Like some congenial Mad Hatter searching for guests to a tea party, a trip down the Rabbit Hole or a self-viewing in Alice’s mirror, C. P. Boyko takes some wickedly funny and entertaining pot-shots at the eccentricities and peccadilloes of almost everyone in the literary jungle, including, of course, novelists, whether published or never having put pen to paper. In his eight tales of social satire, writers will recognize their own shortcomings, or those of their colleagues, and readers will openly admit to what they have always known or at least suspected about the literati. So there’s something for everybody in Boyko’s literary banquet, and it’s well worth ingesting.
A master of understated humour, plausible absurdity and surprising non- sequiturs, Boyko is also an accomplished storyteller. His well-crafted story, “Sympathetic,” is edge-of-the seat gripping as a miserable old lady makes life a living Hell for the warm-hearted novelist whose automobile accidentally collided with the jaywalker and pulverized her walker. “The Hunting Party” spins out the tension of a naive young man surviving in a BC Interior forest until he finds his missing friends, but with totally surprising comic results, depending, of course, upon one’s point of view about hunting. Sometimes, the drama occurs with a married couple, each a novelist but the wife a workaholic, and the husband finding it “hard to think in ink,” hence the wife’s resulting determination not to “support his leisure with her work.”
In “The Word ‘Genius,’” novelist Malcolm Gawfler is the prototype of the misunderstood married novelist whose demands on his family for peace, quiet and admiration are so strong that his wife wishes he had chosen a less arduous career, “like a priest, or a soldier or a prison warden.”
The perils of Katherine from North Carolina, a thirty-four-year-old psychological novelist doing research for her novel alone in a foreign land are the stuff of the story, “The Language Barrier,” with its various humorous incidents of language misunderstandings that build towards its shock-and-awe ending.
The final story, “The Prize Jury,” allows Boyko the poetic licence to expose the panelists and systems for seconded novelists to award the Godskriva Prize for the best novel of all time. American Clint Lewis becomes jury chair, a position akin to shepherding a herd of cats as someone once said. For Lewis it’s an ideal position from which to campaign for novelist Dr. “Bruiser” Brownhoffer’s book Gravy Train with its lack of any trappings of the traditional novel such as plot, characters and punctuation. Those he must convince are one juror who has read none of the nominated novels, another who has read them all, one who is insane, one who has become drunk, others who do not speak English or French, and one who must communicate by a jerry-rigged, frequently failing telephone system. But each champions a favoured author from his or her own country. Boyko lays out their impassioned to- and-froing against the backstory of Brownhoffer’s comedy-of-errors rise to become a university professor with only one publication to his credit and a reputation as a tyrannical teacher whose only grade ever given was an “F.” In all, Boyko’s grade for Novelists is an A+. »
from subTerrain #69: Meat.