In­vol­un­tary Bliss

Broken Pencil - - Book Reviews -

Devon Code, 170 pgs, Book­thug book­ $20

Set in Mon­treal’s Plateau neigh­bour­hood, In­vol­un­tary Bliss ex­plores three men’s friend­ship and the ef­fect of a sud­den death. The un­named nar­ra­tor is vis­it­ing his friend James over a week­end. The pair spends their time rem­i­nisc­ing, dis­cussing their de­parted mu­tual friend War­ren and a Peru­vian novella they’ve read. De­spite the sim­plic­ity of the plot, there’s a lot go­ing on in the text.

My main draw to this book was the set­ting, hav­ing just vis­ited Le Plateau this win­ter and want­ing to re-live the trip through the book. It did de­liver in this right, as Code pro­vides won­der­fully de­tailed, lyric de­scrip­tions of the streets and Mount Royal where the two friends spend some time. It’s a pleas­ant back­drop for a com­plex book, es­pe­cially if you’ve vis­ited.

James’ sto­ries flow air­ily through­out the novel, ex­plain­ing to the nar­ra­tor — and thus, the reader — what he’s go­ing through and why. The novel seems to con­tin­u­ously knock at the door of teach­ing some kind of les­son but you’re al­ways just a few steps behind, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to really fig­ure out. This sense of short­com­ing, in essence, is the point of the novel. James’ nar­ra­tive is easy to get caught up in be­cause of its ram­bling na­ture. It’s really the style that saves the novel, oth­er­wise it could eas­ily fall un­der the “bor­ing rich white boy ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis” cat­e­gory of fic­tion, which is really hard to care about. Code ma­nip­u­lates the text in a re­mark­able, thought­ful way, and makes it en­joy­able rather than pre­ten­tious. (Sid­ney Dr­may)

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