from regular guest blogger Colm Redmond
[The narrator’s son, Jesse, and his new girlfriend are of high school age.]
One day he brought a girl home. Her name was Rebecca Ng, a Vietnamese knockout. “Nice to meet
you, David,” she said, holding my eye.
“How’s your day going?”
“How’s my day going?” I repeated idiotically. “So far, so good.”
Did I enjoy living in the neighbourhood? Why, yes, thank you.
“I have an aunt who lives a few streets over,” she said. “She’s very nice. Old country but very nice.”
Rebecca Ng (pronounced Ning) was dressed to the nines, spotless white jeans, maroon long-collared blouse, leather jacket, Beatle boots. You had the feeling she’d paid for these clothes herself, an after-school job in a Yorkville boutique, Saturdays serving drinks to ring-removing executives in the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel (when she wasn’t polishing off an early credit in calculus). As she turned her head to speak to Jesse, I caught a whiff of perfume. Delicate, expensive.
“So here we are,” she said.
observations: This true story ought to have been a novel. A dad lets his 15-year-old son drop out of high school in return for a simple promise: to keep away from drugs, and watch films with his dad. Three, of his dad’s choice, per week.
The first third of the book is brilliant: funny and charming, and packed with entertainment and sometimes insight. Not insight into what teenage boys are like, because there’s nothing special about this guy, no matter what his dad thinks. Nor into affairs of the heart, because the son and the dad seem equally clueless on that. (Early on he describes his ex-wife as “the kindest woman I’ve ever known” – nothing wrong with that, till you realise a few pages later that he is now re-married, and picture his current wife’s face as she reads the book.) But on fatally-attractive females, and film, it’s pretty good.
Author David Gilmour – no connection with Pink Floyd – is among other things a film critic, and judging by what he says about some films I like, he knows his stuff. (In other words he shares some of my tastes.) He also has a good turn of phrase. Jesse is “a boy with a white, untannable face in which you could see the arrival of even the smallest upset with the clarity of a slammed door.” And it’s really interesting to read about a film, pick up some insights and neat trivia, and find out how the teenager reacts to seeing it for the first time.
But that part gets drowned out by the rest, standard stuff that is not inherently interesting to us: his own career, and Jesse’s jobs, love life and attempts to be a musician. The boy’s main foil is the gorgeous but unlikable Rebecca, on whom Gilmour seems nearly as fixated as his son. He describes no one else’s clothes gratuitously, but always details her outfits, and sometimes the effect she has on adult males who see her. And although the extract above pins her down, quickly and vividly, you have to take it on trust that he’s describing her in terms of accurate clichés, not merely projecting stereotypes onto her, some racist and some sexist. The rest of the story supports his first impressions, it’s true; if this were a novel you’d say he’d justified it all. But it’s not. And that’s undeniably a problem: because the story is true it kind of bumps along, and isn’t very coherent or neat or paced. But still, you like Jesse and care about him and it pulls you with it.
Yorkville is a very, very high-end shopping district in Toronto.
The pics are of another North American-born oriental knockout, Lucy Liu: Rebecca reminded me of her, in all her various charming outfits. You get the impression she would leap at the chance to do a tastefully saucy photoshoot like the main pic. She would definitely love that coat, worn by Liu as Joan Watson in Elementary (as was the third outfit). Of course, if anyone mentioned that it looks like she’s naked underneath, Rebecca would claim to be perfectly astounded…
Thanks to Amy Newton for the book.
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