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Thirty-fourth Issue
Volume 14, No. 2

..where to find the mrb

The Mrb Is Available At The Following Locations:


By Eric Boodman

The Anatomy Of Clay
By Abby Paige

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children / Mobilizing The Will To Intervene: Leadership To Prevent Mass Atrocities
By Aparna Sanyal


Bats Or Swallows
Reviewed by Taylor Tower

Lives: Whole And Otherwise
Reviewed by Rosel Kim

Reviewed by Kimberly Bourgeois

Spat The Dummy
Reviewed by Ian McGillis

The Obituary
Reviewed by Anna Leventhal

Three Deaths
Reviewed by Rob Sherren


Bad Animals: A Father’s Accidental Education In Autism
Reviewed by Leila Marshy

Making Waves: The Continuing Portuguese Adventure
Reviewed by Joni Dufour

The Republic Of Therapy
Reviewed by Sarah Fletcher

Writing In The Time Of Nationalism: From Two Solitudes To Blue Metropolis
Reviewed by Gregory J. Reid

You Could Lose An Eye: My First 80 Years In Montreal
Reviewed by Joel Yanofsky

non-fiction at a glance

Eeyou Istchee: Land Of The Cree/terre Des Cris
Reviewed by Carol Katz

The Origin Of A Person
Reviewed by Prosenjit Dey Chaudhury


Blood Is Blood
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Hard Feelings
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Poets And Killers
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Song Of The Taxidermist
Reviewed by Bert Almon

The Collected Books Of Artie Gold
Reviewed by Bert Almon

The Truth Of Houses
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Where We Might Have Been
Reviewed by Bert Almon

the mile end café

The October Crisis, 1970 An Insider’s View/trudeau's Darkest Hour, War Measures In Time Of Peace, October 1970
Reviewed by Mélanie Grondin

the mrb cartoon

Image By Jean-philippe Marcotte

young readers

Captured: The Divided Realms Series, Book 1
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Into The Mist: The Story Of The Empress Of Ireland
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Milo: Sticky Notes And Brain Freeze
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Noni Says No
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Raffi’s New Friend
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Scaredy Squirrel Has A Birthday Party
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Today, Maybe
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Without You
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

The Obituary
Gail Scott
paper 168 pp.
Coach House Books ISBN 9781552452332

The Obituary
I Eating Steamé Buns

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New Document It takes a long time to read The Obituary, the eighth book from acclaimed writer Gail Scott, considering it’s a mere stripling of 162 pages. It’s a question of density, partly, but also of shifting gears – you might need to enter this book slowly, as you would a cold lake. Gail Scott trades lyricism for a language chopped, excised, and expurgated: words are stricken from the text, fragments hop like fleas, letters drop like flies. The syntax favours the inelegant, breathless present-progressive and long unbroken lines like commands spewed from a computer:
Yesterday, riding bicycle down sidewalk, past deserted bank building, sticking middle finger straight up in fuck-you sign a former prime minister making famous. I liking best when he wearing fringed jacket + paddling a canoe.

It’s tempting to call it prose poetry and leave it at that, but there is something else going on here, beyond experiment for experiment’s sake. What purpose, then, does such overt stylization serve?

As Umberto Eco points out in the afterword of The Name of the Rose, “writing means constructing, through the text, one’s own model reader.” While Eco putatively spends a hundred pages preparing his reader for the rest of the book, Scott takes about five. After that, a kind of jouissance sets in as you adjust to The Obituary’s particular rhythms, tones, and shifts of voice; you swim willingly through the pages, creating meaning as you go.

The Obituary (sort of and mostly) follows Rosine, a woman spiralling around the “central” question of her identity as a mixed-race aboriginal in a city and culture that demand adherence to yes or no. It’s a richly embodied text, erotically charged and scatological in a Genet-esque way – someone is always “letting go noisy rush of mephitic air” and there are more cracks than a St. Henri sidewalk. Rosine herself is not simply an unreliable narrator; she’s an amalgam of several questionable speakers, each with its own longings, obsessions, and shames. One is a footnoting historian, another is a woman both on the move and at rest, and a third, observing everything like the proverbial fly on the wall, is actually a fly on the wall. Here the style is confronta- tional, challenging ideas of who/where/when is telling the story, and the struck-out words suggest not so much the work of an editor as the work of the internal censor, that super-egotistical beast forever making us say what we don’t mean, and vice versa.

Alongside this nuanced and obsessive prodding of identity and narration, the novel’s strongest feature is its portrayal of Montreal at the beginning of the third millennium. Scott plays with the signal-to-noise ratio to create a literary vision of contemporary urban life, a highly experiential street-level tour that is the real payout of the novel’s stylistic wager. It’s a glorious, gritty, clattering, and chugging paean to a city where everything has (at least) two meanings; who here hasn’t riffed, punned, or played on a street sign whose name suggests an awkward transliteration, or coined a Franglais bon mot? The book captures Montreal in a series of View-Master slides that click, overlap, and spill over with places, smells, bits of conversation, joualisms, crumbs of steamé buns, and the associative synaesthesia of living in a city.

In some ways, The Obituary recalls Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, another novel of hybrid identities, mixed and crooked tongues, whose very title hinges on a slipped consonant. Like Diaz, Scott is attuned to the losses of migration, and to the hauntings and possessions we risk in unearthing family histories. But she is also sensitive to the elusive joy of reclaiming some part of one’s sad, broken, painful, messed-up legacy. It’s a thoroughly twenty-first century novel – equal parts liberating and disturbing in its treatment of the modern subject.

Anna Leventhal is a writer living in Montreal.