Praise for Sons and Fathers:
Bestselling novelist Terry Fallis, one of the hardest working writers around, has described Sons and Fathers as “a wild, page-turning ride through a harrowing collision of family, friendship, politics, and love.”
“The story is absorbing…Goodwin provides authentic insights to the world of politics and journalism…The cultural and geographic markers in the story are all based on a distinctively Canadian consciousness and sensibility.” – Canadian Jewish News, Mordechai Ben-Dat. Read the full review here.
“Goodwin has pulled off a sharp, clever debut. His prose is strong and his characters memorable. Sons and Fathers is an enjoyable read.” – Quill & Quire, Mark Sampson. Read the full review here.
“finely crafted and entertaining…The narrative is rich in pithy observations…” – The National Post, Barbara Kay. Read the full review here.
“Sons and Fathers is well worth the read. Goodwin offers a rare and candid glimpse into the world of Canadian politics and high-stakes communication – and how the expectations, desires and dreams of ambitious men can be profoundly influenced by the early and enduring relationships between father and son.” – Telegraph-Journal, Michael Lapointe. Read the full review below:
Sons and Fathers a powerful read
By Michael Lapointe
New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
November 14, 2014
Author Daniel Goodwin’s inaugural novel Sons and Fathers tells the tale of three ambitious friends seeking authority and influence, whose abiding passion for the power of language propels each squarely into the glare of the public spotlight.
It’s an account of three gifted individuals making the journey into adulthood and toward the pinnacle of their careers, the shadows of their accomplished fathers – each a literary or political giant – looming over them as they navigate the highest echelons of Canadian politics and media.
Much of the main plot throughout the book unfolds in 2009, following the financial crisis a year earlier, but each of the individual stories begins in Montreal, where the three men come together at McGill University in the early 1980s.
Allan Keyes, the consummate politician and son of a former finance minister, is as smooth with women as he is with words. A natural orator, he also has an uncanny ability to surround himself with the right people at the right time throughout his meteoric rise to power.
Michael Appleby, son of a Canadian literature professor, becomes an award-winning journalist despite his anxieties about his abilities as a writer early in life.
Allan’s main speechwriter, Eli Tredman, the son of a university dropout-turned-Montreal bus driver (and three-time recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry), faithfully serves as Allan’s right-hand man throughout every campaign.
Goodwin initially uses his characters and their interactions with their fathers to explore what it means to be a good son, and later, good fathers and husbands to their wives. But he also uses the characters to develop his own theories about language that draw directly from his experiences growing up in Montreal and in his career as a communications executive.
Like his characters Eli and Michael, the author began to develop his literary instincts from an early age. His great uncle, Canadian poet Irving Layton, had a close relationship with his own father and spent a lot of time at the household when Goodwin was growing up.
“My family was also friends with a lot of writers, poets and novelists, and as a young child I would often eavesdrop at the dinner table and listen to them talk about their books and about the world,” Goodwin said from his home in Calgary where he lives with his family.
His experience as a freelance journalist and columnist for The Daily Gleaner in Fredericton in the ’90s, followed by a career in corporate communications in New Brunswick and Ontario “made me extremely fascinated with how we use words for different purposes and fields of endeavour.”
The author speaks much as he writes – carefully and deliberately – in theorizing about everything from the “hierarchy of writers,” to how the Canadian penchant for over-politeness and “apologizing when we don’t need to” informs our politics.
His knowledge of poetry and literary history is evident throughout the story as well, and each character reflects how Goodwin views the different ways in which politicians, journalists, public relations professionals, and writers use language to achieve their desired ends.
“When politicians use words, they’re convincing, they’re persuading (or) cajoling,” Goodwin said. “It’s some kind of spur to action, and I find that fascinating.”
Journalists, on the other hand, have an “incredible role to play in comforting the afflicted and keeping politicians honest,” whereas communications professionals “are creative and know how to use language, but are writing words for somebody else most of the time.
“Then you have the writers, the novelists and the poets,” Goodwin said. “I think they are somewhere in between politicians who are using words to hopefully create a new and better world, and journalists who are also doing that in (their own way) through writing.”
Goodwin also explores mortality in perhaps the most poignant set of scenes in the final section of the novel. Following a throat cancer diagnosis leaving Eli’s father with only months to live, the great poet is left without the ability to speak, resorting to communication-via-BlackBerry with his speechwriting son.
“That was the toughest chapter to write,” Goodwin said, who describes the section as the “heart of the book” and the essence of what he was trying to convey throughout the novel. “It’s made up, but it’s inspired by the experience of seeing my father die” after becoming ill with prostate cancer in 1999.
“If you have a good relationship with your father, he’s always someone you look up to – you think of him as your champion,” Goodwin said. “When I saw him, he’d lost a lot of weight and would spend most of the time in bed. … It was just disheartening to see (my) father – who’d always been so strong – to be reduced to being so weak.”
Goodwin’s debut is as much about ambition and personal legacies as it is an exploration of language in a world of sound bites and constant communication. But it’s also a commentary on modern Canadian politics, and Goodwin believes there are certain parallels to be found between politics and art.
“There is this fascinating blend or conflict between the public and the personal, which I think in many ways is at the heart of art and literature,” Goodwin said.
“Politics is the ideal drug for me,” muses Eli shortly into Allan’s first term in office as a Quebec MP, “because it is a cocktail of a simple desire for power and complex quest to save the world.
“Every decision, every meeting, every utterance is pregnant with meaning, with confidence while you do the ancient, intricate, delicate dance of leading and being led at the same time.”
Sons and Fathers is well worth the read. Goodwin offers a rare and candid glimpse into the world of Canadian politics and high-stakes communication – and how the expectations, desires and dreams of ambitious men can be profoundly influenced by the early and enduring relationships between father and son.
Michael Lapointe is a copy editor with Brunswick News.
Reprinted with permission of the Telegraph-Journal.
“…a rare bird: a Canadian novel about Canadian politics.” – Calgary Herald, Eric Volmers
All Lit Up: An interview about firsts – becoming a writer, writing my first book, reading my first book – with the Literary Press Group’s new online storefront for independent publishers. Read the full interview here.
CBC Radio: An interview with Saint John Radio Information Morning’s Hance Colburne about writing Sons and Fathers, shifting from poetry to novel-writing, and how men who don’t usually fiction are enjoying the book. When I lived and worked in corporate communications in Saint John, I used to do regular interviews with the CBC. It was very nice this time to talk about my book. Listen to the interview here.
“Goodwin’s ear is as finely honed as his eye. It is not surprising that Catullus’s Soldiers won the 2016 Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature.” – Canadian Literature, Ruth Panofsky. Read the full review here.
“Daniel Goodwin’s Catullus’s Soldiers directs its gaze outward toward social, political, and historical spheres…Allusive yet accessible, Goodwin wears his learning lightly and with considerable wit.” – The Malahat Review, Michael Greenstein. Read the full review here.
“Goodwin makes the mundane beautiful and the beautiful accessible within Catullus’s Soldiers. As a collection meant for both seasoned poetry fans and first-time readers, the writing hits its mark. The work is a commentary on language, is packed with metaphor, and Goodwin’s sense of humour winds effortlessly throughout the writing.” – Telegraph-Journal, Michael Lapointe. Read the full review below:
Catullus’s Soldiers: an attempt to make poetry accessible again
By Michael Lapointe
Daniel Goodwin is on a mission in his inaugural poetry collection, Catullus’s Soldiers. The author is a man of many hats – communications executive, former journalist, father of three – and advocate for bringing the poetic form back to its once prominent place within our culture.Nearly 50 poems explore themes within Greek mythology, Roman poetry, modern philosophy and the Bible. Birth, death, childhood and parenthood all loom large, and Goodwin has a unique capability to bring his own experiences and appreciation for history to life.There’s a wide range of characters that make an appearance: Leonardo da Vinci, King Tut, Isaac and Icarus – as well as Goodwin’s family, including his late father, William Goodwin, to whom probably the most powerful poem titled “One More” is dedicated.
“I’m not writing for the usual literary establishment who read poetry all the time, I’m writing for people who like language, who enjoy finding meaning in life who wouldn’t normally read poetry,” Goodwin said from his home in Calgary, where he lives with his family.
For younger readers, it may be hard to imagine a time when Canadian high school student memorized poetry verses in school – and more difficult to imagine still that poetry was at one time the only form of literary communications available to society (the novel being a relatively recent invention compared to the poetic form).
“For a variety of reasons, people tend to not have the most positive associations with poetry, and poetry hasn’t helped itself by being so difficult by poets writing things that may mean a lot to themselves but not necessarily to others,” Goodwin said.
“So I’m hoping that people who wouldn’t normally pick up a book of poetry pick this one up and find something that means something to them.”
It’s been a season of firsts for Goodwin, who in 2014, released his debut novel, Sons and Fathers.
Goodwin said he actually began writing poetry as a teenager before transitioning into fiction writing later in life, and so returns to more familiar territory in Catullus’s Soldiers.
“With a novel, people ask you if it’s autobiographical, and there’s always an element of that,” Goodwin said. “Whereas with poetry sometimes I use personae; I talk in the voices of imaginary or real people, but there’s a lot more of baring your soul.
“Poetry has become so marginalized, it’s almost like this lost art that very few people do anymore – and that even fewer people read – so when I launched the book (in the same place I launched my novel) in Calgary, getting up to read poetry was more daunting for those reasons than it was getting up to read the novel.”
Inspiration for the work comes from all over, and “although this is going to sound hopelessly old-fashioned,” Goodwin said, “whenever something strikes me or intrigues me enough I want to write it down.”
With the poem “AK-47,” an image of which jumps out at you from the cover of the work, Goodwin had finished reading an obituary of Mikhail Kalashnikov, who died in 2013 at the age of 94.
The best poems work like an AK-47/Streamlined and spare: simplicity is beauty/Useful, they fire anywhere, jungle, desert, in heat or cold/Their staccato rhythm (think anapestic tetrameter, Byron’s ‘Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold’) takes on a life of its own. Shot into the world. Interpret as you see fit.
Kalashnikov is most famous for the automatic weapon named for him, but also happened to write poetry in his youth.
“He was a huge believer in simplicity. He made this gun – it’s a terrible thing – but it functions very easily, lasts a long time, it rarely jams.
“It’s a bit startling, it’s a bit negative, but here’s this incredible metaphor for how poetry should be – it should be simple, it should be accessible, and you shouldn’t need a grad course in theory to understand it.”
The collection has been a long time in the making.
“None (of the poems) are from childhood,” Goodwin said, “but they have been written over the last 15 years. Some of them have been written in the last year, some five or six years ago. The ones about my father were written soon after he died, which was about 15 years ago.”
Goodwin makes the mundane beautiful and the beautiful accessible within Catullus’s Soldiers. As a collection meant for both seasoned poetry fans and first-time readers, the writing hits its mark. The work is a commentary on language, is packed with metaphor, and Goodwin’s sense of humour winds effortlessly throughout the writing.
But the poems can be a bit lachrymose as well, and readers will find themselves reflecting on their own anxieties, fears and sense of nostalgia as they dig deeper into what makes Goodwin’s poetry come alive.
Catullus’s Soldiers captures the spirit of language as art – and how both major and minor events in one’s life inevitably leave an indelible mark, not only on one’s memories, but on how we come to understand the people closest to us.
Michael Lapointe is a copy editor with Brunswick News.
Reprinted with permission of the Telegraph-Journal.