O, Struthers, where are thou?
February 18th, 2015
Iconoclast Andrew Struthers of Tofino has written an undeniably brilliant and original memoir that surprises on every page.
Around the World on Minimum Wage (New Star Books $21) has been described as a comedic memoir/ philosophical investigation of the tensions between eastern and western philosophies. But that’s very misleading and it doesn’t do justice to the brilliance of his writing style, the clever candour of his observations and the genius of his magpie mind.
Hyped as a raconteur non-pareil, Struthers will be launching on the weekend, near where he lives:
Feb. 20: Tofino, Clayoquot Community Theatre, 7:30pm.
Feb. 22: Ucluelet, Blackberry Cove Marketplace, 7:30pm.
Feb. 25: Victoria, Victoria Event Centre, 7:30pm.
March 6: Vancouver, Commercial St. Cafe, 7:30pm.
Mimicking the language and structure of a Victorian travelogue, the Scottish-born, Uganda/Prince George-raised Struthers can certainly be hilarious on paper. His description of taking some hasty sky-diving instructions from a quintessentially course-mouthed Aussie, then absurdly risking his life in order to avoid embarrassment, should be enough to gain him an invitation to every writers festival in the land. Struthers is one of those rare people who obviously reads and retains ten times more than normal folks–one of those oddniks who might do well on Jeopardy–but he has a healthy, anti-elitist mindset that makes him a chronic outsider.
It is increasingly rare in this era of spellcheck and Google to find someone whose writing style is uniquely their own. Anyone who values such originality would be well-advised to be curious about Around the World on Minimum Wage. It is the sort of book that is far too audaciously unlike any other book that nobody outside of British Columbia is likely to notice. For anyone on non-fiction prize juries in Ontario, it might as well be sanskrit. It is maverick, West Coastal to the bone. You will laugh. You will learn. And you will hesitate to recommend it to everyone because not everyone is going to be prepared to digest the denseness of its intelligence.
As a longtime resident of Tofino, Andrew Struthers has also produced a comic graphic novel about the strife between hippie environmentalists and local rednecks, The Green Shadow (Transmontanus 3, New Star, 1995), based on the confrontations about logging in Clayoquot Sound. The original serialised version of this story received a National Magazine Award for humour.
His follow-up was a memoir of living aboard a ‘Mifflin fleet’ fishboat, the Loch Ryan, with his young daughter Pasheabell. Called The Last Voyage of the Loch Ryan: A Story from the West Coast (New Star, 2004, $18), it contains shipbuilding lore, local history and observations of his neighbours on the docks of Tofino after he was forced to give up his pyramid-treehouse on the outskirts of town. The ‘mechanically declined’ author prefers local ship lore to making repairs on his bargain-priced wooden boat courtesy of the federal government’s fishing license buyback program.
Struthers’ cartoon panel called The Cheese Club has been syndicated throughout North America. He grew up in Scotland, has also lived in Uganda and Japan, and once tried making “an ill-advised solo-attempt on Everest,” as referenced in Around the World on Minimum Wage.
The Green Shadow (Transmontanus series) (Transmontanus,3) (New Star Books 1995) $16 978-0921586449
The Last Voyage of the Loch Ryan: A Story from the West Coast (New Star, 2004) $18
Around the World on Minimum Wage (New Star Books 2014) $21 978-1-55420-086-3