In The Land Of Long Fingernails – Charles Wilkins

land of long fingernailsDo you sense that graveyards are creepy; do they make you cringe when you drive by one; is it a place only to be visited during the day to lay flowers and visit loved ones that have already passed on?

In the haze of summer in the year of 1969, Charles (the author) was between semesters taking classes at the University of Toronto and was in need of a summer job.  What he ended up getting would be a summer of first glimpses of working as a gravedigger in a large urban graveyard.

As he gets to know the staff – his boss Scotty is his boss and always drunk by around 10 am every day, there is the Italian economist who is waiting for his big break with a large petroleum company, and the other men who work either for the union or not are quirky and yet work there simply because they need to provide income for their families, and probably will be working there until retirement.

As the summer goes on, the characters do their thing and sometimes not do as much as they should, which means taking off and lying under a tree in a non conspicuous part of the cemetery to smoke, read, or even write a short story.  But watch out when Scotty finds out, or catches you.  You just might lose your job.

While Charles was working this summer in the blistering heat and rain at the cemetery, he was told or heard bizarre tales of back in the day of empty graves that were owned by the police, how a huge pit at the back of the cemetery was an open grave, the people who would come not because they knew anyone, but they thought that this kind of place would be good for certain acts wouldn’t be interrupted since they had no other place to go.

There were so many morbid and yet hilarious tales that can and probably still happen in cemeteries today, that will have you maybe possibly wondering does it actually happen the next time you visit one if you ever do, not that anyone enjoys visiting cemeteries.

Brilliantly written, with bits of tongue in cheek humour, this is one book you won’t easily forget for a while.

But then again there was a underlying story of a 20 yr old University man finding himself, and mortality.

In The Land of Long Fingernails is a finalist for a Trillium Book Award (2009), has also been shortlisted for a Toronto Book Award (2009) and has been shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour (2009).

Penguin / Viking

My friend Bronwyn from A Certain Bent Appeal talks about the book and the author

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