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The Antagonist
by Lynn Coady

Overview -

A piercing epistolary novel, "The Antagonist "explores, with wit and compassion, how the impressions of others shape, pervert, and flummox both our perceptions of ourselves and our very nature.
Gordon Rankin Jr., aka "Rank," thinks of himself as "King Midas in reverse"--and indeed misfortune seems to follow him at every turn.  Read more...


 
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More About The Antagonist by Lynn Coady
 
 
 
Overview

A piercing epistolary novel, "The Antagonist "explores, with wit and compassion, how the impressions of others shape, pervert, and flummox both our perceptions of ourselves and our very nature.
Gordon Rankin Jr., aka "Rank," thinks of himself as "King Midas in reverse"--and indeed misfortune seems to follow him at every turn. Against his will and his nature, he has long been considered--given his enormous size and strength--a goon and enforcer by his classmates, by his hockey coaches, and, not least, by his "tiny, angry" father. He gamely lives up to their expectations, until a vicious twist of fate forces him to flee underground. Now pushing forty, he discovers that an old, trusted friend from his college days has published a novel that borrows freely from the traumatic events of Rank's own life. Outraged by this betrayal and feeling cruelly misrepresented, he bashes out his own version of his story in a barrage of e-mails to the novelist that range from funny to furious to heartbreaking.
With "The Antagonist," Lynn Coady demonstrates all of the gifts that have made her one of Canada's most respected young writers. Here she gives us an astonishing story of sons and fathers and mothers, of the rewards and betrayals of male friendship, and a large-spirited, hilarious, and exhilarating portrait of a man tearing his life apart in order to put himself back together.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780307961358
  • ISBN-10: 0307961354
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Publish Date: January 2013
  • Page Count: 285


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Family Life
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-12-03
  • Reviewer: Staff

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)

 
BookPage Reviews

Fiction too true to life

A wise man once wrote that the pen is mightier than the sword. Unfortunately, the reluctant protagonist of The Antagonist has never considered himself a wise man. Having spent most of his life being valued for his brawn, not his brains, it is a bitter pill to swallow when Gordon Rankin (or “Rank,” as he prefers to be called) discovers that an erstwhile university friend has published a successful novel featuring a hulking goon of a character whose backstory overlaps rather alarmingly with Rank’s own biography. Incensed and aggrieved by this unlicensed pilfering of his life story, Rank starts up a correspondence with the man he once thought of as a brother in an attempt to set the record straight—and perhaps even right some wrongs in the process.

In the tradition of Canadian literary greats such as Robertson Davies, Edmonton author Lynn Coady has created a spirited—sometimes spiritual—tale about growing up that is truly larger than life. Coady’s rendering of individual characters is lively, but particularly impressive is her knack for nailing the interpersonal dynamics, whether between mother and son, father and son, or young college students trying to find their way in the world. Also remarkable is how keenly Coady evokes her homeland: The book is undeniably and unabashedly Canadian. Yet one does not require any special knowledge of our neighbors to the north in order to identify with Rank’s journey to self-acceptance, or appreciate his discovery that, in life, we are each of us authors of our own story.

A finalist for Canada’s Giller Prize, The Antagonist is a rich and nuanced novel about growing older and wiser that transcends borders and holds universal appeal.

 
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