Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself
Certain professions are overly romanticized in popular television and film---does the world need another canoodling medical drama or corrupt cop flick? The best in those genres, like The Wire, are written by those who have actually done the job. Russell Wangersky's book about his years spent as a volunteer firefighter, first in Wolfville and then Newfoundland, is so cinematically vivid---you can almost smell acrid, toxic smoke and imagine human pulp on the highway---that I wouldn't be surprised if it turns up on the big screen one day (at a minimum, anyone considering the profession must read this). As editor of the St. Johns Telegram and a Giller nominee for The Hour of Bad Decisions, Wangersky makes an ideal storyteller. He writes with a self-awareness not often achieved in these autobiographies. But what makes Burning Down the House remarkable is Wangersky's brave admission of post-traumatic stress disorder: Not only does he fight fires, but he battles nightmares, daytime visions, phantom odours and "memories that unroll in my head like movies I can't walk away from." Yet, theres a longing in his words like a recovering addict (the real deal, not the James Frey sort) who, if asked, would don that uniform once again.
Sue Carter Flinn