Monday, November 17, 2008


Timothy Findley is absolutely out of his mind. His novel, Not Wanted on the Voyage, is an ingeniously crafted looking-glass into the nature of man, woman and beast. Its thematic depth and stark authenticity keep the reader ever questioning; ever surprised; and ever craving more. This is without a doubt a must-read for all men, women, and beasts.It is a comprehensive cogitation of humanity in all times and places. It is at once tragic, hilarious, touching and base; it is among the greatest works of fiction to grace Canadian literature.
Not Wanted on The Voyage is a re-telling of Noah’s Ark. The story is altered in numerous ways. Yahweh Himself visits Dr. Noah Noyes ("noyer" is french for "drown") and his family in a state of deep despair and senility. A wonderful twist of Mr. Findley’s is that Noah inadvertently gives Yahweh the idea to flood the world. During the course of a magic show, Noah shows Yahweh a trick whereby a penny is placed under a glass and made invisible by pouring water into it. Yahweh demands to see the trick several times and gradually becomes more and more shaken. He makes the connection that by "the sheer application-of disappears....". And the story develops in various twisted and marvelous ways: Yahweh dies, Mrs. Noyes struggles to be human in an inhumane world, Noah goes mad and Lucifer is rendered powerless. But perhaps the most interesting addition of Mr. Findley’s is his imagined interactions of the main characters and their relationships throughout the book.
Dr. Noah Noyes is an arrogant egomaniac with self-righteousness emanating out his every pore. His response to his wife saying "The only principles that matter here are yours!" and " will break Ham’s [their son] heart, if you insist on this." is "Then good...He will break his heart for Yahweh. And about time, too." It is not wholly surprising that he is sick and mad with loneliness by the end of the book.
Mrs. Noyes is an intricate, delicate, and yet strong woman who, squirming under the oppression of her circumstances, attempts to shift her "victim position" throughout the book. She defies Yahweh and His laws, going into the orchard and gorging on apples; she attempts to save a deformed child and bring her aboard the Arc. And in her finale of humanity she attempts to overthrow Noah’s totalitarian state and bring cooperative humanity into their lives. She is a deep, rich and complex character, and a symbol of the struggle to be human.
Mottle is Mrs. Noyes’ one-eyed cat, who narrates much of the story. Mr. Findley’s descriptions of the world from a cat’s perspective are fantastically accurate and detailed. CBC writes:
"Timothy Findley was severely embarrassed one morning when someone found him sniffing rocks and seaweed on a beach in British Columbia. He was searching for authenticity, this time trying to experience what an animal might sense for his novel Not Wanted on the Voyage,"
Mottle, Mrs. Noyes and Lucifer are the consistent voices of the modern Western sensibility, rebellion, humanity and struggle. Dr. Noyes, Hannah, and Yahweh are the voices of archaic and illogical cruelty for the sake of self-satisfaction, and of a gray, dreary and dead world. The situations, relationships and characters present a plethora of interconnected themes throughout the novel.
The themes of patriarchy, rebellion, truth, delusion, abandonment, love, trust, resentment, supplication, perseverance and many, many others all can be found weaving inextricably throughout Mr. Findley’s novel. However, for the purposes of this paper only a handful can be examined. The situation of Mrs. Noyes living in the ancient middle east coupled with the domineering nature of Yahweh and Noah show us the patriarchic nature of life at that time, and of the all-too-often overlooked bias of the bible itself. The situation of Noah isolating himself from family, friend and Father leave him abandoned, mad and resentful; we are reminded of early existential writings; of Stalin and Caligula; and of the terrors of isolation. The relationship between Mrs. Noyes and her husband, and her husband to Hannah, stir all who read on to the solemn revulsion of inauthenticity, lies and self-righteousness. The characters of Yahweh and Lucifer force the reader to rethink their ultimate values, and to see what is truly important.
Not Wanted on the Voyage is a religious experience. Its contributions to fiction as a medium are altogether innumerable. It is impossible to read without one the characters grabbing you; without one of the hundred themes shaking you to your core. It is a study of life and being as it is now, as it has been, and as it will always be. Setting down this tome the reader trembles... and prays for rain.

1 comment:

Nancy Stotts Jones said...

I consider this novel to be one of the most profoundly existential experiences I have had. It assaults and adjusts us at our very core. Your passion for it justifies mine [not that I needed justification].
Your final sentence made me laugh...and weep.
For the record, the story of Noah is referred to as "The Flood".