Brian Doyle knows where to find many of the members of his demographic cohort that 1929-to-1939-born generation of which Doyle, who drew his first breath in Ottawa in the summer of 1935, finds himself smack dab in the middle.
“Try one of the food courts sometime between breakfast and noon,” he writes in the first of two dozen essays about growing up as a Depression baby. “We’ll be sitting around talking sports or pensions or grandchildren ... stuff like that ... capital gains, taxes, past adventures, travel ... where certain businesses and establishments were but aren’t anymore ... sex ... what used to be ... what’s now ... what’s coming ... the obscene costs of funerals ...”
But Doyle, a former Glebe Collegiate teacher (and even more formerly a student there) best known for his grainy young-adult novels about growing up in Ottawa and along the Gatineau River, is a consummate storyteller and his 24 essays are no less engaging than the vivid scenes he painted for readers in such books as Angel Square, Up to Low and Easy Avenue.
The subjects that Doyle, now nearly 77, tackles are as routine as any. And they’ve probably all been dissected to bits time and again at every food court in every shopping mall in the world: cars, money, school, jobs, sex, travel, reading, race, religion, food, movies, cars (again), dementia, death.
The idea for the series came in 2011, after Doyle’s grandson Matt, then 19, tossed out a casual “kids these days” remark in conversation. It occurred to Doyle then that as the rate of change in society quickens, the gaps between generations and even within them get wider and wider.
“I think I was in my mid-40s before I ever said, ‘Kids today,’ with that tone,” he says.
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