Mean Boy

Mean Boy

Book - 2006
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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.
Publisher: Toronto : Doubleday Canada, 2006.
ISBN: 9780385659758
038565975X
Branch Call Number: COA
Characteristics: 382 p.

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CurlyHead
Apr 27, 2015

So funny, so good. This book reminded of my undergraduate days studying English, and the strange dynamic that can exist between student and professor. One of my favourite books ever.

CousinRachel Sep 11, 2012

A sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking story of a young man navigating his way through the egos and follies of academia and coming to terms with what happens when we see our heroes are as flawed at we are.
At first I was surprised by the abrupt ending, which was really no ending at all....now I see it as a metaphor for the life of a young man with his whole future before him - a mystery.

g
gailygirl
Sep 15, 2007

For some reason, I find this book to be immediately apparently Canadian - and I'm not sure what I mean by that. But you know how you can just tell when a television program was produced in Canada? I had the same reaction to this book. It is extremely well-written and at times laugh-out-loud hilarious. Set in a small-town university in New Brunswick, this will appeal to anyone who has been an undergraduate, tried to write poetry, idolized a prof, or even thought very hard about the meaning of life and what "success" means. I was disappointed in the ending - I thought she needed about 30 more pages.

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