The Lost Coast: A powerful "environmental plea"; Also what used to be called a novel
Facts are also the stuff of life, and facts change everything. They define the difference between fiction and non-fiction, for one thing.
Bowling is a terrific storyteller, and I highly recommend his book. I also harbour a great deal of empathy for Bowling's grief, having watched the same universe implode, from a perspective just a bit upriver from Bowling's Ladner, up around Annacis Channel and Annieville. It was a working-class world of fishboats and farms and sawmills, and almost overnight, it was buried under subdivisions, freeway turnpikes and malls.
The "memoir" occupies a murky netherworld between autobiography and the novel, and its backwaters, where a writer can so easily stray from the main channel of fact into the sloughs and side channels of fiction, should be navigated with great care. I tend to side with Timothy Garton Ash on the subject: "Writers often cross this frontier because they think their work will be enhanced as a result. Reportage or history will become literature. Paragraph for paragraph, that may be true. But as a whole, the work is diminished."
Approaching the same fog-shrouded shoals from downriver, in the context of the novel, Simon Jenkins sounds the same caution: "Despite Humpty Dumpty, words do not mean anything we choose. Facts are still facts wherever they are used, and should be honoured in fiction as in history. The dictionary offers no exemption to novelists."
But don't let this deter you from Bowling's The Lost Coast. It's a fine piece of work, and it deals with a phenomenon few writers have adequately explored - the global phenomenon of ecological collapse and the vanishing of distinct communities from landscape and memory, with all the deracination and disorientation that results.