It’s not surprising that the media have closely followed the publication of Paul McGill’s Finding the Lost Weekend. It’s also not surprising that some of the publicity has been less than happy with the book. A novel based on an actual event in McGill’s history, Finding the Lost Weekend tells a story of alcohol and abuse at a Salt Lake Catholic high school in the late ’60s.
Some folks feel that books about priests and abuse should be fact — that fiction is not the way to treat topics as serious as this. Others, of course, disagree and argue that fiction about troubling issues is sometimes even more effective at provoking dialogue and discussion than memoir or autobiography. With fact, you can get bogged down in the nitty gritty details of verification: Was that the exact conversation? Was this person really there at this hour on this day? Or is the author blending/confusing/distorting events? With fiction, you can move past all that to the truth of the story, the ‘fact’ that horrible things happen to people, and need to be acknowledged.
But I think most interesting is McGill’s own statement about his book. After a few interviews, he decided to write an Author’s Commentary on his book. I’d like to quote one passage in particular (caps author’s own):
“I have never denied or confirmed a sexual assault at the real “Lost Weekend Retreat.” However, the opportunity and risk of such an attack was ever present and alive for more than (40) hours while approximately (80) 17-18 year olds were turned loose to drink freely, all at the encouragement of Catholic priests. I am onlly one of some (80) classmates who took advantage of the opportunity. Who would want their child placed in this situation?
The depiction of rape and abuse in my book of FICTION are symbolic only. Each event symbolizes the “rape” of trust, loyalty, innocence, and most importantly the soul, as the scandal continues to contort year by year and as the number of crippled souls mount.”
I used the real “Lost Weekend Retreat” as a foundation to build my work on. It made the perfect setting to make my point.”
Interesting, no? You can find out more about the author on his homepage, Paul-McGill.com, and you can buy the book here. Signed copies, of which we have several, also contain the full text of his commentary on the book and the controversy surrounding it.