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Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay
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Late Nights on Air (2007)

by Elizabeth Hay

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Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
Harry Boyd, a hard-bitten refugee from failure in Toronto television, has returned to a small radio station in the Canadian North. There, in Yellowknife, in the summer of 1975, he falls in love with a voice on air, though the real woman, Dido Paris, is both a surprise and even more than he imagined.

Dido and Harry are part of the cast of eccentric, utterly loveable characters, all transplants from elsewhere, who form an unlikely group at the station. Their loves and longings, their rivalries and entanglements, the stories of their pasts and what brought each of them to the North, form the centre. One summer, on a canoe trip four of them make into the Arctic wilderness (following in the steps of the legendary Englishman John Hornby, who, along with his small party, starved to death in the barrens in 1927), they find the balance of love shifting, much as the balance of power in the North is being changed by the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline, which threatens to displace Native people from their land.
  JESGalway | Sep 18, 2018 |
There is something inherently intimate about radio. I am not talking about “shock jock” or talk radio where the sole purpose of the program is to brooch a controversial topic and get callers lighting up the switchboard to voice their opinions. I am talking about the late night deejays… the Venus Flytraps of the world with their silky voices, their sympathetic ears. Hay draws on her early work history as a Northwest Territories-based radio broadcaster for the CBC to weave an eloquently powerful Canadian novel. Hay stated during an interview that the starting point of this book for her was that real voices have fictional faces, that we make up what we think should be associated with the voice we hear. Hay’s makes use of this ‘disconnect’ to present a 1970's circa northern world at a cross roads, with sub-themes of a television station coming to encroach on radio country and a proposed gas pipeline that may threaten the wildlife habitat and native communities of the region. Hay’s characters are a motley crew. A straggling collection of humanity that, for reasons conscious or unconscious, have individually migrated to this remote hinterland. For this group, the radio station representing an outpost: a rest stop from their former lives before before heading on to their future.

Essentially, this is a love story, or maybe a series of love triangles as the characters bob and weave through the motions of infatuation, seduction, smothering love and abandonment. In Hay’s deft, sympathetic hands, the reader experiences the poignancy of unrequited love and the unforgiving nature and striking beauty of the Yellowknife and the Barrens. Through her writing, one can feel Hay’s compassion for the human spirit – sadness, longing, tenderness – as well as a strong love and respect for the raw power and isolation of the far north.

A richly poignant and deeply satisfying read. A well-deserved winner of the 2007 Giller Prize, IMO, and one of my favorite reads so far this year. ( )
  lkernagh | Apr 23, 2018 |
I liked this book mostly because I lived in the North and found it nostalgic to read. The writing was decent. Better than decent maybe. As others have pointed out, the characters are a little one-dimensional. Ralph really needed some work, in order for us to care more. Dido and Gwen are interchangeable for a while. Gwen is possibly the main character and really isn't fleshed out. Harry might be the most fleshed out... but even then it's not much. However, the descriptions of the north are really good. Definitely the best parts. ( )
  weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
This novel is deeply embedded in Canada's north. It conjured up the bleakness, isolation and danger of those distant lands in a convincing and fascinating way. I enjoyed every chapter.

I did find that there was a bit too much foreshadowing, which in the end seemed unjustified, but that's only a minor quibble. The background detail of disastrous Arctic explorations gave an interesting historical aspect, while the more recent impact of the 1970s Berger inquiry into the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline was also educational in its recognition of the rights of Canada's aboriginal peoples.

In the end, the story seemed to be about the arbitrary nature of human lives, loves, and losses, as well as the deep impact that one individual can have on those they meet. ( )
  AJBraithwaite | Aug 14, 2017 |
The first half of the book sets down the foundation of flawed characters who slowly woo you into the landscape of the North, its isolation, yet the closeness and intimacy of their township, and the realism and authenticity of their unique, yet easily recognizable personalities. They are rich and substantial, lacking stereotype. And their relationships with one another reveal their longings, their failings, and their complexities---especially in the forms of love.

The latter half of the novel becomes an expedition into the Barrens of Yellowknife, a lovely, yet detailed and intelligent view of a land rarely visited or seen by man. It weaves Canada’s historical pioneering heroes while documenting the northern wilderness. At the same time, the characters themselves experience the glory of its vastness, abundance, and beauty, while resisting and overcoming its treachery and harshness. It is a story about journeying, crossing boundaries, and surviving. Not only in the extreme climates of the northern wilderness, but also of the extreme climates of relationship and love. The characters who you come to care for are intelligent, witty, passionate, humbling, and resilient.
It’s a beautiful and beautifully written novel. ( )
  ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
This book will no doubt be remembered as Hay’s “Yellowknife novel” or even her “radio novel” – it follows the lives of a handful of people running a northern CBC station in the 1970s. The characters’ various hang-ups are magnified and elevated by the lonely vastness....That city crops up in many of Hay’s works, through explorations of Canadian history and through what she calls a north-south/hot-cold fixation. But this novel is the first time she explores the territory deeply, as much as she explores the medium of radio deeply. “What actually was on my mind more than Yellowknife was the whole dilemma of shyness,” she says. “For some strange reason, shy people are frequently drawn to radio as a workplace...That effort has culminated in Late Nights on Air, with its adventure, entanglements, and suspense. But the book also has plenty of emotional insight
 
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In memory of David Turney 1952 - 1988
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Harry was in his little house on the edge of Back Bay when at half past twelve her voice came over the radio for the first time.
Quotations
Harry confessed he had no sense of direction. He told Eleanor about he infamous night in Toronto when he went to play poker at a buddy's house for the umpteenth time, but walked into another house entirely, on a different block. "I was hanging up my coat when the owner came out of the kitchen. I figured he had to be the new player. So I said, 'Where's the booze?'"
She thought how changeable and infinitely various the air is, and how she was being paid to cram it to the gills with talk, to bury it under endless information, and she couldn't do it any more.
Lying on the ground, being reshaped, was like lying awake beside a new husband
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0771038119, Hardcover)

The eagerly anticipated novel from the bestselling author of A Student of Weather and Garbo Laughs.

Harry Boyd, a hard-bitten refugee from failure in Toronto television, has returned to a small radio station in the Canadian North. There, in Yellowknife, in the summer of 1975, he falls in love with a voice on air, though the real woman, Dido Paris, is both a surprise and even more than he imagined.

Dido and Harry are part of the cast of eccentric, utterly loveable characters, all transplants from elsewhere, who form an unlikely group at the station. Their loves and longings, their rivalries and entanglements, the stories of their pasts and what brought each of them to the North, form the centre. One summer, on a canoe trip four of them make into the Arctic wilderness (following in the steps of the legendary Englishman John Hornby, who, along with his small party, starved to death in the barrens in 1927), they find the balance of love shifting, much as the balance of power in the North is being changed by the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline, which threatens to displace Native people from their land.

Elizabeth Hay has been compared to Annie Proulx, Alice Hoffman, and Isabel Allende, yet she is uniquely herself. With unforgettable characters, vividly evoked settings, in this new novel, Hay brings to bear her skewering intelligence into the frailties of the human heart and her ability to tell a spellbinding story. Written in gorgeous prose, laced with dark humour, Late Nights on Air is Hay’s most seductive and accomplished novel yet.

On the shortest night of the year, a golden evening without end, Dido climbed the wooden steps to Pilot’s Monument on top of the great Rock that formed the heart of old Yellowknife. In the Netherlands the light was long and gradual too, but more meadowy, more watery, or else hazier, depending on where you were. . . . Here, it was subarctic desert, virtually unpopulated, and the light was uniformly clear.

On the road below, a small man in a black beret was bending over his tripod just as her father used to bend over his tape recorder. Her father’s voice had become the wallpaper inside her skull, he’d made a home for himself there as improvised and unexpected as these little houses on the side of the Rock — houses with histories of instability, of changing from gambling den to barber shop to sheet metal shop to private home, and of being moved from one part of town to another since they had no foundations.

From Late Nights On Air

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

It's 1975 when beautiful Dido Paris arrives at the radio station in Yellowknife, a frontier town in the Canadian north. Her enchanting voice disarms hard-bitten broadcaster Harry Boyd and electrifies the station, setting into motion rivalries both professional and sexual. As the drama at the station unfolds, a proposed gas pipeline threatens to rip open the land, inspiring many people to find their voices for the first time.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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