It's 1994 and Pete Curtis is pretty much done with Thunder Bay, Ontario. He's graduating high school and playing drums in a band that's ready to hit the road. Even though his parents, teachers, and new girlfriend seem a little underwhelmed, Pete knows he's on the verge of indie rock greatness.
Fast-forward ten years, Pete finds himself stuck teaching high school in the hometown he longed to escape, while his best friend and former bandmate is a bona fide rock star.
Greg Rhyno's debut novel is full of catchy hooks, compelling voices, and duelling time signatures. Told in two alternating decades, To Me You Seem Giant is a raucous and evocative story about trying to live in the present when you can't escape your past.
About the author
Greg Rhyno was born in Toronto, Ontario, but grew up in Thunder Bay. His fiction has appeared in PRISM International and he is a recipient of the J. Alex Munro Prize for Poetry. In addition, Rhyno has toured and recorded with such rock n' roll outfits as The Parkas, Phasers On Stun, and Wild Hearses. A few years back, Umbrella Music called his songwriting "some of the smartest 20-something observations since Ron Hawkins fronted Lowest of the Low." His music has been licensed to television and film, including shows like Scrubs, Greek, and Dawson's Creek. Currently, he works as a high school teacher and lives with his family in Guelph, Ontario.
- Nominated, Best Trade Fiction at the Alberta Book Publishing Awards
Excerpt: To Me You Seem Giant (by (author) Greg Rhyno)
Excerpt from "Looking for a Place to Happen"
By the time I get up on the roof, Soda's already polished off two bottles of Crystal and he's working on his third. I don't actually need to see him to know this. While I worked my way from the dumpster lid to the first-floor addition to the terrifying second-floor lintel, I could hear the empties completing their journey to the teachers' parking lot. Mortality Reminders, Soda calls them.
He doesn't turn around when I find him. Instead, he slides another bottle out of the case, twists off the cap, and sets it beside him. It stands at attention while Soda dangles his feet over the edge and tries to light a smoke behind the shield of his jeans jacket. I get a wave of vertigo just watching. I keep a safe distance and reach down for the beer.
"Sodapop," I say.
"Ponyboy," he mumbles, cigarette bouncing up and down.
Up this high, there's a sting in the air and it doesn't feel like summer anymore. I guess in about a week it won't be. I tuck my hair behind my ears but a few mutinous strands escape and flap in my face. For a minute or so, we drink in silence and survey the view. Down and to the east I can make out the aging chain-link fence that circles the student parking lot across the street. It's empty except for Trevor Shewchuck's Fiesta, which rotted there all summer because he's too cheap to have it towed, and because there's no one left at school to care. Beyond that, the city becomes a dotting of streetlights, the red-brown roofs of bungalows and wartime houses, and the unfathomable blackness of the lake.
You know that song Neil Young sings about a town in North Ontario and how all his changes happened there? I always wanted that song to be about Thunder Bay, but it's not. Thunder Bay isn't the kind of place you write a song about.
"I can't wait to get out of here," I say.
I know it sounds a little rehearsed, like the kind of thing people say standing on rooftops in movies, but it's the truth. Soda nods. He doesn't say anything.
Praise for To Me You Seem Giant:
"Rhyno mixes in enough wit and self-deprecation with the troubles of youth and ennui of adulthood to make the story freshly entertaining, and the encyclopedic list of 1990s-era cultural artefacts provides a warm nostalgia for anyone who grew up in that unique historical moment."
~ William Best, Canadian Literature
"A brooding tenor--combined with a lifelong love for music that manifests itself in new ways as he ages--lends Pete's character a believable continuity."
~ Becky Robertson, Quill & Quire
"To Me You Seem Giant is ultimately a touching and hopeful reminder of the need to confront the demons of your past in order to move on."
~ Alexander Kosoris, The Walleye
"Underneath the layers of rock and roll is a compelling tale of lost loves, backstabbing bandmates and wondering where it all went wrong."
~ Steven Sandor, Avenue Edmonton
"An engrossing and masterful debut, To Me You Seem Giant reads like a love letter: to the Canadian music scene, to the 1990s, and to the city of Thunder Bay."
~ Amy Jones, author of We're All in This Together
"Rhyno knows of what he writes: the fervor of indie rock adolescence, the convolutions of adulthood, and the heartache in plumbing the past. A poignant and truthful novel, delivered with grace and panache."
~ Rob Benvie, musician and author of Maintenance