|49° 31' 28'' N, 55° 12' 52'' W|
|Michael Paul's Fearless Journey Around the Rock:
the quest of a prodigal son
By Lezlie Lowe
review for Atlantic Books Today, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Winter 2001
How does a smattering of journal entries, collected and re-written on loose leaf (with a pencil) over three solitary months in a remote Newfoundland cabin and intended only for family and close friends, end up getting published?
"Long story," says Michael. "As all my tales tend to be."
That's a sentiment then 22-year-old Michael Paul felt for some time before he had a transport truck drive him from his home in remote Notre Dame Bay, to the province's southwest shore to begin paddling around Newfoundland in a 17-foot sea kayak. But that sentiment, and others, were solidified for him along the way – life is moving too fast, television sucks the life right out of you, the government is destroying Newfoundland by turning it into a typical tourist trap, and stories of Newfoundlanders are being washed over by American culture and turned into mere seven-minute sound bites on CBC radio.
His new book about that four-month-long ocean journey, May We Rant and Roar No More, is greater than the tale of his journey through the sea. It is, as the title suggests, a call to arms; a request that Newfoundlanders "rant and roar" from their couches no more, but get up, open the door, go out and do something about the state of their island home.
It's a hard sell. And Michael Paul knows it. "I'm not sure how it's going to be regarded," he admits, "especially here. But it's gotten to the point where we have a choice and we have to wake up. There aren't many young people, people of my age, having voices here. I know Britney Spears has a voice, that I know, and it's unfortunate."
Michael has another voice in his book too, one different from the moral high road he often takes. It's the voice of a young man from Newfoundland learning, for the first time in his life to be a Newfoundlander. "I wrote my last exam in high school," he says, "and got let off on the highway the next morning. I'd been doing short trips back to the island over the years but certainly, in my opinion now, never had any degree of [legitimate] interaction with the people until I came back from overseas."
He spent years traveling North America, Europe, Egypt and India prior to his return for the paddling expedition.
This emerging citizenship in his own province is beautifully captured in the book through the gradual thickening of his own Newfoundland accent. At the beginning, he's asking someone to "T'ank the missus for breakfast." By the time he rounds the Baie Verte Peninsula, he's giving a fellow his take on Quebec separatism – "What dey wants, sir, is d' right t' maintain der identity, der culture. ‘Cause jus' like ‘ere, it's bein' sucked right out of ‘em by a government dat got little else but money and power on deir minds."
May We Rant and Roar No More is a rollicking read. He's re-worked and embellished his journal entries into fast-moving prose. The book is catchy, possibly addictive. His quick writing tucks you along in the kayak with him. It seats you at the tables of the families he met and supped with. And it rests your body beside him on the rocky ground under his tent. His encounters with fiords, whales and threatening swells are described with remarkable clarity and glaring love. And the magnificence, the colossal importance Michael Paul's words attribute to these natural wonders only underscores the ultimately indescribable beauty they must really possess. So now, after hitchhiking 93,000 kilometres around the globe, paddling more than 1600 nautical miles around Newfoundland and feeling the ripping ocean and wind on the most easterly point of the continent, he has come into his own as a Newfoundlander. And he won't be leaving again anytime soon, he says. "They'll probably have to take me out kickin' and screamin'."
|Box 373RR3 Fortune Harbour, Newfoundland A0H 1E0
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