Earnest, small-town Lawrence Campbell is fascinated by his poetry professor, the charismatic and uncompromising Jim Arsenault. Larry is determined to escape a life of thrifty drudgery and intellectual poverty working for his parents' motel and mini-golf business on Prince Edward Island. Jim appears to the young poet as a beacon of authenticity - mercurial, endlessly creative, fearless in his confrontations with the forces of conformity. And he drinks a lot.
Jim's magnetic personality soon draws Larry's entire poetry composition class into his orbit. Among the other literary acolytes are Sherrie Mitten, with her ringletted blonde hair and guileless blue eyes, the turtlenecked, urbane Claude who writes villanelles, and the champion of rhyming couplets about the heroic struggles of the Maritime proletariat, Todd. Casting a huge shadow over the group is the varsity football player and recreational drug user Chuck Slaughter - titanically strong, capriciously violent, hilariously indifferent to the charms of the poetic life - who has nearly given up terrifying Larry in order to pursue an awkward romantic interest in Sherrie.
Drawn by ambition and fascination, the group assembles itself fawningly around Jim, tagging along to bars, showing up at readings, thrilled to be invited to Jim's home, a shambling farmhouse in the woods where he lives with Moira, his shrewish backwoods muse. Lost in adulation, Larry is so delighted to be singled out for Jim's attention that he does not pause to wonder what Jim expects from his increasingly close relationship with the young poet.
Closely observed and deeply funny, Mean Boy tells the story of Larry's year-long battle against the indiscriminate use of quotation marks in advertising and his disillusionment as his narcissistic, hard-drinking idol spins out of control and threatens to take the young man's cherished notions about art and poetry down with him. Mean Boy is Lynn Coady's most polished and ambitious work to date.
Lynn Coady was nominated for the 1998 Governor General’s Award for Fiction for her first novel, Strange Heaven. She received the Canadian Author’s Association/Air Canada Award for the best writer under thirty and the Dartmouth Book and Writing Award for fiction. Her second book, Play the Monster Blind, was a national bestseller and a Best Book of 2000 for The Globe and Mail; Saints of Big Harbour, also a bestseller, was a Globe and Mail Best Book in 2002. Her articles and reviews have appeared in several publications including Saturday Night, This magazine, and Chatelaine. Lynn Coady lives in Edmonton.
From the Hardcover edition.
A GLOBE & MAIL BEST BOOK OF 2006
"Mean Boy will make you laugh out loud."
-The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)
"Mean Boy is catchy and imaginative, harrowing, yet richly humourous, a rewarding piece of fiction from one of Canada's most original writers."
-The London Free Press
"The atmosphere Coady evokes is pungently realistic, bolstered by hilarious set-piece scenes…. Mean Boysucceeds as a wonderful portrait of a university town and university life, from the high jinks of students intent on accumulating experience to the pontifical evasions and suggestions of well-meaning professors…. Coady's portrayal of the jealous tenuousness of friendship, the in-fighting and fierce competitions of the literary world is daring and brilliant… And Coady's skill as a parodist and prose writer far surpasses poetic pretension. Mean Boy is a tour de force."
-The Globe and Mail
"Mean Boy is above all a solid and comical page-turner."
"You don't have to be a creative writer to in order to appreciate Coady's skill as a humorist… [Her] writing is tight and fast-paced, and she depicts the dynamics among her characters… with a sure hand… An unflinching writer… Coady has created yet another impressive work of fiction" -Toronto Star
"Coady has hit on a vigorous subject in Mean Boy…. [she] renders all this with glee, in a series of set pieces that rambunctiously capture an age - the mid-'70s - when Canadian literature had more practitioners than readers…. Fun."
br /> "Superb… both central characters are utterly memorable and, well, hilarious. A coming-of-age novel, Mean Boy will make you laugh…. [Coady] is a storyteller with a wry comic sense and a wonderfully satirical touch."
-Edmonton Journal (CanWest News Service)
"Coady explores the sometimes uneasy relationship between art and academia… with a polish and razor-sharp wit that takes no prisoners…. With its polished and authentic writing, Mean Boy is guaranteed to garner attention at this year's major book awards. If somehow you've missed Coady's earlier work, start right now with this one."
"Mean Boy is a wonderfully savage rip on the world of academia where professor-poets backstab, students write puerile poetry… and tenure is granted or denied by succintly portrayed stuffed shirts. If you have ever taken a creative writing course, you will alternately laugh, cry and blush. For those of you not conversant with the bad boys of poetry, hang on and simply enjoy."
-The Sun Times (Owen Sound)
"This is a brilliant book, a probing and often hilarious satire of the pretensions of university life and the elitist posturing of poetic genius."
-Books in Canada