Friday, July 23, 2010

Not Wanted on the Voyage

And Noah went in, and his son,
and his wife and his sons' wives
with him into the ark, because
of the waters of the flood...

Genesis 7:7


Everyone knows it wasn't like that.

To begin with, they make it sound as if there wasn't any argument; as if there wasn't any panic -- no one being pushed aside -- no one being trampled -- none of the animals howling -- none of the people screaming blue murder. They make it sound as if the only people who wanted to get on board were Doctor Noyes and his family. Presumably everyone else (the rest of the human race, so to speak) stood off waving gaily, behind a distant barricade: SPECTATORS WILL NOT CROSS THE YELLOW LINE and: THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION. With all the baggage neatly labelled: WANTED or NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE.

They also make it sound as if there wasn't any dread -- Noah and his sons relaxed on the poop deck, sipping port and smoking cigars beneath a blue and white striped awning -- probably wearing yachting caps, white ducks and blazers. Mrs. Noyes and her daughters-in-law fluttering up the gangplank -- neat and tidy -- dry beneath there umbrellas -- turning and calling; "goodbye, everybody!" And all their friends shouting; "bon voyage!" while the daughters-in-law hand over their tickets smiling and laughing -- everyone being piped aboard and a band playing Rule Britannia! and Over the Sea to Skye. Flags and banners and a booming cannon... like an excursion.

Well. It wasn't an excursion. It was the end of the world.


And that is the first page of the prologue of Timothy Findley's Not Wanted on the Voyage, a retelling of the story of Noah's Ark.  I can't imagine how it is I missed this one for so long... Brilliant book people, if you're looking for something to read. Damn, I wish I could write like that. Not that I've ever been interested in writing a novel. But every page is a delight.


Mr. Jazz said...

Damn: I wish I could read!

Word Verification: cityr

Sounds like a TV or radio station

lime said...

sounds like an interesting book.

Anonymous said...

And here I was all impressed with how clever you were being...

Bonnie said...

Oh, you're a tricky one! I, too, thought you were displaying a talent for constructing a tale from a biblical parable.

Hard to beat Findley - thanks for review and recommendation!

Anonymous said...

I wish I'd heard of this book before I left on my trip - it sounds like the type of book I'd enjoy very much! As it was, the book I did bring was somewhat plotless and although I had plenty of time to read it, I kept avoiding it. That's a clear sign of a bad read, isn't it?

Jazz said...

Mr. Jazz - You can be taught. I'm sure you can.

Lime - oh, it is.

XUP - Gotcha!

Bonnie - I wish!

Pinklea - He's great, and he's Canajun, eh?

Guillaume said...

I can't believe some people still think the Bible is literal and the story of the Flood really happened.

I wanted to write a short story about a stowaway on the Ark, discovering that the place was stinky, dorty, the animals mean and Noah a mean, antisocial drunkard.

Anonymous said...

You fooled me too; I also thought you wrote that clever retelling. I shall be sure to find the book.

VioletSky said...

This was the first of his books I ever read and it started a long love affair with his writing. I even bought another copy, once just so I could get him to autograph it at a signing (for a different book).
Isn't it exciting to make such discoveries!

secret agent woman said...

I've always found this to be such a disturbing story. What sort of horrible god would arrange a deal like that? Of course, the Old Testament is crowded with similar God-gone-mad stories.

Shrinky said...

I'm with Secret Agent here. I like the flow of the snippet you've posted here, I shall look out for it if it reaches our shelves.

Jazz said...

Guillaume - I can't help but think those people would NOT like this book.

Rachel - I wish

VS - Yeah, it is great. The book has been on my shelves forever, and I never got around to it. There is much to be said for cleaning out. This is one book that will go back onto the shelf rather than be donated.

SAW - Well, when you eventually do meet Yaweh in the book, he's a depressed old man who seems just a little mad.

Shrinky - I'm sure it's made it across the pond by now, it was published in 1984.

Anonymous said...

Sounds great, will have to check it out.

Joanie Hoffman said...

this may be a 2nd comment from me, Blogger is acting up.
Thanks for the recommendation, being a book nerd, I have ordered a copy. I read "A Confederacy of Dunces" that I think you wrote to Ricë about, and it was great. It was one of those books that made me laugh out loud.
Thanks also for your very fast comments (almost right after I finish posting). It's like having a mother without the nagging.

Anonymous said...

Read it yonks ago. I think I still have it. Maybe it does warrant a re-read. And, yes, I too hate people who write better than I could ever hope to, like Douglas Adams per exemple.

Warty Mammal said...


Why in the hell people think the story of Noah's Ark is suitable for the wallpaper border in their baby's room is beyond me.

One of these days, I'm going to grow a pair and make a saccharine sweet poster depicting the ark leaving and alllll the baby animals crying for their mommies while they drown. I might even toss a drowning human being or two in there too.

Jocelyn said...

I read the first sentence of your post and thought, "Oh, I'm going to need to tell Jazz to read NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE, if she's going this direction." But then I read more...and you got it. Amazing book, inn't?

RCA said...

good stuff!