Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Good Body

An inspired blend of hockey and Canlit that makes you wonder why such an obvious combo hasn't been tried before.

Bobby Bonaduce has laboured 20 years in the minors, the high point of his career being a single shift with the Maple Leafs. Or perhaps it's a low point, for in that short span he speared an opponent's spleen, got into three fights, pushed a linesman, spit at a fan, and knocked off a cop's hat.

Now with his career over, he's heading north to reconnect with his son Jason, who is playing hockey for UNB in Fredericton. He bluffs his way into the graduate program for creative writing in the hope that he'll be able to join the team.

This makes for some great comic moments on and off the ice. Bonaduce is predictably disdainful of works like "Lady Windermere's fucking Fan" and at sea in seminars like "Canadian Writers of the British Diaspora," the first hour of which is spent defining "Britain."

The writing has a distinctive rhythm and tone, and offers up some cool observations.

Hockey have the puck and you're lugging a bag of gold to market surrounded by fast bandits.


Reading her novel, he'd felt a shovel-the-snow kinship to Atwood, though her tough-shit sharpness made him nervous; and to Davies, though he was a stuffed shirt. But you could tell they'd both shovelled driveways.

Grad school

This was pretty good, gift as a verb, one of the better ones in the new language he'd been learning here. Other verbs he didn't like so much. Dialogue. Let's dialogue. Hell, why not get Sally and trialogue. Eight of us at Murray's lousy party, octaloguing away.

He went to the bathroom, to urine.

The ex-wife

Her eyes, her bright eyes. You looked in and saw she was smarter than you but also that this wasn't a bad thing. You could also see how she felt her body to be not quite hers, or not quite her. She could hold her body at arm's length. You could see she respected her body, but also that she saw it to be a kind of playground.

The book is filled with likeable characters save for a roommate with a withered arm. But perhaps Toby and Bobby are intended as doppelgangers, as both are afflicted with a physical disability that gives an ironic twist to the book's title. The image of Bonaduce driving around with a dead Christmas tree on the roof of his car is a telling one. It's clear from the start that the book can only end one way, but funny and sad make for a powerful combination.

Hockey Lit

A good companion to this book is a more recent one by Gaston, Midnight Hockey, a non-fiction work in which he mentions his own hockey career.

You can also check out this review by Angie Abdou. Her novel, The Bone Cage, was defended by former NHL enforcer, Georges Laraque, in the CBC's 2011 Canada Reads event.

Two other hockey novels I have enjoyed: King Leary and Salvage Kings, Ya!