by Paul Quarrington
Greystone Books, $19.95, 241 pages
In 2009, when Canadian Paul Quarrington (1953-2010) learned he had terminal lung cancer, he didn’t crawl into a hole and wait to die. Instead, he channeled his creativity into writing Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Music and Life. As if that wasn’t enough, he also toured with his band, produced his first solo CD Paul Quarrington: The Songs, starred in a documentary about his life in music, and did so much more. His memoir chronicles his devotion to music since childhood while at the same time sharing the experience of how he lived his final days with gusto. Quarrington was an accomplished musician and the author of many books of fiction and non-fiction, including Whale Music, one of the best rock’n’roll novels ever written, which won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 1989. You would be mistaken if you thought this was an elegiac memoir. With great aplomb, Quarrington manages to lift our spirits, keep us laughing and share insights into the last chapter of his life without being maudlin. This is a rich and life-affirming story that will please avid music fans and anyone who is interested in learning about living a life of joy in the face of death.
Reviewed by Diane Prokop