Michael Crummey’s Galore opens with a man found in the belly of a whale off the coast of Newfoundland. The stories and events that surround this mysterious man, Judah, and the lives that he touches in two feuding families draw the reader into the mythology, folklore and history of 19th-century Newfoundland in weird and wonderful ways. The book is dense — full of original characters and tall tales, and the reader may be reluctant to leave the shoreline, no matter how bleak the life there is depicted at times.
Crummey, a poet and novelist, hails from Newfoundland, which also serves as the backdrop for much of his writing. His first book of poems, Arguments with Gravity was awarded the Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Poetry. His first two novels, River Thieves and The Wreckage, were both national bestsellers in Canada. Galore, his third novel, has already been awarded accolades in Canada, including the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for fiction.
By collecting and interpreting all the folktales you used in Galore did you learn anything about Newfoundland that surprised you? Did you “pack it all in” to Galore or would you like to incorporate additional such stories into another novel?
There were plenty of surprises, often about things I thought I knew beforehand. I wasn’t aware of just how strong a tradition of witch-lore, of spells and counter-spells, existed here for example.
But it was the breadth and depth of Newfoundland’s folk culture that was most surprising to me. There was a point where I had to stop going to the archives and reading journals and community histories because I was feeling overwhelmed by it. Every time I opened a book or document there was another character or anecdote or detail I wanted to get into the novel, and I realized there was no end to it. That the novel would never actually get written until I cut myself off. So there’s truckloads of material in the same vein out there. Whether I want to be the person to use it is another question.
Even with so many characters, and their lives echoing off one another, they were all still quite distinct. Did you have a favorite(s) ?
There were definitely some characters who were close to my heart, or who I was particularly interested in writing. Father Phelan was the riskiest character I’ve ever written and I think there was a time in my life when I would have tried to make him less what he is, to protect him (and myself I guess) from what a reader might make of him. But I just let him go in Galore. And he was an exhilarating son of a bitch to follow around.
Bride was another. She was originally just a walk-on and after the first scene in which she comes to the doctor to have her teeth pulled I thought I was done with her. But she was too good to let go and kept showing up. I kind of fell in love with Bride in the same way the doctor did.
The characters of Bride and Dr. Newman: Would you ever want to revisit them, or maybe pursue/expand on the idea of the American fish out of water in Newfoundland? I found their story and characters very compelling.
Well I don’t have any plans to work directly with the characters or story-lines from Galore again. I’ve been asked about the possibility of a sequel or going into certain characters more in depth, but I’m finished with that particular world. I feel like I did everything I wanted done in Galore and it would be a pale imitation to go back to it.