Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vacation Reading

I was not-so-recently (sorry about that) given a review copy of Cold-Cocked: On Hockey, a recent book written by Lorna Jackson, a writer living on Vancouver Island, and yes, a Canucks fan.

I'm not interested in writing as an alien, a stunned onlooker, a girlie fan in a baggy jersey, or a robot guided by the television camera's morbid fixation on the puck.

The 2003-04 season was a watershed year for the Calgary Flames and their fans. In Vancouver, it was a watershed year for the Canucks, with names like Bertuzzi and Moore forever entangled in that season. And it was a watershed year for the author of this book as well. It would be a difficult year, with stresses in both her personal and professional lives that change her indelibly. She would commute from Vancouver Island to Vancouver regularly, to catch games and try to interview as many players and members of the Canucks organization as she could. Despite the many frustrations she would encounter, she would tough it out somehow, using what she observed on the ice and in the dressing room as inspiration.

Most hockey books I've encountered in the past have been bathed in fond nostalgia, or drowned in journalistic impersonality. Not so, this book. Ms. Jackson writes passionately, about her life, her past, her surroundings, as they all intersect with hockey. She's fearless and relentless in exposing every facet of her life as she spends the year asking questions about the game, and subjecting her answers to deep feminist analysis.

However, the same energy which so distinguishes this book from others also points out its greatest flaws. While there's no doubt that Ms. Jackson can write vividly, and likewise, there's no questioning the amount of sweat and tears that went into the writing, it's not at all clear to me why she wrote it.

It's obvious that this was a big year for her, full of changes and pain and joy, but it's unclear what drove her to begin chronicling it, what drove her to attend as many Canucks games as she did, what drove her to acquire dressing room credentials for the year. It's fortuitious that she got as much exposure to the Vancouver Canucks during this year that she could use as material to base her musings about her life.

Whatever Ms. Jackson's original intentions were, the book changes tone early on, to become a book about writing the book. However, the lack of explanation of what inspired this project in the first place makes the result come off as a vanity piece. It becomes more narcissistic than reflective. Which is unfortunate, for a writer who is so skilled and passionate about what she loves.

Maybe I'm being harsh. My impressions certainly weren't helped by encountering frequent and reoccuring typos of names I dearly love, names of players from my own team, like Nieuwendyk (OK, maybe we can let that one go), and McLennan. These only helped to reinforce my vague sense that Ms. Jackson's world was constrained that season, by the Canucks and nothing but, not even other teams nearby.

So my final verdict? Read this book if you want to dissect the life of a Canucks fan, if you want to see what makes this specific woman tick. Don't read it expecting to derive any new revelations of the game, to generalize her experience to what we all feel when the puck hits the ice.

Other HLOGgers chime in:
Sherry at Scarlett Ice
Cat at Untypical Girls


  1. Since when did women like hockey? I've yet to meet a woman who enjoys watching hockey.

    Nonetheless, a good review. Have you considered writing a book about writing this review?

  2. Have you considered writing a book about writing this review?

    I hope not. I was considering writing about about reading this review.

  3. *a book about

    Damn. I need help, clearly.

  4. Meh, we're all on holiday. All good.

    And Dave, I don't know how many readers I could grab with a tale of procrastination, getting distracted by other things, and more procrastination. Though certainly, I'd be writing about something I know very well.

  5. If I read a book about procrastination, it might hit a little too close to home.

    Typos of people's names (or anything, really) in books that are supposedly edited piss me off. I might not read it just for that.