Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ian Verchere: General Delivery V0N 1B0 Whistler B.C.

Reviewed by: Victor Schwartzman

Victor has never met Ian, has never been skiing, and runs this blog.

Introduction by Douglas Coupland.

Published by Douglas & McIntyre (Vancouver/Toronto/Berkley): Available in the U.S. through Publishers Group West.

A review of a guidebook to Whistler, an expensive ski resort near Vancouver, on the Underground Literary Alliance review blog? Huh? Whazzat about?

Because it is an underground guidebook. An anti-guidebook. Because it is more interested in delving into how Whistler was turned by multinational corporations from a great place to ski into a Disneyesque theme park. Because it remembers how things were and analyzes why things changed. Because although it is a pretty book, it ain’t pretty—it is ugly—in the best way possible.

“General Delivery VON 1BO Whistler B.C.” was written by Ian Verchere. He lived near Whistler, skied there religiously, and ‘grew up’ to be, among other things, a video game designer. He does not write like nor appear to be an elitist. He just really liked to ski. That is perhaps too healthy a lifestyle for the ULA, but so be it.

His book superficially resembles a guidebook. It is handsomely produced, yes. The writing in each chapter is short and easy to read, yes. There are many photographs, yes. There is information about Whistler’s history, yes. The book is very attractive, and masquerades nicely as a coffee table book, yes yes yes.

BUT. There are no street maps. No lists of hotels. No recommendations about where to stay. No pandering. Instead, Verchere looks at his personal connection with the Whistler that was, and the Whistler that is...and you get the feeling it makes him want to puke.

To wit: about naming ski slopes: “As for Blackcomb, it supposedly looks like a rooster’s comb, except black. The mountain originally went with a logging theme for their run names: Catskinner, Springboard, skid Road, Undercut. They changed the name of the run Hooker, a legitimate logging term, for reasons of propriety. That doesn’t explain why you can still ski Climax, Cougar Milk, Zig Zag, Angel Dust and Spanky’s Chute. To get to these runs, you’ll run the Wizard, a lift allegedly named after the 1986 porno film The Wizard of Ahh’s.

“Nowadays, no chairlift, run or new development would be named without extensive focus tests, marketing meetings and a legal sign-off somewhere deep in the Whistler-Blackcomb boardrooms. And probably a quick check with the Internet Adult Movie Database wouldn’t hurt either.”

Or, look at how he writes of Whistlerization, which is “the sudden appearance of multi-million-dollar second homes, escalating real estate prices and prohibitive living costs… One sure way to recognize a place trying to come to terms with being Whistlerized is a prevalence of handcrafted, sandblasted signs. The thinking is, if you can’t keep big multinational franchises out, then at least make them blend in. The way to do this is to pass strict bylaws dictating how your average franchise corporation can announce its presence. As a bonus, this invigorates the handcrafted, sandblasted sign segment of the local economy. The fact is, Whistler itself faced up to its own Whistlerization long ago. It let in the Gap, KFC, Micky D’s and 7-Eleven (as long as their signs are sandblasted)…”

Or his listing of “Whistler Locals and Pioneers, Santa’s Reindeer and Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs; In No Particular Order”:
Dopey”…and so on, down a whole page. Not to mention his including a comic book he wrote and drew about Whistler, including outer space aliens.

The book ends with a sad regret, the closure due to “a real estate developer and the relentless expansion of the Whistler Village footprint” of the Boot Pub, the “last remaining vestige of authentic local life… At the end of the day, no tourist or second homeowner in Whistler is going to miss the Boot. But its closure says something to a big chunk of Whistler locals: it’s a signal that what they want doesn’t matter. For me, it’s the end of a book, and a fitting coda to my younger years living in Whistler.”

Well, pal, have a last drink on us.

1 comment:

Baby_Monster said...

ya, ian's my dad and he really does hate what has happened to whistler, but he's happy now and we have fun skiing together, thanks.

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