The city that Charles Demers describes in Vancouver Special (Arsenal Pulp Press), also released in time for the Olympics, is hairier than Douglas Coupland’s city of the same name, and comes with grimy alleyways, a squalid past and suitably grainy black-and-white photographs that make it seem like there is little or no daylight in the Vancouver that Demers inhabits.
The text is marred by large block quotes taken from the routines of stand-up comics; these may have been funny live at Yuk Yuk’s but they’re much less so in print—in condensed bold caps, no less. But Demers explores his city thoroughly and readably; the result is textured and calls for lots of dipping- back-into; its proper audience is people who live in Vancouver, rather than visitors easily hypnotized by images in picture postcards. Demers can be windy, especially when he ascends (only rarely) into Theory with a capital T and gives in to the temptation to write, for example, of when “the narrative, emotive pull of the hegemon loses some of its power.”
He makes a strong claim for street pizza, especially the product found at Uncle Fatih’s on Broadway, but let the reader be warned against the advice of gourmands. For we have eaten the pizza at Fatih’s (after reading Vancouver Special) and we will not be eating it again.