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Fiction Family Life

Gentleman Death / Perpetual Motion

Penguin Modern Classics Edition

by (author) Graeme Gibson

introduction by Margaret Atwood

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Aug 2020
Family Life, Coming of Age, Classics
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2020
    List Price

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Together in a single volume, two beloved works by the inimitable Graeme Gibson.

Gentleman Death
Novelist Robert Fraser comes face-to-face with creativity, his mortality, and the deaths of his father and brother. Set mainly in Toronto, the novel also takes us to London, Scotland, Germany, and New York as we follow the escapades of two of Fraser's fictional characters. There is Simpson, called into service as an anonymous sperm donor, and Dunbar, an enigmatic tourist in Berlin just before the Chernobyl disaster, where he meets the captivating Lena, with whom he begins to sense an almost forgotten freedom and elation.
But at the centre of Gentleman Death is Robert Fraser's own compelling story. Gibson juxtaposes reality and fiction in this compassionate, sometimes outrageous, often very funny exploration of the absurdities and alarms of aging, the nature of fiction itself, and the maturity that grows from reconciliation.

Perpetual Motion
First published in 1982, Perpetual Motion is Graeme Gibson's superb evocation of a time when faith in material progress is still challenged by superstition and a lingering belief in magic. It is an ironic yet compassionate examination of the painful consequences of human folly.
Set in southern Ontario in the late nineteenth century when the machine age was coming into its own, Perpetual Motion chronicles the fortunes of settler Robert Fraser, a man obsessed with power and control. Driven by the idea of inventing a perpetual motion machine which will utilize natural energy, he neglects and destroys not only the nature around him but his own family too, as his overbearing rationality becomes a kind of tragic lunacy.

About the authors

Graeme Gibson is the acclaimed author of Five Legs, Communion, Perpetual Motion, and Gentleman Death. He is a long-time cultural activist, and co-founder of the Writer's Union of Canada and the Writers' Trust. He is a past president of PEN Canada and the recipient of both the Harbourfront Festival Prize and the Toronto Arts Award, and is a Member of the Order of Canada. He lives in Toronto.

Graeme Gibson's profile page

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.
Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than fifty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid's Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood's dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, part of the Massey Lecture series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009. Ms. Atwood's work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen TM.
Margaret Atwood currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson. 

Margaret Atwood's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Perpetual Motion
Perpetual Motion is an authentic slice of the Canadian past, and it recalls the historian’s grim saw that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” —Vancouver Sun

“Like Joyce’s Dublin and Hardy’s Wessex, Mad River can now be found on the map of the human imagination.” —Maclean’s

“The book is at once a comedy—a tragedy: in short, a parable evoking both truths and fallacies about human curiosity and its consequences. It contains, between its covers, a whole and unique world . . . the one from which we have sprung, to our surprise, chagrin, delight—and horror.” —Timothy Findley

“A splendid slice of Canadian history turned into powerful fiction.” —Quill & Quire

“Beautiful. . . . Long after you’ve finished you’ll continue to wonder about its characters and stories. And that’s the mark of success.” —Windsor Star

“Gibson has undeniable poetic gifts, and remarkable feel for the place and period. The inhospitable, claustrophobic bush, and the rough, rollicking crowd scenes are well-described.” —Montreal Gazette

“An authentic novel of nature and man, of the manifold tragi-heroics, ephemeral triumphs, crazy absurdities and ubiquitous ironies of the human quest. Gibson’s acuity and gusto provide a marvellous experience of the wacky and terrible—and you’re not always quite certain which is which.” —John A. Livingston

Praise for Gentleman Death

Gentleman Death is a modern danse macabre. A wise and powerful chronicle of fathers and sons and brothers on a new voyage of discovery to the end of the night.” —Alberto Manguel

“Graeme Gibson uses the foibles of an aging novelist to address the unaccountable fears that obsess us all sometimes in the small hours of the morning. . . . His story steams along, effortlessly propelled by fine prose, wit, and insight. . . . Delightful.” —Quill & Quire, starred review

“Utterly involving. . . . An elegant, poignant novel and a repeatedly funny one.” —Financial Post

“An engaging exploration of memory and death. Complex yet accessible, it is an illuminating guide through the rich territory that W.B. Yeats called ‘the rag-and-bone shop of the heart.’” —Maclean’s

“A richly mature book, which made me cackle with laughter and stare into the distance with recognition.” —Dennis Lee

“Gibson writes clean, hard prose and his literary sensibility seems tough and unflinching. His insights into the mellowing capacity of middle age are particularly fine.” —Winnipeg Free Press

“A courageously eccentric book. . . . Delicate and admirable.” —Kingston Whig-Standard

“Right from the first page you know you’re in good hands. . . . The language and sensibility of this novel are both gritty and beautiful.” —Calgary Herald

“With his hardy, no-frills style, Gibson adroitly shows how real life and fiction blend, how dreams and memories merge and how each of us makes what we can out of life—and death.” —Vancouver Sun

“Not every novelist dares as much and delivers as much as Graeme Gibson does in Gentleman Death. . . . Reading the novel is like taking a ride on a roller coaster through comic and tragic neighbourhoods of life.” —Canadian Forum

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