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Interview with Tim Bowling

Lamenting the death of a wild culture
Richard Helm. Edmonton Journal: Oct 26, 2007, pg. G15

A busy year for Edmonton writer Tim Bowling is drawing to an end with a bit of edgy nostalgia and a melancholy undertow.

Bowling, the writer in residence at Grant MacEwan College, came out with his third novel, The Bone Sharps, earlier this year and his latest poetry collection, Fathom, won the Alberta Book Award for Poetry just last month.

A two-time nominee for the Governor General's Award, Bowling must have energy to burn despite having three preteen kids at home. That young family was very much on his mind when he decided to write his first non-fiction book -- a new release he'll read from Sunday during a 2 p.m. launch event at The Upper Crust Cafe, 10909 86th Ave.

The Lost Coast: Salmon, Memory and the Death of Wild Culture (Nightwood Editions) is a lyrical lament for Bowling's upbringing in a B.C. gillnetting family and life as a fisherman until the mid- 1990s. It's a look at the way things were and the way they are today with the loss of the West Coast's traditional resource-industry culture and the shrinking stocks of the Pacific salmon.

Bowling tried taking his young family back to that old world a few years back, uprooting to the Sunshine Coast for a while, but came to realize that he couldn't give his kids the kind of childhood he'd had or acquaint them with the Fraser River in quite the same intimate fashion.

"It did feel a little bit like a theft of my birthright," Bowling says.

Bowling's book is difficult to nail down. It's being shelved under politics, environmental writing, nature and general non- fiction and has definite memoir elements, although Bowling is wryly sensitive to the fact that he's not the most famous writer in the land, and only 43 at that.

"The book is motivated by my sense that we're living more conformist lives today than we lived 30 years ago, at the same time that the rhetoric about freedom and democracy is much increased," he said.

"It's partly another look at history too. Why North Americans live the way we do and why we have this destructiveness within us. It's obviously not new. We're living in strange times. I think there is a feeling in the air that this is not the way we should be going, but at the same time we seem to be barrelling forward, to use an apt turn of phrase."