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Sleep

Cover of Sleep

Sleep

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From multi-award winning author Nino Ricci comes a novel of devastating emotional power and intelligence, and often breathless suspense: the story of one man's descent into sleeplessness.

David Pace is a man who has it all--a successful career as an almost-famous academic, a wife blessed with both beauty and brains, a young son and a lovely home. But David's brain has begun to misfire. It shuts off when David is meant to be awake--when he's writing, when he's lecturing, when he's driving--but otherwise denies him any rest at all. Popping a variety of pills at an increasingly alarming rate, David struggles to remain alert, but his efforts become less and less effective, leaving his family in tatters and his career on the brink. Then, almost by accident, David finds himself with a loaded gun in his hands, and all of a sudden he feels tantalizingly, gloriously awake. The sensation, fuelled by a steady mix of pharmaceuticals, launches David towards the extremes of human behaviour, and as his choices become more and more abhorrent and the risks he is willing take more and more dangerous, David's sense of what is real, who he is, and what he is capable of slips terrifyingly out of reach.
From multi-award winning author Nino Ricci comes a novel of devastating emotional power and intelligence, and often breathless suspense: the story of one man's descent into sleeplessness.

David Pace is a man who has it all--a successful career as an almost-famous academic, a wife blessed with both beauty and brains, a young son and a lovely home. But David's brain has begun to misfire. It shuts off when David is meant to be awake--when he's writing, when he's lecturing, when he's driving--but otherwise denies him any rest at all. Popping a variety of pills at an increasingly alarming rate, David struggles to remain alert, but his efforts become less and less effective, leaving his family in tatters and his career on the brink. Then, almost by accident, David finds himself with a loaded gun in his hands, and all of a sudden he feels tantalizingly, gloriously awake. The sensation, fuelled by a steady mix of pharmaceuticals, launches David towards the extremes of human behaviour, and as his choices become more and more abhorrent and the risks he is willing take more and more dangerous, David's sense of what is real, who he is, and what he is capable of slips terrifyingly out of reach.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Methylphenidate

    A WASH OF CHEMICALS floods David's brain and at once the urge is there, irresistible. What is the trigger, what switch opens the floodgate? If he could find it, he could control it. But even to think of the urge is to bring it on.

    "Dad. Dad!"

    These are the times it overtakes him: When he is reading. When he is watching. When he is listening. At the crossroads of action and thought, the mind's gathering place, the very place where he lives.

    When he is driving.

    "Daddy, wake up!"

    He hears a thundering like a stampede, he sees chariots, horses. Then the image splinters and there is only the noise itself, jagged and black, until finally the expressway pixelates into clarity and he realizes he has veered onto the rumble strip.

    A car is stopped on the shoulder not a hundred metres in front of them. They are headed straight for it.

    "Dad, there's a car!"

    Afterwards David will never quite be able to sort out his memory of what happens next in any way that makes sense. It will seem as if he has split in two, on one side of him the nuclear blast of sensation, the thump of his wheels, the stopped car, his son's grating terror, on the other an eerie calmness, as if every fibre in him has long been preparing for just such a moment, when everything hangs in the balance. He will be amazed how much data has been left in him by an event that has happened in the blink of an eye. The slant of autumn light through the windshield. The colour of the car, silver-grey, he is heading toward. The look of its driver, a small, dark-skinned man, Middle Eastern or Asian, who has stopped to make a call or stretch his legs or take a leak, as he innocently turns to check for traffic before opening his door only to discover that death is bearing down on him. And already before it comes, David sees the crash, the mess of twisted metal and broken glass and ruined flesh.

    He jerks the wheel hard and the car bucks like a wild animal, no longer under his will. His body has braced itself for impact but, impossibly, the impact doesn't come. Instead there is only a suck of air from the far side of the car like the pull of something's gravity, the scream of a horn as David overshoots his lane and nearly sideswipes a passing van. Then, as quickly as that, the danger has passed. As if it had never been. Already the car on the shoulder has receded to a harmless glint in the rear-view mirror.

    David's heart is pounding. He digs his little pill container out of his pant pocket and dumps the pills onto the passenger seat, then grabs two by feel and crunches down on them. Do not chew. They are bitter like cyanide, like hemlock. But pointless now: he is fully awake.

    He can feel Marcus eyeing him from his car seat in the back.

    "You fell asleep," he says.

    "I wasn't asleep." But already David has taken the wrong tack, has responded to the boy's accusation rather than to his fear. "I just closed my eyes for a second, that's all. Because of the sun."

    David nudges the mirror to get a better view of him, sees how his shoulders have hunched, how he has balled himself up in his gloom and distrust. He is barely five but already he carries his moods like an adolescent. At the zoo, where they were visiting, he fell into a sulk over a trinket David refused him at the gift shop, and now he will roll this new, larger hurt into the old one, each lending weight to the other. When did he become like this, so vigilant, so hungry for grievance?

    David knows he ought to say more about what has happened but is afraid that saying more will only raise the event's importance in the boy's mind. Will only make him more likely to...

About the Author-
  • NINO RICCI's first novel, Lives of the Saints, won the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, the SmithBooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the F.G. Bressani Prize and was made into a motion picture starring Sophia Loren. The novel was also a long-time national bestseller, and was followed by the highly acclaimed In a Glass House and Where She Has Gone, which was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. His bestselling novel Testament won the Trillium Book Award. His most recent novel The Origin of Species received the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction and the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction. In total, his novels have appeared on 9 Best Book lists, including The New York Times and England's Times Literary Supplement.

    Nino Ricci has also won the Betty Trask Award for Fiction (UK), The Winnifred Holtby Prize (UK) and the 1992 Prise Contrepoint Madrineaux (France). Nino Ricci was recently named the L.G. Pathy '56 Visiting Professor in Canadian Studies at Princeton University and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Windsor as well the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He has been recognized with the Order of Canada for his contributions to literature as a renowned author. He lives in Toronto.

Reviews-
  • The Globe and Mail "Undeniably compelling."
  • National Post "One of Ricci's most deeply felt novels . . . and one of his riskiest."
  • Toronto Star "Ricci's best work yet."
  • Winnipeg Free Press "Ricci's darkest and most disturbing fiction to date--and perhaps his most provocative. . . . Sleep quickly extends its central premise beyond its chilling dissection of the literal and particular insomnia of its protagonist, David Pace, to an indictment of the metaphorical, conflicted and collective drowsiness of an insomniac culture."
  • Montreal Gazette "Taut, grim and absorbing . . . I couldn't turn away. . . . Ricci . . . is a beautiful writer and a deft storyteller. On the wings of his graceful prose, the reader is carried forward and then back in time and then ahead again. Some sequences feel like dreams. I devoured the book in barely three sittings--and then read it again to savour his language."
  • NOW "Harrowing . . . Ricci is such a good writer that, as the narrative hurtles to its inexorable conclusion, he makes believable every bit of David's twisted logic. . . . And his descriptions of the run-ups to David's blackouts are hauntingly convincing."
  • CBC News (Manitoba) "Ricci has written a spare, tense novel that puts the reader in the . . . position of witness to Pace's dangerous dance on that thin tightrope. It is a dark but gripping read that does not let up."
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