A young chef who revels in local bounty, a long-ago murder that remains unsolved, the homeless of Stanley Park, a smooth-talking businessman named Dante - these are the ingredients of Timothy Taylor's stunning debut novel - Kitchen Confidential meets The Edible Woman.
Trained in France, Jeremy Papier, the young Vancouver chef, is becoming known for his unpretentious dishes that highlight fresh, local ingredients. His restaurant, The Monkey's Paw Bistro, while struggling financially, is attracting the attention of local foodies, and is not going unnoticed by Dante Beale, owner of a successful coffeehouse chain, Dante's Inferno. Meanwhile, Jeremy's father, an eccentric anthropologist, has moved into Stanley Park to better acquaint himself with the homeless and their daily struggles for food, shelter and company. Jeremy's father also has a strange fascination for a years-old unsolved murder case, known as "The Babes in the Wood" and asks Jeremy to help him research it.Dante is dying to get his hands on The Monkey's Paw. When Jeremy's elaborate financial kite begins to fall, he is forced to sell to Dante and become his employee. The restaurant is closed for renovations, Inferno style. Jeremy plans a menu for opening night that he intends to be the greatest culinary statement he's ever made, one that unites the homeless with high foody society in a paparazzi-covered celebration of "local splendour."
From the Hardcover edition.
About the author
Timothy Taylor is the Journey-Prize winning author of the short-story collection Silent Cruise. His second novel, Story House, will be published by Knopf Canada in April 2006. He was born in Venezuela and now lives in Vancouver.
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpt: Stanley Park (by (author) Timothy Taylor)
They arranged to meet at Lost Lagoon. It was an in-between place, the city on one side, Stanley Park on the other. Ten years of rare contact, and they had sought each other out. Surprised each other, created expectations.
Now the Professor was late.
Jeremy Papier found a bench up the hill from the lagoon and opened a section of newspaper across the wet boards. The bench was between two cherry trees, the pink blossoms of which met high over his head forming an arch, a doorway. It wasn’t precisely the spot they’d discussed–the Professor had suggested the boathouse–but it was within eyesight, within shouting distance. It was close enough. If he had to wait, Jeremy thought, settling onto the paper and blowing out a long breath, he was going to sit. He crossed one long, aching leg over the other. He fingered the tooling on a favourite pair of cowboy boots, ran long fingers through tangled black hair.
He sat because he was tired, certainly. Jeremy accepted that being a chef, even a young chef, meant being exhausted most of the time. But there had also been a family portrait taken here, on this bench, years before. Also early spring, he remembered; the three of them had sat here under the cherry blossoms.
Jeremy on the one side, seven years old. His mother, Hélène, on the other. The Professor had his arms around them both, feet flat on the grass. He looked extremely pleased. Jeremy’s mother was less obviously so, her expression typically guarded, although she made dozens of copies of the photo and sent these off to relatives spread across Europe from Ireland to Spain, from the Czech Republic to as far east as Bulgaria. Documenting settlement. He wondered if his father, who had no relations other than those in the photo, would remember this detail.
Now Jeremy lit a cigarette and watched an erratic stream of homeless people making their way into the forest for the night. When he arrived there had been seawall walkers and hotdog eaters, birdwatchers, rollerbladers, chess players returning from the picnic tables over by bowling greens. Then lagoon traffic changed direction like a freak tide. The flow of those heading back to their warm apartments in the West End tapered to nothing, and the paths were filled with the delusional, the alcoholic, the paranoid, the bipolar. The Professor’s subjects, his obsession. The inbound. Four hundred hectares of Stanley Park offering its bleak, anonymous shelter to those without other options.
Of course, Jeremy didn’t have to remind himself, the Professor had other options.
They had discussed meeting on the phone earlier in the week. When Jeremy picked up–expecting a late reservation, maybe his black-cod supplier, who was due into Vancouver the next morning–he heard wind and trees rustling at the other end of the line. Normally reticent, the Professor was animated about his most recent research.
“… following on from everything that I have done,” he said, “culminating with this work.” From his end, standing at a pay phone on the far side of the lagoon, the Professor could hear the dishwasher hammering away in the background
behind his son’s tired response.
“Participatory anthropology. Is that what you call it now?” Jeremy was saying. “I thought it was immersive.”
“Like everything,” the Professor answered, “my work has evolved.”
He needed help with something, the Professor said. He wanted to meet.
“How unusual,” Jeremy said.
“And what advice can I give on running a restaurant?” the Professor shot back.
“None,” Jeremy answered. “I just said there was something I wanted to talk to you about. Something that had to do with the restaurant.”
“Strange times,” the Professor said, looking into the darkness around the pay phone. Checking instinctively.
Very strange. The stream of those inbound had slowed to a trickle. A trio of men passed, bent behind shopping carts that were draped and hung with plastic, heaped to the height of pack horses, bags full of other bags. Jeremy could only wonder at the purpose of them all, although the Professor could have told him that the bag itself captured the imagination. It held emblematic power. For its ability to hold, certainly. To secure contents, to carry belongings from place to place. But even the smell of the plastic, its oily permanence, suggested the resilience of things discarded.
Jeremy watched the three men make their way around the lagoon and disappear into the trails. He glanced at his watch, sighed. Lifted his chin and breathed in the saline breeze. It brought to mind the ocean beyond the park, sockeye salmon schooling in the deep, waiting for the DNA-encoded signal to turn in their millions and rush the mouth of the Fraser, the tributary offshoot, the rivulet of water and the gravel-bed spawning grounds beyond. Mate, complete the cycle, die. And then, punctuating this thought, the rhododendron bushes across the lawn boiled briefly and disgorged Caruzo, the Professor’s manic vanguard.
“Hey, hey,” Caruzo said, approaching the bench. “Chef Papier.” He exhaled the words in a blast.
He dressed for the mobile outdoor life, Caruzo. Three or four sweaters, a torn corduroy jacket, a heavy coat, then a raincoat over all of that. It made the big man even bigger, the size of a lineman, six foot five, although stooped a little with the years. Those being of an indeterminate number; Jeremy imagined only that it must be between fifty and ninety. Caruzo had a white garbage bag tied on over one shoe, although it was only threatening to rain, and pants wrapped at the knees in electrical tape. His ageless, wind-beaten face was protected by a blunt beard that fell to his chest. Exposed skin had darkened, blackened as a chameleon might against the same forest backdrop.
“The Professor,” Caruzo announced, “is waiting.”
“Timothy Taylor writes straight, strong, unadorned prose…. He’s well in command of his material. Writes great dialogue. Early on, he sets his scene, gives us Jeremy’s background, and keeps his story, yes, cooking. Stanley Park is alive with the places and sights, sounds and smells, the psychic character of Vancouver. It thrums with a powerful sense of the city, urban surfaces as well as primal currents. Also food … Taylor is as good as the American novelist Jim Harrison when it comes to writing about textures and tangs, colours and sensations.”
—Quill & Quire
“Stanley Park is both feat and feast: a smart and enthralling narrative that urgently binds together its twin obsessions with place and food and culminates in a pièce de resistance that proves a triumph both for Chef Jeremy Papier and his creator, Timothy Taylor.”
“Stanley Park grabs an audience in a way that augurs a wide readership. [It’s] like Babette’s Feast or Chocolat. They all celebrate a meal that never was, a hope that the right meal can be turned into a Eucharist. Enjoy!”
“[A] vibrant debut novel…Taylor is a fine prose craftsman.”
—Andre Mayer, eye, 29 Mar 2001
“Taylor’s debut offers an inside look at the workings of a high-end restaurant, a cut-throat character in the person of a coffeehouse owner who wants to take it over and an intense sense of location, as the title suggests.”
—NOW Magazine, 5 Apr 2001
“[Stanley Park] is a modern morality play with Jeremy Papier’s very soul at stake…Stanley Park is an assured debut that stands well above many first novels. Taylor is a writer of undeniable talent who has proven himself adept at both the long and short form, and whose wave will no doubt reach the shores.”
— Stephen Finucan, Toronto Star, 1 Apr 2001
“Delicious first novel must be savoured. [This] intelligent and leisurely…novel serves up chi-chi restaurants, Blood and Crip sous chefs and exotic culinary dishes, but it is also a pointed comment on the act of creation — whether someone is working toward a soufflé, a movie, a work of art or a romp in the sack…[O]ne thing is clear: the talented Timothy Taylor…is very good at writing about food, on a par with Jim Harrison or Sara Suleri…You’ll never look the same way at a weary chef or the loaded, coded words of a menu in your hands.”
—Mark Anthony Jarman, Globe and Mail, 31 Mar 2001
“Vancouver breathes in Stanley Park, from its architecture and granola culture to its status as an American TV-show haven. It is a cosmopolitan, big city pushing to become an international, economic hub. It is also a natural wonder, with an ocean and a mountain range within spitting distance, a rainforest, and enough red tendencies to elect quite a few NDP governments. Jeremy is at once an élitist and a man of the people. Bravo to Timothy Taylor for capturing this tension so well…This is a poweful début; expect to hear a lot from him.”
—Todd Babiak, Edmonton Journal
“Vancouver writer Timothy Taylor takes a meat cleaver to mystery fiction by packing the novel with backroom culinary politics, a heartwarming tale about a father-son reconciliation and some moralizing on the outrage we should feel about the wastefulness of bourgeois society. What it all simmers down to is a frothy entertainment with a dash of piquancy…it is a well-calculated piece of fiction…with just the right amount of angst and social conscience.”
“A charming first novel…unflaggingly intelligent.”
“Your mouth waters as you read Timothy Taylor's first novel. Not since Isak Dinesen's Babette's Feast has so lavish a table been set for a reader. If Margaret Atwood's first novel The Edible Woman put you off food, this one will put you back on it…In Stanley Park he does for the restaurant business what John le Carré does for spying; he makes it alluring. And he does for food what Patrick Suskind does for perfume; he makes it exciting…Timothy Taylor has written a novel with a plot to return to, characters to remain with, and themes to think about. The quest for authenticity, for instance, isn't an easy one, either for fictional characters or real people. His style skips along merrily...He also casually slips in some of the most mouth-watering recipes ever sprinkled on the pages of Canadian fiction.”
—J.S. Porter, National Post
From the Hardcover edition.
Devouring Stanley ParkTaylor’s work is easy to access, rich and free flowing the reader slips and slides through his loving descriptions of haute cuisine, wrapped as lovingly as phyllo pastry in the sights and sounds of downtown Vancouver. The restaurant is set in cross-town, which I can only assume is the nether regions of downtown, the clash between the DTES, touristy Gas town and hip and expensive Rail town. The beat is familiar, Taylor navigates it well.
When I first read this book (as with a nice glass of wine), I wasn’t really anticipating much more than that. Hunger, maybe some musings over the importance to eat local and a few tips about underground cuisine for my next trip across the Strait. I devoured this book in less than 48 hours. Surprisingly, rather than walking away refreshed, hungover and empty, I ended up coming away with two little sweet musings of social commentary.
The first is straightforward, it spoke to me on the level of identity. In Canada, especially in recently colonized Vancouver, the city is new; “contemporary traditions” are still eking out their own place. In a city so new, so speculative with a bloody history so recently etched on an enigmatic past. There are people pushing their way into the city from every corner of the world, pushing out what was there for so long.
This is exactly how I feel about Vancouver. It’s the place of no place and every place. It’s the place of rehashing the past, of wondering what every other city holds. It’s expensive. It’s beautiful. In turn, it demands money and beauty. The city’s lack of identity, rather than it’s identity itself, is a topic of constant conversation. In this long narrative about the food of X-town and his father, Taylor (perhaps unwittingly) effectively navigates the meaning of Vancouver’s identity beyond any other manifesto I’ve read to date. That the city is, what we stole from history, and how we chose to live with it (quote adopted from Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible).
Taylor successfully manages to integrate these places of immemorial significance into a contemporary hip setting. This is something that few manifestos about Vancouver accomplish. This international-nowhere land party of people rapidly gobbling up the city area has been there for barely two-hundred years, the forest and geography of the city are ancient, and their voices and stories, inescapable are louder and will continue to colour our existence as long as we continue to try to share their space.
What I initially interpreted as a light tasty read, became a vindicating manifesto of what Vancouver is growing into. Taylor’s Stanley Park is a gentle introduction to anyone seeking to integrate themselves into the city from the outside. At times clumsy, the gentle writing tells a balanced tale that goes down as a rich, indulgent meal. Overzealous and at times unmeasured, it cannot be faulted for lack of love or poetry. I look forward to Taylor’s next book.
Read the full review (and others!) here: