Recipe for Hate

Broken Pencil - - Book Reviews -

Recipe for Hate is a novel set in 1978 Port­land, Maine, which is billed as a “fes­ter­ing crap hole by the sea.” It tells the story of the X gang, a group of high school punks liv­ing in “the sub­ur­ban splen­dor” of South Port­land, whose “bland sa­tanic mono­cul­ture” inspires the mu­sic they cre­ate in a series of in­ter­con­nected punk bands.

The book is nar­rated by Kurt Blank whose best friend is X: the mys­te­ri­ous de facto leader of the X gang. X pro­duces an un­der­ground in­die news bulletin, fights back against the “punk-hat­ing jocks,” and con­sid­ers the use of his real name too in­ti­mate. When their friends are mur­dered, the gang comes un­der at­tack from neo-nazis, the es­tab­lish­ment, and the me­dia, leav­ing them with a dual-mis­sion to save the Port­land punk scene and solve the mur­ders be­fore they are next.

While Kin­sella sets up the novel’s char­ac­ters with many po­ten­tially juicy plot pos­si­bil­i­ties,, such as Kurt be­ing gay, the punks be­ing hunted down by racist far­right zealots, and the fact that the mur­ders are im­bued with re­li­gious sym­bol­ism, he re­peat­edly takes the easy way out. And it fails to pack an emo­tional punch for the reader. The book’s char­ac­ter and sit­u­a­tional de­vel­op­ment brings the novel closer to a piece of re­portage than an emo­tion­ally sat­is­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Nev­er­the­less, the splashes of Toronto and other places in Canada thrown into the novel give a nice touch of home. More­over, the book does a lot to ex­plain the early punk and in­die mu­sic scene, pro­vid­ing the reader with in­ter­est­ing and po­etic philo­soph­i­cal mus­ings on it through­out. For ex­am­ple, in his bulletin, X writes, “[p]unk is about try­ing to scratch out some mean­ing in a big old world that seems pretty mean­ing­less, most days.” While Kurt ob­serves that “[w]e fig­ured that no mat­ter how much you wanted peace and love across the uni­verse, hate and war was all that was cur­rently avail­able.” Thus, the novel is rec­om­mended for read­ers in­ter­ested in the punk scene, clashes with the far right, or a teen mys­tery. (Fiona Raye Clarke)

Warren Kin­sella, Dun­durn Press, dun­durn.com, $14.99

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