Tag Archives: Lynn Coady

Watching You Without Me: From Under a Rock

I finished reading Lynn Coady’s Watching You Without Me a day before Ontario shut down the schools and all the grocery stores sold out of flour and pasta sauce. So to say that my memory of its plot and import is foggy is… accurate. Because how could I be expected to remember anything without pasta sauce. Really.

But I am not going to forget to tell you that I did read Lynn Coady and that Watching You Without Me was only sort of okay. It follows a middle aged woman in small town east coast Canada (I assume? I actually can’t recall if the setting is named) as she returns to her childhood home following her mother’s death to spend a few weeks with her sister before moving her sister into an assisted living facility. The sister, Kelly, has some kind of – again unnamed or forgotten – cognitive disability and our protagonist arrives imagining, as she always has, that Kelly will move in to this facility. Enter the super creepy man, named…. maybe Tyler? something with a T? anyway, what unfolds is the gradual revelation of Tyler as a Super Creep/stalker/abuser and we the reader are taken along for the ride that is meant, I think, to explain how someone could find themselves wrapped up with such a predator without ever intending to be.

I persisted in reading it because it was the book I had available at the time and because reading inertia. It wasn’t great. Certainly not something that in a pandemic I’d suggest you go buy because your library is closed. Our protagonist makes weird choices (by that I mean they don’t feel consistent with her character), the plot line with Tyler seems to drag, the fraught relationship with the dead mother that is meant to be the emotional heart of the novel is never fleshed out well enough to be anything other than the Reference Point for Pain in the past, rather than something the reader identifies with, and the secondary characters all similarly lack complete design so read as either flat or inconsistent.

The good news is that I have started reading again, and am finding a new kind of balance in this [insert overused adjective about unprecedented, challenging, strange new normal] world and so expect I will be a more reliable correspondent in the coming weeks. And because I know all of you live online now, you could do worse than to send me a message with a suggestion for what catastrophe read I should order (or try to trade for!).

 

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Filed under Book I'll Forget I Read, Canadian Literature, Fiction

The Antagonist: What’s wrong with me?

toughguys-goon

So why didn’t I like Lynn Coady’s The Antagonist? Short-listed for the Giller Prize in 2012 and named as one of the best books of the year by Canadian papers The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and even Amazon, it seems like everyone else thought/thinks this is a terrific read. Is it because I don’t care much about hockey (with the exception of gold medal games and stanley cup finals?) and the book is – on a surface level at least – about the violence engendered in the sport? Is it because the experiments with form – shifting from straight epistolary to metafictional commentary on the purpose of narrative – were neither subtle nor reflective of content (I reveal my bias here that I like formal play best, and perhaps only, when the form compliments or challenges the content)? Perhaps it was because the long delayed climax and been so overly built-up, so assured of its own cataclysmic significance,  that when it finally arrived I read it as anticlimax and disappointment: this is it? this is what he’s delayed telling us? this is the source of so much shame? Or maybe it was simply that the experience of the narrator – an experience far removed from my own – was not offered or rendered in a way that invited empathy or connection, such that the distance between his experience and mine felt like that – distance – rather than as an opportunity to inhabit the skin and experience of someone else and in so doing to change my perception and reactions.

With all these complaints I should say that the novel does carefully and fully explore the consequence(s) of using the stories of others for our own purposes: the ways we can exploit one another’s histories and stories for our advantage without intending to perhaps, but just by using the stories as adage rather than as the complex, idiosyncratic experiences that they are.

This is all to say that I didn’t enjoy The Antagonist but it may be more my fault than that of the novel. Or it may just be a case where I disagree with the critical reception. Convince me otherwise – I promise to exploit your comments.

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Filed under Book I'll Forget I Read, Canadian Literature, Fiction, Prize Winner