Andrew Struthers, The Green Shadow

As promotional material goes, The Green Shadow's back cover describes the book unusually accurately: in the early 1990s, with the town of Tofino divided over the fate of Clayoquot Sound, Andrew Struthers examines both the town's split and his own internal divisions in a comic work that culminates in his run for mayor. Nonfiction, more or less, though with some names changed (barely!) and some comic exaggeration, it's a good read for those with at least some passing familiarity with the history of BC environmental movements, especially Clayoquot Sound.

In some ways, and some sections, it's an excellent read, but I kept wondering who the target audience was for this book. I mean, it's an insider's inside story, available for sale to those of us on the outside. I know that "Tzapata" is Tzeporah Berman (unelucidated allusion to the Mexican revolutionary presumably intended), and I have some ideas about other pseudonyms, so I'm like a tourist who's done some pre-visit homework, but -- really? We need to spend time on chakras, both conceptually and Struthers' own? I guess it's establishing cred with the greens who know chakras (cartoony hardcore ones), to emphasize the depth of Struthers' association with both sides of this division -- as per blurb -- but I don't know.

The town's division (like the one in our society over this kind of issue) was and is real, I get that. But as Struthers' own example makes clear, the external appearance of dualism is false to the internal reality so many of us live on the West Coast. I don't need to see Struthers' cred on both sides, because the riven position he occupies is the one that so many of us occupy anyway. I need his struggle, his conflict, not the two tokenistic and nonrepresentative sides.

Where was I going with this?

Right. Struthers does a great job with the comic scenes, but his hand is uneven in this book. He deserved the 1995 National Magazine Award for humour that the serialized version won, justifiably edging out the great Mordecai Richler in doing so, but (strike me down for saying it) I wasn't gripped by The Green Shadow. I wanted to be gripped, and I've still got the entire Transmontanus lineup on future birthday and Christmas lists (as well as Struthers' succeeding Last Voyage of the Loch Ryan), but ... this book didn't give me what I wanted from it.

Which may of course be my fault anyway. Happy New Year, all.


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