surface. «When you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back at you,» or whatever it was that Nietzsche said. Thing is, Rourke gives up staring into the canal after the first few pages. Stuff happens in the book & he loses sight of the initial boring premise. Which perhaps is the point--if you embrace boredom, stuff will happen. Boredom is only boredom if you are afraid of being bored. And boredom is in the eyes of the beholder. This claim that the novel is about boredom allows Rourke to deflect all criticism because he could just say that was his intent. Yes, it's a novel. It says so on the cover. I don't understand why sometimes novels need to declare themselves as such--is it to keep people from confusing it for something else? The book is published by Melville House, known to me primarily as Tao Lin's publisher. And I guess there's some similarities with Tao, as well as with Shane Jones, who blurbed the book. The book was short-listed for The Guardian's Not the Booker Prize, which is no surprise considering Rourke writes for The Guardian.

It's the kind of book you'd expect a book critic to write. He's obviously well-read & connected & able to draw on a lot of writer's before him. Besides the comparison to Beckett, at first i felt like it was being set up like Crime & Punishment. And there's the obvious nod to Tom McCarthy, though to compare the two belittles McCarthy.
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Format: Paperback
One way to look at The Canal is: It's awful. And this might be the right way to look at The Canal, because in some ways it really is awful. It's a book about a dullish jerkhole who quits his job to indulge in juvenile philosophizing and also pursue a woman who repeatedly tells him that she is not interested.

But there are other ways to view this novel that are potentially interesting.

For example: The Canal is a very boring novel about boredom. And that's perfect, isn't it? You are forced, by reading the book, to experience the very sensation the protagonist meditates upon so dully (Here is a typical yawner: "It is obvious to me now that most acts of violence are caused by those who are truly bored. And as our world becomes increasingly boring, as the future progresses into a quagmire of nothingness, our world will become increasingly more violent.").

The Canal might be about boredom as receptiveness, as a passive acceptance of chance and chance events. A few other reviews have commented on the fact that, though the book purports to be about boredom, soon after it starts things start happening. But these events never hook the characters into an actual story; there is repetition, but no development. Characters remain like icebergs, submerged and isolated. The narrator, in particular, is determined to be bored, which also means unengaged.

But Rourke also uses his premise as an excuse. He portrays the narrator as an excruciatingly shallow personality who acts without discernable motivation. Much of the book revolves around his obsession with a woman to whom he's only marginally attracted.
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Format: Paperback
Lee Rourke's début novel is a short but gritty work of nihilistic existentialism, set in contemporary North London. The work captures the tedium and essential meaninglessness of modern existence to perfection, seeing straight through the pretty gloss of petty work-a-day routine and social conditioning to the essentially empty kernel at the heart of the human condition and exposes this to be... boredom. Pure and simple.

The book is every bit as bleak and grey as the white-washed canal-side office block at which the protagonist spends his days staring, while any moments of beauty are rapidly erased and repeatedly eradicated by numerous mindless acts of petty destruction or violence. There is nevertheless a poignancy to Rourke's vision of the collective dystopia which we have made for ourselves and which somehow feels more obvious in big cities and this, I think, is centred in the simple fact that however meaningless the whole, for any individual there can only ever be the totality of their own experiences. And nothing can ever be any more meaningful than that.

This book is not an easy or a comfortable read; but it is a good one. Whether it will mean anything to you... well, that is largely up to you. It certainly won't be for everyone.
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Format: Paperback
The Canal is a sleek, attractively designed book. I've heard of neither the publisher (Melville House) nor the author ('one of England's leading young literary critics'). The writing is elegant, speedy and precise, set in place with the efficient neatness of a master bricklayer. Plot is defiantly not the thing here. The aimlessness and boredom of life is the novel's real subject - as well as its hero and villain. If the obvious comparison is L'Etranger, Beckett's novels deserve an honourable mention, particularly in Rourke's eerie repetitions, the obsessiveness:

'I couldn't sit on the bench, as the bench had disappeared somewhere behind the wall - if it even existed at all anymore. I looked to where the bench used to be, or where the wall now occupied the space in front of it, towering over me, all eight or nine feet of it. It didn't make sense to me. I looked for her. I couldn't see her. There was no sign of her at all.'

The trouble is that piling detail upon detail aimlessly and without apparant concern doesn't represent an aimless existence - it represents a failure of construction. Just as a good fantasy tale requires more realism to come off, not less, a yarn about an aimless existence requires tighter control, not its total absence. Rourke has a talent, no denying it. I hope next time it finds better expression.
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