The Antagonist

Lynn Coady. Knopf, $25.95 (304 p) ISBN 978-0-307-96135-8
Canadian author Coady’s new novel (after Mean Boy) is composed of letters from Gordon Rankin Jr. to his university pal Adam, a correspondence that began when “Rank” recognized a less-than-flattering portrayal of himself in Adam’s recent novel. Angry at seeing his life story pilfered for a forgettable novel—make that angry at his life—the almost 40-year-old Rank begins e-mailing Adam. His rancor turns into an odd epistolary autobiography, covering his early years in a small town in Canada and his aborted college career, both periods when he got into trouble for violence. (Rank is “genetically blessed” with size.) The prose is sharp and very funny, and some of the characters, particularly Rank’s father, Gord, a bitter failure of a man, are deftly etched. Coady is an ambitious writer, exploring themes of masculinity, religion, and the perils and promise of the fictional enterprise, and her decision to write from the male perspective is brave and successful. But the plot often meanders and the handling of narrative perspectives creates formal questions that are never answered. (At times, a third-person “omnipotent narrator,” either the author or someone else with access and hindsight, takes over Rank’s first-person duties.) Still, the pathos and humor brought to a challenging life story will appeal to many readers. (Jan. 25)
Reviewed on: 12/03/2012
Release date: 01/22/2013
Open Ebook - 353 pages - 978-1-77089-042-8
Paperback - 285 pages - 978-0-345-80251-4
Open Ebook - 190 pages - 978-0-307-96136-5
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