Metro Reco: Mean Boy
I stumbled upon Lynn Coady’s Mean Boy, a perfect read for an English major about to start grad school. I think you might like it too.
Earnest Larry Campbell is a young poet from a working class family in PEI. Larry, (or Lawrence as he prefers to be called), goes to a small university in New Brunswick to study poetry under his idol, the talented and enigmatic Jim Arsenault. To Larry’s delight and astonishment, Jim befriends him and soon he’s Jim’s confidant. Along with a cast of fawning English students, they go drinking together, debate about poetry, commit pranks, and when Jim is turned down for tenure, Larry leads a campaign to convince the school to reconsider. However, as Larry becomes aware of Jim’s neediness and insecurity, his naivety and idealism begin to erode.
Mean Boy is a satirical look at academia and writing. Professors ruthlessly attack each other’s work. Larry experiments with drugs to enhance his poetry, a la Coleridge, producing “The Ass of My Head”. Mean Boy also explores the difficulty in being objective about creative work, especially one’s own.
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. Lynn Coady lives in Edmonton.