The awesome terrain of the Rocky Mountains is the setting for this extraordinary novel about a heroic man who boldly defies destiny. Tay John, a messianic halfbreed, is fated to lead his people to their Promised Land. In a rebellious act of will, he turns to the mountains to seek his own truths.This richly populated novel vividly depicts the exotic and rootless people whoThe awesome terrain of the Rocky Mountains is the setting for this extraordinary novel about a heroic man who boldly defies destiny. Tay John, a messianic halfbreed, is fated to lead his people to their Promised Land. In a rebellious act of will, he turns to the mountains to seek his own truths.This richly populated novel vividly depicts the exotic and rootless people who wound their way to the Canadian Northwest. It is a powerful modern legend that ranges over all aspects of the human heart and mind, incorporating passion and hatred, tragedy and triumph....
|Number of Pages||:||272 Pages|
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Tay John Reviews
_Tay John_ is a woefully under-appreciated book that deserves wider attention. Written by Howard O'Hagan, a true son of the Canadian west who was, by turns, a surveyer, a lawyer, and a wilderness guide in addition to being a writer, it stands as a great example of wilderness writing at its best. As the Canadian Encyclopedia says: "O'Hagan has been the quintessential 'mountain man' who knew the wilderness intimately and celebrated it through fiction."In _Tay John_ we have a story in three parts. The first, Legend, starts out like a creation myth and tells the somewhat cryptic story of the birth and youth of the enigmatic Native half-breed known as Tay John (derived from the french "Tête Jaune" or "Yellowhead" on account of his unique blond hair). We see the circumstances of his birth and his early life among his people, his eventual restlessness, and the beginning of his life of wandering. In the second part, Hearsay, we focus on the outdoorsman Jack Denham and his tall tales of the heroic Tay John, whose path he crosses several times in the wilderness. We begin to see the wider shape of the world of the Canadian Rockies at the end of the 19th century as the civilization of the white man encroaches upon the wilderness that heretofore held sway. Tay John begins to get entangled in this new world and is torn between the opportunities it offers and the ancient prophecies and expectations of his native tribe. In the third and final section, Evidence - without a finding, the conflict between the old and new ways of the world comes to a head and Tay John is caught in the middle. The end of his tale proves to be as enigmatic as was its beginning and the reader is left to draw his own conclusions about its meaning.The most outstanding element of O'Hagan's story is his descriptive prose. It's obvious that the man knew and loved the wilderness of which he writes and we see into the everyday lives and concerns of the men who preferred to live their lives on the outskirts of society, able to plunge into the wilderness when it called to them. His characters are also a colourful bunch, running the gamut of pioneers, explorers, preachers and trappers who peopled the Canadian west. We move from wide panoramic scenes of the mountains and the forests to a close focus on the individual lives of people making their way in this wide world. All in all, I found _Tay John_ to be a compelling and moving story that portrayed its world and characters with vivid detail and wonder.Also posted at Shelf Inflicted
This is a quintessential Canadian novel. No one from outside Canada could have written it. Probably it also takes having set foot in Western Canadian to fully appreciate it. And if you ever thought Canadian art and literature are second-rate (as I had, idiot that I was), think again.The narrative is structured after Native American myths and Western settler folklores. The language is stern, spacious, sparce--much like the unforgiving landscape of the Canadian Rockies that it describes. The main character is ostensibly Tay John, the messianic halfbred of the title, but the one true center is the Mountains. Tay John, whose name is but a corrupted version of a mountain pass that still bears that name today, is just a part of the setting, an extension of the alpine character, where snow doesn't fall but flies, where time is measured in seasons but years are measured in the length of railway tracks.It is a pity that, while magical realism has become very much mainstream, this mythic realism has not caught any momentum outside the occasional Canadian literature class. Those who read Tay John are unlikely to find a large group of readers with whom to share the experience--but the solitary experience itself is sure to be as unforgettable as a solitary hike out into the mountains of Jasper.
Despite its short length, this book is quite complex. It's replete with themes and I'm not sure where to even begin with this review. It takes place right at the continental divide, and it's a borderland between the world of the old inhabitants, the Shuswap nation, and the world of the colonised east. It's in a borderland between myth and reality. In this land, there's more land than people. The people blink into then out of existence, leaving only legends if they leave anything at all. Women aren't treated well in this novel. They are raped, exploited, disbelieved, fought over, judged. Even a mother bear just going about her business protecting her cub is slaughtered and the death is cheered as a victory. The religion of the white man is so incongruous with the landscape that it destroys those who cling to it--and destroys in a horrible fashion. But in this new era, the religion of the Shuswap people doesn't do much for them either. They correctly prophesy the coming of their messiah, but he abandons them and their ways to live as a solitary man on the fringes of what passes for civilisation in the mountains around Yellowhead Pass. 7&1/2/10
Tay John is one of those rare novels that compels us to read it over & over in order to appreciate its layers of complexity, beauty, and truth. Howard O'Hagan has written the most under appreciated novel in Canadian literature.I loved the story structure & how O'Hagan uses multiple narrative perspectives to paint a tragic and beautiful portrayal of a mythic hero struggling to find his identity amidst the swirling forces of western colonialism.
Loved the Canadian content. Some very rich characters.
I read this in University for an English class. It was an easy read about Tay John and how he explored Western Canada. Descriptive and repetitive. Interesting characters and situations take place.
It was alright, easy to read for sure. The author has a lot of repetitive language and I dislike how the women seem to lack voice.
I usually enjoy native tall tales, but this one is too dry and one-dimensional for me.
Pretty interesting. Mythical realism. Lot of symbolism and the story doesn't seem to be about Tay John but in fact about all the narrators telling the story.