I just finished my first ebook, The Beggar’s Garden, a collection of short stories by Michael Christie (who is from Northern Ontario, you know the place, who wouldda thunk?). I enjoyed the writing, very much, there was wit, sadness and a very good reflection of the human spirit, ugly and beautiful as it is.
After completing the book, I found myself a bit troubled. Most of the stories revolved around some element of Vancouver, more often than not what has become affectionately known as the downtown East Side or, at least, qualities that have become synonymous with that area. Addiction, poverty and mental illness are driving forces for Christie’s characters and he writes about them with a skill that at once shows their humanity, weaknesses and occasionally finds the humor in what could otherwise be treated, as it often is, with a removed quality if not distain.
This is what leads me to finally commenting on a book after a long absence from this blog. What troubled me was my own reaction to the characters. I was unsure as to how to interpret them and their troubles and stories; whether to feel sorry for them, upset or blame them for being the agents of their own destructive behaviours. I believed, to my embarrassment, that I was grappling with the same cultural malaise that affects modern society when it comes to viewing those that society recognizes as “down and out.”