Monday, February 13, 2006

Shooting fish in a barrel... and MISSING!

Look, I've been known to complain once or twice that Canadian fiction gets a bit of an easy ride by Canadian reviewers. On occasion, I've been peckish for a Canuck Dale Peck to appear out of nowhere.

So, I appreciate that Ryan Bigge gave meanness a try while reviewling Leah McLaren's The Continuity Girl in the Sunday Star. Unfortunately, Bigge just made a total friggin' fool of himself. Nice try.

Bigge begins by mentioning his favourite part of The Continuity Girl... THE FONT! Oh, snap! He must have spent a whole five seconds thinking that up. Later, he (ironically, unironically?) refers back to this font joke, calling it "the Electra zinger."

Moving on. "The Continuity Girl illuminates the limitations of my thesaurus," writes Bigge like he is one of those gifted kids in Grade 4. "Uber-lousy? Fifth-rate? Super-bad? None of above. There exists no English word that adequately describes the residuum, offal and drek that slosh through the pages of this novel." Ha, ha. Bigge actually used a thesaurus to compose that last sentence, I bet. I'm sure he came up with "uber-lousy" and "super-bad" on his own.

Etc., etc... It's all very obvious, "spoiled brat", yada yada. I suppose there is one original line: "McLaren is a provocative pool toy that is kept inflated only by the warm air of the chattering classes." I'll give points for that just because it takes some balls to compare a female author to an inflatable toy and get the Star to print it.

But, of course, if Bigge's whole point is that all that chattering has only made McLaren stronger, then why did he agree to review her book? And why do it in such a "provocative" way. See, it's you, Bigge, who is blowing that hot air! Into McLaren. And keeping her afloat. By blowing into her.

But really, when the lines you quote from a novel to show how bad it is are more interesting than your entire grrr-I'm-so-sassy review, you've lost. Lost completely. Having read Bigge's review, I have no good reason for thinking that The Continuity Girl is a bad book, but I have many good reasons for thinking Bigge is a small man. A good mean reviewer would have taken the book apart piece by piece, instead of writing a fifth-rate, uber-lousy stand-up act that falls down under its own logic.

And in truth, Leah McLaren and Rebecca Eckler are the only two Canadian writers who ever actually seem to come under any sort of attack... So, this Dale Peck act is not even that daring.

I dare someone to pan, I don't know, Ondaatje's next book or a something.

I dare you! Double dare you!


UPDATE: Paved says there's some sort of five-year feud between Bigge and McLaren. Clearly the most boring feud ever...

1 comment:

Muffy said...

Ryan Bigge might be a rotten reviewer, but The Continuity Girl IS a rotten book. I give McLaren credit for being very good at dialogue (all the years eavesdropping in women's washrooms for dirt for her column must have helped), but she spectacularly failed at creating a sympathetic character, and unless her obsession with minutiae was an ironic nod to her herione's profession, her narrative pacing shows a jarring lack of balance: one 24 hour period rated about 100 pages, blowing bubbles in the bath took about 400 words, and I skipped over the 5 pages of the old guy wanking; whereas the herione's only two real accomplishments - one work-related triumph and falling in love - were completely glossed over.