From Someplace Else by Ralph Osborne (ECW), 312 pages, $22.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
ralph osborne's new book of memoirs, From Someplace Else, borders on exhibitionism. But so what? He winds up skilfully catapulting us right into the minds of the beat generation of the 60s. Born into extreme poverty in Saint John, he serves a prison term for a B&E and, realizing there's not much opportunity for him at home, decides to hitchhike to Montreal.
Arriving in the big city broke, friendless and homeless, Osborne's innocent enough to be surprised when he's picked up by a trick. He doesn't want to earn his room and board that way, so he sleeps in parks until a stranger takes pity on him and invites him to crash in his apartment.
Soon enough, we're rolling on to Saskatchewan, where Osborne fathers a son, gets a day job and meets his god, Leonard Cohen.
We travel with him back to Toronto in time to catch the swell of excitement surrounding the free university, Rochdale. We live vicariously through his descriptions of that place and time.
Just when we want to fault him for calling native people Indians (because he's opposed to political correctness) or for falling in love with women just because they have pretty faces, Osborne turns the moment into something transcendental.
His writing romanticizes, swirls, twists and folds in on itself. It doesn't matter that the narrative jumps through time like a flower child on speed, or that way too many pages are devoted to the subject of how great it is to drop acid.
We're right there with you, man. We want to experience peace, love and communes, too.