The Incident Report

The Incident Report

A Novel

Book - 2009
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In a Toronto library, home to the mad and the marginalized, notes appear, written by someone who believes he is Rigoletto, the hunchbacked jester from Verdi's opera. Convinced that the young librarian, Miriam, is his daughter, he promises to protect her from grief. Little does he know how much loss she has already experienced; or does he? The Incident Report, both mystery and love story, daringly explores the fragility of our individual identities. Strikingly original in its structure, comprised of 140 highly distilled, lyric reports, the novel depicts the tensions between private and public storytelling, the subtle dynamics of a socially exposed workplace. The Incident Report is a novel of gestures, one that invites the reader to be astonished by the circumstances its characters confront. Reports on bizarre public behaviour intertwine with reports on the private life of the novel's narrator. Shifting constantly between harmony and dissonance, elegant in its restraint and excitingly contemporary, The Incident Report takes the pulse of our fragmented urban existence with detachment and wit, while a quiet tragedy unfolds.
Publisher: Toronto : Pedlar Press, ©2009
ISBN: 9781897141250
Branch Call Number: FIC Baillie M
Characteristics: 195 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


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IndyPL_SteveB Dec 22, 2018

Miriam, a 35-year-old Toronto (Canada) public library employee, deals with her confused life and with her sanity-challenged library patrons in the same way – she writes “incident reports”. Miriam’s incident reports are more like diary entries, as she tries to find an order to her own life. Many of the descriptions of mentally disturbed library patrons appear to be directly from observation. They certainly are emblematic of the kinds of situations we have dealt with many times as public librarians. There is both humor and sadness in these situations as the library staff figure out how to deal with each problem.

The style seems flat at first; but as incident report after incident report pile up, the pace quickens and the book is hard to put down. However, that unresolved, incomplete ending frustrated me, as it apparently did several other readers. It makes it hard to fully recommend the book.

Aug 07, 2016

Most of this book is poetry masquerading as prose. No matter, it's utterly unique, whatever you name it. Baillie recounts a host of bizarre "incidents" at the library where she works, involving a number of very strange "patrons" many of them clearly nuts, others just lost souls. Some are hilarious, some simply droll while others are sad and pitiful. Meanwhile Miriam, the narrator lets us into her developing relationship with Janko, an immigrant who, unable to make a living from his talent as an artist, drives a taxi.
Baillie's prose is often breathtakingly poignant; her flat observations of events without any commentary are starkly compelling. And her evocation of the process of grieving (Incident Report 131) is surely the most heart-wrenching of any that I've encountered.

Jan 27, 2014

I very much enjoyed the glimpses of library life and the various patrons, but was irritated that the Rigoletto mystery was never solved. Emotion is held at more than arm's length here, too - not a lot is given up to the reader. The word "pretentious" springs to mind.... A quick read, a peculiar "novel", and I agree with the poster, below, who said the ending was unsatisfying.

Nov 05, 2011

interesting foundation, but a disappointing ending

Cdnbookworm Mar 16, 2011

This novel has an intriguing format. With the narrator, Miriam, an employee of the Public Libraries of Toronto, in the Allan Gardens branch, the book begins with a form used by the library to report on incidents that take place in the library. The rest of the book is in the form of short (sometimes very short) incident reports that consist of descriptions of events that take place in the library, in her personal life, or in her past. It was a very different way to tell a story and yet it worked in a very good way. The short sections made it easy to change scenes, introduce new characters and emphasize certain events.
Of course, as a librarian, I could also relate to some of the strange encounters one has with patrons, and the rewarding ones. A very interesting read with a few surprises along the way.

ontherideau Jan 23, 2010

Novel about a Toronto librarian who writes the concurrent story of incidents at the library and incidents in her love life.
The first few pages were interesting but that was it for me.

Jan 15, 2010

Miriam Gordon, a 35-year-old library assistant at the Allan Gardens branch of Toronto Public Library, records interactions with patrons in brief incident reports. If you're in the mood for something different - amusing and perplexing and charming - give this a go. I loved it.

Oct 17, 2009

Emotion wells up quickly from the supposedly dry and clinical reports of day-to-day occurrences at a downtown Toronto library. Written by a frustrated and depressed but conscientious young woman, the ostensible reports trace both fond and troubled memories from her childhood, and bring her to the awakening and possibilities of happiness in her present life. Longlisted for the 2009 Giller Prize, Baillie's novel is populated by fleeting but poignant portraits of people finding solace and sanctuary in books and libraries. The book weaves humour, sadness, longing, romance, suspense, menace and more in a compact and compelling form.

Sep 23, 2009

Pity poor Martha Baillie. She’s written an innovative short novel that’s both laugh-out-loud funny and emotionally compelling, and got herself on the 2009 Giller Longlist. Will it make her rich? No, sir, it will not. That’s because Martha’s novel is about a librarian, and her encounters with her library’s more eccentric customers. What does this mean to you, gentle library patron? It means that every librarian in the country will borrow this before you can get your hands on it, and the one copy the library has will be dog-eared and tattered when you finally get it, several years after the Toronto Maple Leafs win another Stanley Cup. It’s worth the wait, but you might want to do poor Martha a favour and pony up the 21 clams to buy it instead.

tomato Sep 05, 2009

This will be especially interesting to those who work in libraries, and deal with oddities every day.


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