Review

Stanley Park

by Timothy Taylor



STANLEY PARK, Timothy Taylor's debut novel, revolves around the
stress-packed life of Chef Jeremy Papier who divides his culinary
colleagues into either "Bloods" or "Crips." A "Blood" himself,
Jeremy reveres the preparation of classic French bistro cooking.
"Blood cooks were respectful of tradition, nostalgic even...linked
to 'local' by the inheritance of adoption of a culture, linked to a
particular manner and place of being." On the other hand, Crip
cooks, "were post-national. They called themselves artists. They
tended to stack things like mahi mahi and grilled eggplant in
wobbly towers glued together with wasabi mayonnaise, and were
frequently suspicious of butter." While Chef Jeremy is definitely
Blood, running his cherished bistro into the ground in pursuit of
his goal, the novel itself is Crip, most definitely Crip.

Anyone who frequents restaurants these days will note that fusion
is a popular concept. Maybe you've seen it for yourself; dishes
like coq au vin on a bed of kimchi surrounded by cilantro infused
olive oil splotches. In STANLEY PARK Taylor has managed to fuse a
crime novel with a workplace comedy and nap it all with a sauce of
sociological theories of homelessness. If that's not fusion, I
don't know what is. It's funny, poignant, suspenseful, tiring and,
above all, very, very good.

Chef Jeremy owns and operates The Monkey's Paw Bistro in hip,
youthful, wired Vancouver. Their menu changes daily and emphasizes
local ingredients. "It wasn't a question of being opposed to
imported ingredients, but of preference, allegiance, of knowing
what goodness came from the earth around you..." All of this local
goodness comes at a price, one Jeremy can only afford through
kiting several credit cards. The reader gets a clear picture of
Jeremy, whose dedication to his food and his employees nearly
forces him into bankruptcy. His initial investor is one Dante
Beale, a family friend who runs a Starbucks-esque empire
appropriately called Inferno Coffee. Dante speaks in stories,
doesn't use contractions and is always accompanied by his minion,
Phillip. One can almost see him drumming his figures together a la
the Grinch.

Taylor's ability to produce such compelling characters is one of
the novel's chief strengths. Dante, flinty sous-chef Jules Capelli,
Jeremy's arty girlfriend Benny, even his oddball academician father
--- all are complex, layered characters that might deflate into
caricatures in less capable hands. The characters and their
intertwined relationships carry the frequently surreal story
forward.

More than just a workplace expose, STANLEY PARK also explores the
relationship between Jeremy and his semi-estranged father, known
only as The Professor. The Professor is a "participatory
anthropologist," who is currently studying the culture of the
homeless who live in Stanley Park. The Professor lives in the park,
eating out of dumpsters and occasionally nabbing a slow-witted
duck. Taylor portrays the homeless as real people, troubled, but
real --- especially Caruzo, the Professor's erstwhile research
assistant. "There were many horsepower to Caruzo. He panted out his
words in anxious, breathy gasps, and was frequently helpless to
movements that flashed through his limbs."

Stanley Park is as much a character here as it is a setting,
infused with a real sense of malevolence. "Sounds became apparent
among the trees, sounds beyond the steady hiss of leaves and
needles, some coming through the million frictions in the canopy
above. Voices. The sound of movement, of life and activity." These
homeless are definitely not the "smart and funny but mentally ill"
people we see so often in the movies. At his father's insistence,
Chef Jeremy researches the murders of two young children whose
bodies were found in the park, forming one of several subplots that
contribute to the novel's overall beauty and complexity.

A financially strung out Jeremy is eventually forced to make a
Faustian bargain with Dante who guts the bistro and establishes in
its place Gerriamo's, a thoroughly focus-grouped restaurant, a Crip
palace if you will. Stanley Park figures prominently in its opening
as Jeremy pulls the ultimate Chef prank, giving the fawning
"fooderati" exactly what they deserve. In STANLEY PARK, Taylor has
given us much more than we deserve --- a rich, complex, thoroughly
engrossing and deliciously humorous novel. Even if it is
Crip.

Reviewed by Shannon Bloomstran (shanpb@swbell.net) on January 23, 2011

Stanley Park
by Timothy Taylor

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • ISBN-10: 1582432074
  • ISBN-13: 9781582432076