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Source: University of New Brunswick - Fredericton

Author Lynn Coady to read at UNB Saint John

October 12, 2006

October 12, 2006
UNB Saint John News Release: 06-181
Patty O'Brien, Information Officer (506) 648-5707

Author Lynn Coady will read from her novel Mean Boy on Monday, October 23 at
7 pm in the Hazen Hall Lecture Theatre as part of the Lorenzo Reading Series
at the University of New Brunswick Saint John.

Lynn Coady is the author of the novels, Strange Heaven (1998) and Saints of
Big Harbour (2002), both of which are set in Cape Breton, and the short
story collection Play the Monster Blind (2000). Strange Heaven, which was
shortlisted for a Governor-General’s Award, won the City of Dartmouth Award
and The Atlantic Provinces Booksellers’ Choice Award. The Observer (London)
remarked the "assured characterization" of Saints of Big Harbour, a novel
that appeared on The Globe and Mail Best Book list in 2002. Coady, who lives
in Edmonton, is also a playwright and journalist.

In Mean Boy, Lynn Coady introduces us to Lawrence Campbell, a 1970s young
man who "‘is gonna save Canadian poetry.’" Told from the perspective of an
undergraduate would-be poet attending the fictional Westcock University in
New Brunswick, the story feels immediate and personal. Larry is the kind of
guy who would never hang himself in the English Department's stairwell
because "it's been done," and who considers making tea "a kind of
sacrament." Rejecting the future available to him – working at his PEI
parents' roadside motel – and enduring the admonitions of a family fearful
he will turn into something they don't recognize, he embarks on a course of
study with his poet-hero, Jim Arsenault. Young Lawrence is a decent boy
whose idea of poetry comes close to idealization; his admiration of
Arsenault approximates worship. Coady's narrative follows Larry as he
discovers that poetic genius can sometimes have a dark side; that the world
of Byron and Keats can have more in common with high school and all its
attendant cliques and hijinks than the pursuit of truth and beauty. When he
is denied a chance at tenure, Jim Arsenault, bane of the Westcock English
Department, feels persecuted by the head of the department, Dr. Sparrow. As
Jim takes out his frustrations on a green ottoman and a couch, Larry sees
his chance to get close to him, the possibility of acquiring the great Jim
Arsenault for a mentor, of being accepted by his hero: He will fight the
establishment for Jim; he will fight dogma and the men who pronounce it
"lit-ret-chaw." He and his classmates begin collecting names in support of
Arsenault's tenure. The ensuing battle with Jim's enemies is devastatingly
instructive. Larry must reconcile what Jim is with what Jim writes. In his
crusade, Larry is accompanied by the fascinating characters who fill
Arsenault's creative writing class. There's Todd, who writes rhyming poetry
and is angry "about everything … the world for him is like a scratchy tag on
a sweater"; the wide-eyed Sherrie, who doesn't look like she writes poetry
at all and who is mostly influenced by the "bunch of Margarets" in Canadian
poetry; the seemingly uptight, turtleneck-wearing Claude, and Charles
Slaughter, a massive man, who dabbles in drugs, doesn't care a whit for
poetry, and whose behaviour echoes the chaos around him. Larry's tale moves
forward, meanders back, as he recounts their collective efforts to support
and inspire the department, the student body, each other. The narrative,
like crystals falling in a snow-globe, inevitably and superbly drifts to its
climax through a fuzzy haze of drinking parties, snowstorms, betrayals, and
family squabbles.

The reading is hosted by The Lorenzo Society and the UNB Saint John
Bookstore, and supported by The Canada Council for the Arts. Admission is
free and all are welcome to attend. For more information contact The
University Bookstore at (506) 648-5540 or e-mail

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