YOUNG, Terence

Author Tags: Fiction, Poetry

"Most readers are reading simply to compare the damage they have sustained along the way with someone else's." -- Terency Young, 2000

DATE OF BIRTH: May 13, 1953

PLACE OF BIRTH: Victoria, B.C.

EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Head of English at St. Michael's University School

Nominated: Governor General's and the Gerald Lampert Award (for Island in Winter).
Nominated: Danuta Gleed Award (for Rhymes with Useless).
Winner: City of Victoria Butler Best Book Award (for After Goodlake's).
Winner: This Magazine's Great Literary Hunt, The Fiddlehead Poetry Prize, The Stephen Leacock Poetry Contest and others


The Island in Winter (Vehicule Press, 1999)
Rhymes With Useless (Raincoast, 2000)
After Goodlake's (Raincoast, 2004)
Moving Day (Signature Editions, 2006)
The End of the Ice Age (Biblioasis 2010)


Terence Young attended Victoria High School and UVIC before receiving his MFA from UBC in 1996. Previous residences include Northern Manitoba (Thompson), Quebec City and Ireland. He has taught high school for more than twenty-five years and served on the board of the Victoria School of Writing and helped co-found The Claremont Review, a journal for young writers. "When I was a boring adolescent who thought too much, attended Anglican church services and had picnics in the family car, I still believed my life was worth living. Even after a tepid romance with sex and drugs in the '60s, marrying young, having two children and falling into teaching, I am still convinced the air is sweet and the water pure." He lives with poet and fiction writer Patricia Young

[BCBW 2006] "Fiction" "Poetry"

After Goodlake’s (Raincoast, 2004)

from BCBW Summer 2004
There are always stories behind the stories. In previous Fiction issues we’ve asked novelists to discuss the origins of their work. Here Terence Young provides useful glimpses into After Goodlake’s (Raincoast, 2004), a follow-up to his critically acclaimed collection of 13 stories entitled Rhymes with Useless. The title of the novel refers to a fictional delicatessen in Victoria named Goodlake’s.

Most people don’t know what they’re going to say until they open their mouths, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The act of speaking carries with it a certain creative energy, a kind of spontaneous dramatic power. It’s what good storytellers discover in themselves, and it’s what makes us listen to them. I believe there is a similar force in writing, at least I hope there is, because I’m never really sure what I will write before I write it.

This is not the case for all writers. Many are extremely certain of their subject and the manner in which they are going to approach it. In some ways, I envy such people, just as I envied those students in high school who knew exactly where they were headed after graduation. For me, in that regard, life has been one surprise after another, and I’ve had a pretty good time discovering my path, rather than inventing it.

This novel, After Goodlake’s, was very much a process of discovery, partly because it was my first foray into a longer work and — though it sounds strange to say it — partly because I had to look for clues in my own writing as to what I wanted to say. A character ends up forming patterns in action and in speech, and I found I had to look at those patterns to discover what the character was going to do next.

Such scrutiny is the stuff of plot, of course, and a plot is necessary to engage the reader. Things must happen, or at least threaten to happen, as in Waiting for Godot.

The other major component of the book — what I like to call its mood — comes out of my own relationship with the town of Victoria, and I knew it far better than I knew the events of the novel. I’ve lived in this city all my life, and I wanted to base the book in Victoria, not simply because I’ve known it for so long, but also because I wanted to capture on the page a little of what it means to have grown up in this sometimes smug, sometimes charming creation of colonialism and commerce.

This urge to give a literary face to my town was part of the reason why I have two timelines in the book, one set in the near-present and another set in 1964. I guess I was greedy and unwilling to limit myself, but I knew, also, as a reader of such wonderful books as Atonement and The Hours, how taken I was with the broad canvas those writers chose to work with.

John Gardner, in his book The Art of Fiction, advises people to write not so much what they know, but what they like to read. I was doubly lucky writing After Goodlake’s, therefore, in that I was trying to write the kind of book I liked to read, and I was also permitting myself to explore a world I knew intimately.

Time is a strong element in the book, both past and present, and by strong I mean simply that the characters in the novel often express an urge to leave their own time, mostly in order to return to a simpler period in history. Part of this emphasis on time comes from my own sense of loss at the way we are always leaving one world behind to enter another — a kind of chronic nostalgia I suffer from — and the insertion of the earlier time line was one way of indulging my fondness for Victoria before self-serve liquor stores, one-way streets, convention centres and gourmet coffee outlets.

I chose the Easter weekend of March 27th to March 30th because of the earthquake that devastated Anchorage, Alaska, and its impact on me when I was young. It also provided a nice backdrop for the turmoil in the characters in both time lines, and its resonance in Victoria’s history as a kind of non-event — no tsunami swept through the streets of Oak Bay or flooded the downtown core as it did in Port Alberni — echoed my character’s frustration at being sidelined by life.

The modern time line revolves around a fictitious delicatessen named Goodlake’s, a business that has been run by the Goodlake family for over seventy years. I believed this business to be a complete work of my imagination, but I discovered after writing the book that my family once ran a successful business on Government Street for many years.

Although not a delicatessen — it was a drygoods store named Young’s — the coincidence shows me that much of what a writer thinks is fiction is often based on fact. I had probably been told about this store at some point in my past — there is a picture of it in one of our family albums — and an echo of that fact was probably bouncing around in my head when I decided to create Goodlake’s. The store serves to illustrate the counterpoint to my nostalgic tendencies: the understanding that a person needs to let go of the past in order to grow.

So, there was no single catalyst for this book, no ghost story competition as there was for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, no opium-induced dream as there was for Coleridge’s poem ‘Kubla Khan.’ It came, as I said all things have come to me, as a surprise, and, for me at least, it has been a pleasant one.

--Terence Young

After Goodlake's
Press release (2005)

Raincoast Books is very pleased to announce that After Goodlake's, by Terence Young, has been shortlisted for the 2nd annual City of Victoria Butler Book Prize.

After Goodlake's, published in 2004 by Raincoast Books, centres around Fergus, the owner of the venerable family business, Goodlake’s Deli. Although happily married, Fergus is having an affair—a relationship that starts out carefree but eventually, like a slow-building earthquake, cracks the foundations of everything in his life.Young shows us how Fergus’ resulting crisis is by turns humorous, tragic and epic, involving not only his own story but also the story of generations in a family, a respected business, a town and the people who populate it.

The City of Victoria Butler Book Prize has been established to honour Victoria’s vibrant literary community, with its renowned writers and passionate readers. It is a public/private partnership funded by the City of Victoria and Brian H. Butler of Butler Brothers Supplies Ltd. The Victoria Book Prize Society establishes the policy and conditions for the prize, and appoints the jury. The Victoria School of Writing administers the prize.

Claremont Review
Info (2007)

In 1991 Terence Young of Victoria convinced renegade high school principal John Pringle to let him teach a new Writing 12 class. After Young showed his colleague Bill Stenson some of the work they produced, Stenson became the driving force behind The Claremont Review, a periodical specifically create to publish neophytes across Canada and the U.S. Some thirty issues later, Young, Stenson, Susan Stenson and Janice McCachen have edited a celebratory teen literature anthology, Naming the Baby: The Best of the Claremont Review (Orca $19.95). 978-1-55143-772-9

Moving Day (Signature $14.95)

from Hannah Main-Van Der Kamp
Memories can often take the drifting shape of hypnogogia, that state between dreaming and awakening where odd clarities and cloudy sensations present themselves without apparent connection. In Moving Day, tender-hearted Terence Young tells his life as sunny days with cloudy periods.

“A marvel, really, all
these bits that come together
like a math equation when
it looms into sense:
I live here,
These are the people I love.”

Blending literate humour (a lonely kid quotes William of Occam in Latin to a bag lady) with day-to-day domesticity (those garden-darkening plum trees really must come down), Young is alternately wistful, funny and hyperbolic. He doesn’t unfold the Big Themes of War and Peace, Gain and Loss. He’s a skilled poet who can relate the universals within the world of his own street, heightened by occasional travel and his hesitant fidelities as son, friend, lover, husband, father and son again.

A breathless argument with a contractor over a collapsed sundeck, tongue-in-cheek solutions to the expense of raising children and the burden of excess friends, disposal of family heirlooms in an imagined auction; the over-arching impression is one of challenged contentment, “the dramatics over.” The contentment is tinged here and there with confusion but not with regrets.

If you have lived in the Victoria area most of your life and, in mid-life, enjoy reminiscing, then this blackberry patch is for you. 1-897109-11-3

--review by Hannah Main-Van Der Kamp

[BCBW 2007] "poetry"

The End of the Ice Age (Biblioasis $19.95)

from Cherie Thiessen
Dirty realism was a label attached to a group of American short story writers in the early 1980s. Their work reflected the lives of the impoverished and blue-collar workers of small town America in a bare, unsensational style.

Terence Young probably would not appreciate being compared to its proponents like Raymond Carver because most of his characters in The End of the Ice Age are not blue-collar. They are primarily unemployed—but that’s because they’re pursuing degrees at university, or are financially endowed, or have been fired.

Young’s minimalist style and stark realism are nonetheless Carver-like. His stories are also gritty and precise, with touches of poetic prose, without much resolution. If you’re one of these old fashioned folk who want to like the protagonists in your stories, you’re in trouble.

For instance, if you want to know whether bartender Boone will actually kick-start his life in The Big Money, you’ll have to write your own story. If you want to know what is going to happen to the relationship between the once champion squash player and his girlfriend in Dream Vacation, dream on.

If you want to see some light at the end of the tunnel for the nameless protagonist in Fair Enough, forget it.

These are people you want to shake; shout in their faces, “What’s wrong with you!” This is what Young does so well: he offers static with a sneer. But the process is uplifting because he uses poetry and deft phrasing to flesh out his characters. There are terrific lines to savour.

The unnamed narrator in Fair Enough describes a woman he’s hitting on at a wake: “Girl jock finally meets middle age, teeth like a perfect hand of cards.”

Young describes a pugilistic partygoer: “Buzz-cut has been watching and he’s angry on the other guy’s behalf, the sort of person who borrows battles when he can’t find any of his own.”

The author of four previous books, including The Island in Winter, nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, Terence Young has also co-founded The Claremont Review, a journal for young writers. His work defies labels.

[BCBW 2010]