Timothy Irving Frederick Findley became one of the most prominent Canadian novelists of his generation. He was educated in Toronto, and in 1953 he worked at the first Stratford Shakespearean Festival, studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and received a contract as an actor with H. M. Tennant. After touring in Europe and in the United States until 1956 he worked for the next six years in various capacities in the Canadian theater and for Canadian television and radio. In 1962 he decided to devote himself primarily to his writing, an interest he first pursued seriously in off-hours while on tour with H. M. Tennant.
In 1967 Findley published his first novel, The Last of the Crazy People. The work concerns eleven-year-old Hooker Winslow’s attempt to understand the very debilitating psychological problems that afflict the other members of his well-to-do Canadian family and that isolate him emotionally from them. Driven to madness himself over the course of a long, particularly hot summer, he determines that the most merciful thing he can do for his family is to shoot them dead. Reviewers generally responded enthusiastically, viewing the novel as a sort of Canadian adaptation of the Southern gothic tradition represented in the works of writers such as Truman Capote and Carson McCullers.
Findley’s second novel, The Butterfly Plague, was less enthusiastically received, partly because its use of symbolism seemed heavy-handed. The title refers to a plague of monarch butterflies that is the most central of many sharply imaged phenomena providing a linkage between the narrow story of a Southern California family cursed with hemophilia and the broader backdrop of pre-World War II tensions in Europe in 1938. The novel nevertheless exhibits the same techniques—including multiple narrative voices, cinematic episodes, and incorporation of historical figures and events—that mark Findley’s more successful subsequent novels.
In the early 1970’s Findley wrote many scripts for Canadian television and radio dramas. His radio play The Journey won the Armstrong Award in 1971, and he received similar awards for the...
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