Stanley Park

Paperback | December 11, 2001

byTimothy Taylor

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A young chef who revels in local bounty, a long-ago murder that remains unsolved, the homeless of Stanley Park, a smooth-talking businessman named Dante — these are the ingredients of Timothy Taylor's stunning debut novel — Kitchen Confidential meets The Edible Woman.

Trained in France, Jeremy Papier, the young Vancouver chef, is becoming known for his unpretentious dishes that highlight fresh, local ingredients. His restaurant, The Monkey's Paw Bistro, while struggling financially, is attracting the attention of local foodies, and is not going unnoticed by Dante Beale, owner of a successful coffeehouse chain, Dante's Inferno. Meanwhile, Jeremy's father, an eccentric anthropologist, has moved into Stanley Park to better acquaint himself with the homeless and their daily struggles for food, shelter and company. Jeremy's father also has a strange fascination for a years-old unsolved murder case, known as "The Babes in the Wood" and asks Jeremy to help him research it.

Dante is dying to get his hands on The Monkey's Paw. When Jeremy's elaborate financial kite begins to fall, he is forced to sell to Dante and become his employee. The restaurant is closed for renovations, Inferno style. Jeremy plans a menu for opening night that he intends to be the greatest culinary statement he's ever made, one that unites the homeless with high foody society in a paparazzi-covered celebration of "local splendour."

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From the Publisher

A young chef who revels in local bounty, a long-ago murder that remains unsolved, the homeless of Stanley Park, a smooth-talking businessman named Dante — these are the ingredients of Timothy Taylor's stunning debut novel — Kitchen Confidential meets The Edible Woman.Trained in France, Jeremy Papier, the young Vancouver chef, is becomi...

From the Jacket

A young chef who revels in local bounty, a long-ago murder that remains unsolved, the homeless of Stanley Park, a smooth-talking businessman named Dante — these are the ingredients of Timothy Taylor's stunning debut novel — Kitchen Confidential meets The Edible Woman.Trained in France, Jeremy Papier, the young Vancouver chef, is becomi...

Timothy Taylor is the recent recipient of a National Magazine Award Gold Medal and the only writer ever to have three stories selected and published simultaneously in the Journey Prize Anthology. His short fiction has appeared in Canada's leading literary magazines and has been anthologized in such publications as Best Canadian Storie...

interview with the author

An interview with Timothy Taylor by Scott Sellers

A magazine interview with Timothy Taylor appeared recently under the headline, “Ought To Be Famous.” For now, the 37-year-old Vancouver writer will have to make do with being one of the most talked-about talents on the Canadian literary scene. Last fall, Taylor garnered national attention when he won the prestigious Journey Prize for short fiction for his story, “Doves of Townsend.” What made the victory remarkable was the fact that Taylor had written two of the three stories shortlisted for the prize.

This spring, Timothy Taylor returns to the spotlight with the publication of his debut novel. Stanley Park is a powerful and gripping tale of food, family and the mysteries of the city. Jeremy Papier is a young chef dedicated to creating a unique British Columbia cuisine by celebrating locally grown ingredients in the food he creates. Yet trying to stay true to his culinary creed is a struggle, and the mounting debts for his restaurant, The Monkey’s Paw Bistro, prove it. To complicate matters, Jeremy is becoming more and more troubled by his strained relationship with his father, an anthropologist engaged in an unorthodox field of study. As Jeremy struggles to save his restaurant, he embarks upon an extraordinary adventure that involves unusual (and illegal) financial schemes, the homeless of Stanley Park, a decades-old unsolved murder case, a smooth-talking business man with questionable motives, and the careful preparations for an urban feast that readers will never forget.

Q. A journalist recently described you as “an overnight success after a decade of hard work.” How great a challenge has it been to get to this stage in your writing career?

A. It was hard work, sure. I think the challenge was two-fold. First, I started quite late. I came out of MBA school, did four years in banking, then ran my own Pacific fisheries consulting practice for about seven years. I wrote a little during this time but I didn’t really get serious until five years ago. As a result, I never built a community of other writers around me. I was writing on instinct, without any reliable way of estimating my own chance of success. This was kind of scary on occasion.
I guess the second challenge lay in the simple fact that it’s difficult to have serious writing ambitions and run your own business at the same time. Both pursuits deserve your full attention, but writing won’t return a living wage at the beginning, so there are some hard realities. It doesn’t help that the two communities, artists and merchant/professionals, are frequently suspicious of and critical of one another. To be frank, when it inevitably came out that I was also a writer, the news was not always well received by my professional colleagues. And there was some distrust going the other way too.

Despite all of this, I stress that I could not have begun any other way. I needed exposure to people in different fields with problems and issues and objectives outside the world of writing. If I had tried to start a novel in my mid-20s after studying creative writing, I can’t imagine what I would have written about. I admire people who succeed this way and, recently, I’ve met quite a few.

Q. Through the character of Jeremy Papier, the young chef at the centre of Stanley Park, you offer readers a fascinating inside look at the food world. Where did your knowledge of the food community come from?

A. Researching the community of commercial cooks, I read a lot. I also talked to a number of chefs and visited a kitchen in action. Together, this added up to quite a bit of colourful and useful stuff. Everything from professional tricks and techniques to how cooks move in a kitchen and talk to each other. As far as coming to understand the community of diners, the research was a little more subjective. Every time I went to a restaurant, I tried to get a feel for the kind of person that liked the place. And after you read enough restaurant reviews, likewise, you start to pick up on what the so-called trends are. So it was kind of an agglomeration of research techniques through which I tried to come to some practical knowledge of how things worked in commercial kitchens and, at the same time, develop my own opinions about culinary fashion.

Q. Vancouver’s homeless play an important role in the novel. The men and women who flow into Stanley Park after dark create a unique community for themselves, an almost netherworld within the city. You give the characters that inhabit this world, like Caruzo and Chladek, great dignity. In creating such a powerful portrait, did you feel a sense of responsibility in writing about the plight of the homeless?

A. There is a risk in writing about homelessness in anything other than a realistic way, because you don’t want to diminish the misery of it. On some fundamental level, living out-of-doors is about getting rained on and about being cold and about eating food that you find in dumpsters. There is nothing romantic about it. Also, much of what we see on the streets is the product of untreated mental illness and drug addiction. So, in answer to the question, I feel tremendous responsibility primarily not to abuse the reality of the situation.

That said, the misery of homelessness doesn’t imply a lack of humanity or individuality or personal story. When I wrote about characters like Caruzo and Chladek, I was trying to avoid the idea that they could only be legitimate people if they were somehow rescued from their homelessness. They are who they are, and they bring their histories to where they are just as everybody else does, in some tangled mix of fluke and predetermination.

Q. Over the years, the character called the Professor has become obsessed with one of Stanley Park’s great mysteries: the true-life murder case known as “The Babes in the Wood.” Can you offer some background about the case and how you became interested in it?

A. The skeletons of two little kids were discovered in Stanley Park by groundskeepers in 1953. Forensics dated the murder to the fall of 1947, when the kids would have been about five or six. When the story was made public, a young woman came forward who had been in the park in October of 1947 and had seen a woman with a little boy and girl of about that age enter the forest, then emerge later without the kids. It sounded like a solid lead and the police solicited information from anyone who knew about a little boy and girl having gone missing. Thousands of tips came in, including, bizarrely, one from Clifford Olson’s mother (Olson would have been a child himself at that time). In any case, none of the tips came to anything and years later, in the mid-90s, DNA evidence revealed that the two murdered children were in fact brothers. I have since been told that the original testimony of the young woman has been discounted as a result, although you have to wonder if a five-year-old boy might not have easily been mistaken for a girl, especially at a distance.

I don’t remember exactly when I first heard about the case, but I can tell you that I read the story at some point, probably when I was a kid, and that it drilled into my subconscious and lodged there. I know this because when I began to develop my ideas for the park side of this novel, from the beginning I had this sense that Stanley Park was twinned with an old unsolved murder of two children. And I thought I was making it up. Of course, as I began to read about park history, the true story emerged. It gave me chills when I first realized I had been “imagining” something that really took place.

It’s noteworthy that the unsolved-crime people with the Vancouver Police Department still take the case very seriously. True story: I heard from a misinformed source that there had been a Babes in the Wood deathbed confession somewhere. I searched everywhere and could not confirm this. Finally, I posted a note on an Internet bulletin board concerning itself with BC events and history. I had no responses. Weeks later, I was in the Vancouver Police Museum and I was chatting with the curator. I asked him if he’d heard anything about the confession and he became very, very interested. No, he said, he hadn’t, but he’d heard that someone had posted this rumour on an Internet bulletin board. He was very keen to know if there was anything to this. So, they were paying attention.

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Format:PaperbackPublished:December 11, 2001Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0676973094

ISBN - 13:9780676973099

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Read from the Book

The CanvasbackThey arranged to meet at Lost Lagoon. It was an in-between place, the city on one side, Stanley Park on the other. Ten years of rare contact, and they had sought each other out. Surprised each other, created expectations.Now the Professor was late.Jeremy Papier found a bench up the hill from the lagoon and opened a section of newspaper across the wet boards. The bench was between two cherry trees, the pink blossoms of which met high over his head forming an arch, a doorway. It wasn’t precisely the spot they’d discussed–the Professor had suggested the boathouse–but it was within eyesight, within shouting distance. It was close enough. If he had to wait, Jeremy thought, settling onto the paper and blowing out a long breath, he was going to sit. He crossed one long, aching leg over the other. He fingered the tooling on a favourite pair of cowboy boots, ran long fingers through tangled black hair.He sat because he was tired, certainly. Jeremy accepted that being a chef, even a young chef, meant being exhausted most of the time. But there had also been a family portrait taken here, on this bench, years before. Also early spring, he remembered; the three of them had sat here under the cherry blossoms.Jeremy on the one side, seven years old. His mother, Hélène, on the other. The Professor had his arms around them both, feet flat on the grass. He looked extremely pleased. Jeremy’s mother was less obviously so, her expression typically guarded, although she made dozens of copies of the photo and sent these off to relatives spread across Europe from Ireland to Spain, from the Czech Republic to as far east as Bulgaria. Documenting settlement. He wondered if his father, who had no relations other than those in the photo, would remember this detail.Now Jeremy lit a cigarette and watched an erratic stream of homeless people making their way into the forest for the night. When he arrived there had been seawall walkers and hotdog eaters, birdwatchers, rollerbladers, chess players returning from the picnic tables over by bowling greens. Then lagoon traffic changed direction like a freak tide. The flow of those heading back to their warm apartments in the West End tapered to nothing, and the paths were filled with the delusional, the alcoholic, the paranoid, the bipolar. The Professor’s subjects, his obsession. The inbound. Four hundred hectares of Stanley Park offering its bleak, anonymous shelter to those without other options.Of course, Jeremy didn’t have to remind himself, the Professor had other options.They had discussed meeting on the phone earlier in the week. When Jeremy picked up–expecting a late reservation, maybe his black-cod supplier, who was due into Vancouver the next morning–he heard wind and trees rustling at the other end of the line. Normally reticent, the Professor was animated about his most recent research.“… following on from everything that I have done,” he said, “culminating with this work.” From his end, standing at a pay phone on the far side of the lagoon, the Professor could hear the dishwasher hammering away in the background behind his son’s tired response.“Participatory anthropology. Is that what you call it now?” Jeremy was saying. “I thought it was immersive.”“Like everything,” the Professor answered, “my work has evolved.”He needed help with something, the Professor said. He wanted to meet.“How unusual,” Jeremy said.“And what advice can I give on running a restaurant?” the Professor shot back.“None,” Jeremy answered. “I just said there was something I wanted to talk to you about. Something that had to do with the restaurant.”“Strange times,” the Professor said, looking into the darkness around the pay phone. Checking instinctively.Very strange. The stream of those inbound had slowed to a trickle. A trio of men passed, bent behind shopping carts that were draped and hung with plastic, heaped to the height of pack horses, bags full of other bags. Jeremy could only wonder at the purpose of them all, although the Professor could have told him that the bag itself captured the imagination. It held emblematic power. For its ability to hold, certainly. To secure contents, to carry belongings from place to place. But even the smell of the plastic, its oily permanence, suggested the resilience of things discarded.Jeremy watched the three men make their way around the lagoon and disappear into the trails. He glanced at his watch, sighed. Lifted his chin and breathed in the saline breeze. It brought to mind the ocean beyond the park, sockeye salmon schooling in the deep, waiting for the DNA-encoded signal to turn in their millions and rush the mouth of the Fraser, the tributary offshoot, the rivulet of water and the gravel-bed spawning grounds beyond. Mate, complete the cycle, die. And then, punctuating this thought, the rhododendron bushes across the lawn boiled briefly and disgorged Caruzo, the Professor’s manic vanguard.“Hey, hey,” Caruzo said, approaching the bench. “Chef Papier.” He exhaled the words in a blast.He dressed for the mobile outdoor life, Caruzo. Three or four sweaters, a torn corduroy jacket, a heavy coat, then a raincoat over all of that. It made the big man even bigger, the size of a lineman, six foot five, although stooped a little with the years. Those being of an indeterminate number; Jeremy imagined only that it must be between fifty and ninety. Caruzo had a white garbage bag tied on over one shoe, although it was only threatening to rain, and pants wrapped at the knees in electrical tape. His ageless, wind-beaten face was protected by a blunt beard that fell to his chest. Exposed skin had darkened, blackened as a chameleon might against the same forest backdrop.“The Professor,” Caruzo announced, “is waiting.”

Bookclub Guide

1. The novel is called Stanley Park and much of it is set in Stanley Park. Have you been there, by any chance? Has Timothy Taylor's novel changed the way you look at city parks?2. The park is important in the novel, but so is food and, in particular, the creative menus at Jeremy Papier's restaurant, The Monkey's Paw Bistro. Many critics wrote that they loved this aspect of Stanley Park. What do you think the novel says about our relationship to food? Do you think the author believes in the old adage, "You are what you eat"?3. If there's a villain in the novel, it is Dante Beale. Do you see him as a villain? Who do you think is better equipped to live in the modern world: Jeremy or Dante?4. If Dante is a villain, what is the Professor -- Jeremy's father? What do you think of what he calls "participatory anthropology"? Can his experience ever truly emulate the experience of the park's real inhabitants?

Editorial Reviews

“Timothy Taylor writes straight, strong, unadorned prose…. He’s well in command of his material. Writes great dialogue. Early on, he sets his scene, gives us Jeremy’s background, and keeps his story, yes, cooking. Stanley Park is alive with the places and sights, sounds and smells, the psychic character of Vancouver. It thrums with a powerful sense of the city, urban surfaces as well as primal currents. Also food … Taylor is as good as the American novelist Jim Harrison when it comes to writing about textures and tangs, colours and sensations.” — Quill & Quire“Stanley Park is both feat and feast: a smart and enthralling narrative that urgently binds together its twin obsessions with place and food and culminates in a pièce de resistance that proves a triumph both for Chef Jeremy Papier and his creator, Timothy Taylor.” — Catherine Bush“Stanley Park grabs an audience in a way that augurs a wide readership. [It’s] like Babette’s Feast or Chocolat. They all celebrate a meal that never was, a hope that the right meal can be turned into a Eucharist. Enjoy!” — Vancouver Sun“[A] vibrant debut novel…Taylor is a fine prose craftsman.” — Andre Mayer, eye, 29 Mar 2001“Taylor’s debut offers an inside look at the workings of a high-end restaurant, a cut-throat character in the person of a coffeehouse owner who wants to take it over and an intense sense of location, as the title suggests.” — NOW Magazine, 5 Apr 2001“[Stanley Park] is a modern morality play with Jeremy Papier’s very soul at stake…Stanley Park is an assured debut that stands well above many first novels. Taylor is a writer of undeniable talent who has proven himself adept at both the long and short form, and whose wave will no doubt reach the shores.” — Stephen Finucan, Toronto Star, 1 Apr 2001“Delicious first novel must be savoured. [This] intelligent and leisurely…novel serves up chi-chi restaurants, Blood and Crip sous chefs and exotic culinary dishes, but it is also a pointed comment on the act of creation — whether someone is working toward a soufflé, a movie, a work of art or a romp in the sack…[O]ne thing is clear: the talented Timothy Taylor…is very good at writing about food, on a par with Jim Harrison or Sara Suleri…You’ll never look the same way at a weary chef or the loaded, coded words of a menu in your hands.” — Mark Anthony Jarman, Globe and Mail, 31 Mar 2001“Vancouver breathes in Stanley Park, from its architecture and granola culture to its status as an American TV-show haven. It is a cosmopolitan, big city pushing to become an international, economic hub. It is also a natural wonder, with an ocean and a mountain range within spitting distance, a rainforest, and enough red tendencies to elect quite a few NDP governments. Jeremy is at once an élitist and a man of the people. Bravo to Timothy Taylor for capturing this tension so well…This is a poweful début; expect to hear a lot from him.” — Todd Babiak, Edmonton Journal“Vancouver writer Timothy Taylor takes a meat cleaver to mystery fiction by packing the novel with backroom culinary politics, a heartwarming tale about a father-son reconciliation and some moralizing on the outrage we should feel about the wastefulness of bourgeois society. What it all simmers down to is a frothy entertainment with a dash of piquancy…it is a well-calculated piece of fiction…with just the right amount of angst and social conscience.” — Montreal Gazette“A charming first novel…unflaggingly intelligent.” — Maclean’s“Your mouth waters as you read Timothy Taylor's first novel. Not since Isak Dinesen's Babette's Feast has so lavish a table been set for a reader. If Margaret Atwood's first novel The Edible Woman put you off food, this one will put you back on it…In Stanley Park he does for the restaurant business what John le Carré does for spying; he makes it alluring. And he does for food what Patrick Suskind does for perfume; he makes it exciting…Timothy Taylor has written a novel with a plot to return to, characters to remain with, and themes to think about. The quest for authenticity, for instance, isn't an easy one, either for fictional characters or real people. His style skips along merrily...He also casually slips in some of the most mouth-watering recipes ever sprinkled on the pages of Canadian fiction.” — J.S. Porter, National Post