Reviews

No One Knows

Michael Hayward

No one but George Bowering knows how much of No One (ECW Press) is based on actual autobiographical events and how much of it is simply self-indulgent twaddle. If I were forced to hazard a guess, I’d say that 7:3 was a reasonable estimate. No One is billed by the publisher as “The sequel to the sequel of Pinboy” (the 212 memoir which Geist reviewer Jill Mandrake suggested might be “George Bowering’s most provocative work”). No One is a series of late-in-life reminiscences told by a wandering painter/poet with a bit of a Kirk Douglas fixation who recounts his repeated attempts (à la Ulysses/Odysseus) to return “home” from his wanderings to some kind of shimmering Ithaca-substitute, where a long-suffering Penelope-like partner awaits. In having his narrator describe his literary/sexual misadventures, it feels at times as if Bowering strains to provoke. And you have to admit that it’s a convenient cover: take an unreliable narrator (“there is the possibility that I am making this all up. Or some of it”), add a few coy bits of post-modernist self-reference (“If we were fictional, the reader or viewer might feel as if he were reading or looking at pornography”), sprinkle a light dusting of classical and contemporary literary references over a (semi)autobiographical foundation, and you’ve got a useful foil against any accusations of objectification of women/bad taste. At times No One reads as if it had been typed with one hand, while the other hand was otherwise occupied: reviving and embellishing fond memories of previous liaisons and/or sexual fantasies. Will there be a further sequel to the sequel of Pinboy? No one knows.

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