Sunday, June 17, 2012

Reading Journal: The Antagonist, by Lynn Coady

A worthy finalist for the Giller Prize, no question, Coady's novel displays writing as vicious and vulnerable as the protagonist she creates: Gordon "Rank" Rankin, a former hockey enforcer who is repeatedly emailing erstwhile best friend Adam, who wrote a novel seemingly based on Rank's life. In particular, the first hundred pages are bilious and exciting, as Rank rails against Adam and begs that he be accurately represented. And though my interest tailed off a bit when Rank started to write his own corrective novel, in a way it was a tour de force on Coady's part to write in the person of someone writing an overly emotional draft. From time to time, it seemed that there was a writerly intelligence beyond Rank's holding the pen, and part of me thought that we would eventually hear from Adam, but the choice to alternate between the "I" voice addressing Adam via email and the third-person-narrated novel bits Rank was emailing to him was compelling enough, telling a clearly two-sided story well from only one interested party. Plus, dozens of Coady's finer brushstrokes come together for big cumulative effects in the end. In all, an excellent Canadian novel.

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