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Full Reviews

Prisoner in a Red-Rose Chain
The Memory Artists

November 2004


Juliet Waters explores the male minds between the covers

The scene is the 2000 Common-wealth Writers Prize at the ultraposh Oberoi hotel in New Delhi. Word is out that Salman Rushdie is here, his first trip back to India since the fatwa was declared. Security is tight as the bookworm crowd in the lobby is scanned with metal detectors and sniffed by police dogs. Among the crowd is Montreal writer Jeffrey Moore, nomi-nated in the best first-book category for his novel Prisoner in a Red-Rose Chain. When organizers seem to be making a special effort to introduce him to Rushdie, Moore suspects he may have won. He's right. Flush from a bit too much scotch and attention, he hits the stage and can't help but deadpan: "I want to thank Salman Rushdie for making a special trip to see me win this award."

"I was expecting a few titters, but instead there was this seemingly endless, horrible moment of silence," recalls Moore, "and then the room exploded into laughter." While good comic timing always helps, you have to wonder if that joke would have come off quite as well for a man from any other country. No one ever expects the Cocky Canadian.

Four years later, however, any Canadian male writer who wants to be cocky has more reason to be. More than a year after Moore's success, Yann Martel won the Man Booker Prize.

When first-time novelist John Bemrose made the long list this year, the achievement didn't seem unusual.

We can expect men well represented this month, too, at Canadian awards such as the Giller Prize on Nov. 11. In general, 2004 has been a great year for entertaining, intelligent books by Canadian men. There's Moore's recently released second novel, The Memory Artists (Viking), a hilarious yet poignant book about a young genius trying to deal with his mother's Alzheimer's [...]

In an email to update FLARE on what's been happening in his life, Moore writes: "After my reading at the festival [Edinburgh International Book Festival], rumours began to swirl about shrieking teens chasing me in scenes reminiscent of A Hard Day's Night. Although I started these rumours, I am more popular in Britain than in Canada. But even more popular - unaccountably - in Italy, where I was actually stalked by a beautiful, stylish and intelligent woman who confessed that she had 'fallen in love with Jeremy' (a character in my first novel). She eventually entrusted me with a long and rambling love letter that I was to give to Jeremy who, incidentally, she had seen walking around Turin."

Readers imagining your characters moving about in the nonfictional world? Now there's a reason to be cocky.