30 AUG 2013 05:49PM
Urinating on the side of a road in rural Manitoba, Charlie Tallulah has a moment to reflect on what’s been happening to him. He was fleeing for his life across Manitoba with a woman he had only just recently met at a liquor store. “This was not a story he was used to telling and it was unfolding in dangerous and unpredictable ways.”
Although very much a sexy action/adventure across the Canadian Prairies, Fredericton writer Gerard Berine’s coming novel Charlie Tallulah, being released by Oberon Press in November, is really about storytelling.
“We’re different people in different circumstances,” says Beirne. “I feel I’m in a story of my life all the time. I am acting out roles. There’s always this sense to me that I’m not being true to myself, but what other way do we know how to do things?”
The thing about Beirne’s enigmatic titular protagonist is Charlie is entirely comfortable with his life being a story, a fiction, something he can reinvent as needed. Beirne points to Cannery Row, wherein a character commits suicide because he said he would if certain circumstances arose and he was forced to show his hand rather than lose face.
“There’s a sense, that as human beings, some of us have tendency to do things because it’s expected of us and we’d be disappointing people. Charlie does disappoint people.”
The result is a well-crafted anti-hero.
“His morality stops him at times from going along with them completely.”
Beirne has been working on the short novel for the past decade, since he was living in Manitoba, and this too lends weight to his insight to the way people can or cannot change.
The narrative, taking a cue from the fragmented nature of the self we present to the world, is delivered in a non-chronological flow, the complete story slowly surfacing as you read.
But for Charlie, the various stories don’t align. Structured as a traditional road novel, Charlie Tallulah tells Charlie’s journey, but the stories don’t resolve into a satisfying conclusion.
“Maybe this is how I feel,” says Beirne, “It must be easy to come to the end of your life and feel disappointed. It sounds tragic, but maybe that’s just reality of being human.”
That Beirne is finally publishing Charlie Tallulah doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Charlie. Beirne has always amused himself with the idea of writing more stories starring Charlie. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take him 10 years for the next one, too.