Since my review of Yann Martel’s novel Self (Knopf) in Geist No. 21, I have retrieved it from my bedside table and read it to the end. It’s an attractive hardcover with a creamy yellow sleeve and the story, which stumped me at first, enthralled me when I continued where I left off. The way the character is initiated into sex, academics, travel, work and love is moving and often amusingly perceptive. I was so transported into her world that I thought about her even when I wasn’t reading the story, and when it came, the much-discussed ending jarred me as it was meant to. Self is worth pursuing past the sluggish part near the beginning; it is sure to win big literary prizes.
Speaking of jarring but effective writing, Bud Osborn’s Lonesome Monsters (Anvil) successfully dramatizes the harsher side of urban life. This book, though it doesn’t break new ground in form or content, depicts the Main-and-Hastingses of North America in unpretentious and straightforward poems. The modesty with which each poem is constructed underscores the sadness and despair that their characters feel. Osborn’s sense of humour and his portraits of violence, exploitation and heartache, easy to overdo, survive my distaste for melodrama and even survive the text’s unflattering typeface. Apparently Osborn’s been writing for twenty-five years. Where has he been all this time?