Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Catherine Gildiner's "After the Falls"

Catherine Gildiner wrote her doctoral thesis on the influence of Darwin on Freud, and has been a clinical psychologist in private practice for several years. She also writes a psychological advice column for Chatelaine magazine and has written numerous newspaper articles.

Her first book, the memoir Too Close to the Falls, was published in Canada, the US and the UK to wide acclaim. It is followed by After the Falls which covers her life from the ages of 13-21.

Gildiner applied the “Page 99 Test” to After the Falls and reported the following:
The 99 page test is uncanny! On page 99 of my memoir After the Falls you find a microcosm of the macrocosm. You find me at age 14, having lied and told my employer I was 16. I work at a donut store and factory and I am the only employee to have made it in during a big Buffalo blizzard. The Puerto Rican donut maker, named Jesus, called from his home where he was stuck in the driveway and he told me to make twelve rows of twelve donuts in the fryer called the Beetle.( It looked like a Volkswagen Beetle). He told me the dough was already made and in the fridge and all I had to do was drop it in the fryer and then I should frost the donuts with chocolate syrup. I followed his instructions to the letter. However, I had no idea that you have to put the frosting on after you fry the donuts. After I finished placing them in the fryer with the chocolate syrup on the top.I went into the ladies room to clean up and get all the chocolate off of my hands and arms. When I re-entered the factory the entire room was on fire with orange flame acrobats scuttling along the wires on the ceiling. It was a three alarm fire. Oops.

The small vignette on this page really describes what my entire teenage life was like and it explores the incongruities of my character. I was very resourceful and knew how to get a job at fourteen and I also knew how to get through any snowstorm since I had worked with Roy, the black delivery car driver since I was four. We delivered medicine from my father's drug store and we had to get there no matter the weather. While I was brave and strong and ahead of my time in so many ways, I was remarkably clueless in others. As the fireman said to me in bewilderment,"Haven't you ever seen your mother frost a cake?" I had never seen my mother make a meal --ever. We had no food in our house and we always ate out. So while 99% of girls at that age would have known that the frosting went on later, I did not. This page and the book points out how much I tried to figure out the universe and be independent, yet I usually missed one or two ingredients that resulted in mayhem around me. The book is about learning to grow up and all of the false paths taken along the way.
Visit Catherine Gildiner's website and blog.

Writers Read: Catherine Gildiner.

--Marshal Zeringue