Up and Down and Dads

TinkerbellyI have the best dad in the world. Oh, you might want to argue with me, but when you were 15 and alone on Valentine’s Day, did your dad come home with a rose, a rental of When Harry Met Sally, and a bucket of Coffee Haagen Dazs ice cream so you could go and indulge your melodramatic, sulky teenage hormones knowing that at least one person loved you on Valentine’s Day? No, I bet he didn’t. Did your engineer of a dad put on fairy wings and a jingly hipscarf and allow himself to be cast as Tinkerbelly at your outdoor stage Fringe show one night when you needed a volunteer from the audience? And, when you decided that being all artistic and poor was going to be your life choice, did he get fully behind it and help you out financially even when you were pushing forty? No? Do you see where I’m going with this? My dad wins.

Yes, we’ve had our share of screaming matches and petty arguments, but that’s just life. And I’m not a great daughter. I don’t call and I don’t write. I’m generally pretty ungrateful for all the things my dad has given up in his life to make a better life for me. That’s the job of a parent: give everything and you might get a card/book a few times a year and the occasional phone call to ask for money (crap, just looked at my bank account, better put that call in soon… is it tacky to do it on Father’s Day?)

My dad and I have a long history with books. He read to me all the time – apparently he had to tell the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears thousands of times – and then we read to each other (still do). He still offers to buy me Archie comics whenever we go to the super market when I go visit him in the Okanagan (his wages generally went to buying me books, including my astounding collection of Archies). I have many memories of the books my dad and I read together, going from Corduroy and Boys are Awful to Waiting for Godot, Topaz, the works of Shakespeare, and Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales.

knufflebunnyfreeSo, this Father’s Day, what book should you get your dad? Well, that really depends on him. I just gave my dad the last in the Knuffle Bunny trilogy by Mo Willems. I love the whole arc of these picture books, where we start with Trixie when she’s a toddler, and then at her first day of school, and then later as she grows into her own person with her dad and her Knuffle Bunny. But, I think next year I will commence a few years of getting him the Terry Fallis collection.

I recently finished Up and Down and am almost finished The Best Laid Plans. Somehow, both seem like perfect Canadian Dad books. They’re both funny and intelligent with protagonists who try to do the right thing, even in ridiculous situations. I’ll wait to talk about TBLP in our podcast, but I thought I’d do a little review of Up and Down as I think it’s perfect for my dad, so it might be perfect for yours, too.

On his first day at Turner King, David Stewart quickly realizes that the world of Up-and-Down-final-cover-with-shadowinternational PR (affectionately, perhaps ironically, known as “the dark side”) is a far cry from his previous job on Parliament Hill. For one, he missed the office memo on the all-black dress code; for another, there are enough acronyms and jargon to make his head spin. Before he even has time to find the washroom, David is assigned a major project: devise a campaign to revitalize North America’s interest in the space program – maybe even show NASA’s pollsters that watching a shuttle launch is more appealing than going out for lunch with friends. The pressure is on, and before long, David finds himself suggesting the most out-of-this-world idea imaginable: a Citizen Astronaut lottery that would send one Canadian and one American to the International Space Station. Suddenly, David’s vaulted into an odyssey of his own, navigating the corporate politics of a big PR agency; wading through the murky but always hilarious waters of Canada-U.S. relations; and trying to hold on to his new job while still doing the right thing. 

The first thing I thought of as this novel began was “has Chris Hadfield read this book?” It’s all about social media and re-invigorating the public’s interest in the space program and it was published the same year Hadfield went up – if he didn’t read it, someone on his team did. The book certainly invigorated my interest in the space program. This was a great light read, with quite a few genuine laughs and a few moments of real warmth. I had a great giggle at David’s experiences with Power Point and other technologies, as they are much like my own. I enjoyed the comparison between PR and GOV’T work, and also the comparison between Canadian and U.S. PR companies, which did a little American stereotyping, but I was okay with it. As someone who constantly asks herself “what’s the right thing to do here?”, I found I related to and appreciated Fallis’ characters who try to do the same. And, I loved his portrayal of an intelligent, adventure seeking, and totally still useful senior citizen. These themes of the idealistic protagonist and the inspiring senior appear to be ones Fallis repeats, and while that perhaps makes reading all his books back to back a little repetitive, they are also important themes that bear repeating in this age of political cynicism and undervalued seniors.

Well, that was a rambling post. I’ll keep it rambling with a couple of my favourite “dad” books as a sign off 🙂

– Reading with Dad by Dick Jorgensen
– Why? by Lindsay Camp

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5 Responses to Up and Down and Dads

  1. Naomi says:

    I was thinking about arguing with you, but after reading the whole post, let’s just say it’s a tie for best Dad. Yours does seem pretty great. 🙂

    As for Terry Fallis, I think his books would be perfect for Dads! Or anyone. I haven’t read Up and Down, but it sounds pretty comparable to The Best Laid Plans, which I loved. I found it so refreshing. And, yes, we need more great senior characters! I can’t wait to read No Relations, but still not available at my library. I will keep trying… or I might have to buy it. Or, wait, I could buy it for my Dad, and then borrow it! Yes!

    I find it interesting that you say Fallis repeats his themes, because I just finished another Miriam Toews book, and she seems to do the same thing. So far. And, I was just trying to decide what I thought of that. I think if it is a theme that works for the author and the reader, and it is what the author is good at, then why not? It didn’t take away from the story for me, and, if fact, it has made me curious to read more of her books to see how they all follow or deviate from the themes I have noticed in her books so far.

    Judging by my comment, this must be one great post!

    • writereads says:

      Nothing would make be happier than to have a best dad tie 🙂 I’m always happy to hear about other good dads. Good dads are a damn good thing to have. Especially because they’re okay if you buy them a book and then borrow it 🙂

      I’m glad you agree about Fallis. I really like his stuff and think it’s very Dad-appropriate. And that’s the perfect word for Fallis’ books and their idealism: refreshing! I think you’re right about Toews repeating themes as well. If they are themes you can work with, why not repeat them? I think it just makes me want to space out the reading of their books a bit, so as not to feel like I’m getting too much of the same thing. -Tania

  2. Your dad sounds like a legend. Lucky you!

    • writereads says:

      He pretty much is. And, while I mention that I’m a bad daughter, I also do know how lucky I am. There don’t seem to be all that many great dads out there so I try to be grateful about it. -Tania

  3. Pingback: A Selection of Great Blog Posts June 2014 | Consumed by Ink

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