Thursday, August 23, 2012 |
Shelagh Rogers interviewed many fabulous authors this past season on The Next Chapter. Every now and then, she would have a conversation so compelling, juicy, riveting or fascinating that it deserved more time than the radio show could allow. So, The Next Chapter has offered up extended versions of those conversations as special webisodes and podcasts.
Every Thursday in July and August, CBC Books will bring you Shelagh's Summer Specials, an encore presentation of those great full-length conversations.
Shelagh's Summer Special this week is her extended conversation with Linden MacIntyre about his latest novel, Why Men Lie. An edited version of this interview originally aired on Monday, April 2, 2012.
We hope you enjoy!
You can hear The Next Chapter on CBC Radio One every Monday at 1 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. (a half hour later in Newfoundland).
Linden MacIntyre's latest novel, Why Men Lie, completes a trilogy that began with The Long Stretch and continued with his Giller Prize-winning book The Bishop's Man. Each novel is centred on a different member of the MacAskill family, but Why Men Lie is a departure from the previous two books in that it is written from a female perspective. The protagonist, Effie MacAskill-Gillis, is a middle-aged woman who has had a series of failed marriages and relationships. One day, she has a chance encounter with a man from her past on a subway platform. Before she knows it, she's falling in love and her hard-won independence and self-sufficiency are deeply shaken.
MacIntyre didn't intend to write Why Men Life from a female perspective. "It's a guy book," he told Shelagh Rogers. But the words struggled to come and the story didn't come together the way MacIntyre had hoped. He thought long and hard about what he was trying to convey in this story. "The substance of the book is why men get so hung up on matters of potency, whether it's of the genital type or of the shoulders and muscle type," he said. That's when it struck him: what better perspective to explore these mid-life changes than through the eyes of someone who watches it all happen? Namely, a middle-aged woman. "Men aren't really that self-knowing, that self-aware. They can't do a credible job of describing what they go through."
MacIntyre chose Effie to be the vehicle for the story because of her already established history of failed relationships and because she was the right age for this exploration of coming to terms with middle age. He believe that women and men treat middle age very differently. Women "begin to figure things out and begin to see things through a different prism than the prism of reproduction and appearance," MacIntyre said. "Suddenly, some lights go on in their heads. 'I don't need men to restore what's gone wrong in my life. I've done a pretty good job of it myself.'" Men, on the other hand, fall apart. "Guys at middle age become foggier and more confused about who they are and what they have," he said. "At middle age, a fella will either withdrawal somewhat or begin to act out some silly pseudo-youthful behaviour."
MacIntyre was drawn to writing strong women characters because of his own upbringing. As a child, his world was dominated by women. His father was often away. All his teachers were women. He had two sisters and lived with his mother and his mother's mother. The women around him ran the town and did what they had to do to provide for their family. "The women were the backbone of the place," he said. Watching his mother work so hard to create a place for herself and her family gave MacIntyre an appreciation for feminism and the fight for equality. "I understand and appreciate the kind of character that women have developed, exploited for the sake of getting ahead in a world that was, for so long a time, a place that has been hard for women to advance in."
Much of Why Men Lie is drawn from MacInytre's own life and people he has known: the strong women, the crisis of middle age, the subplot dealing with a prison inmate on death row. But MacIntyre assures us that the work is very much fiction, and that fans of The Bishop's Man should be pleased with a return to the world of the MacAskills. "You draw from fact when it's relevant and when it's going to be of a universal experience or helps you to arrive at some broad insight."