Tag Archives: Lynn Coady

6: Mean Boy

Mean BoyMean Boy by Lynn Coady

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the fall 2010 VPL book sale.

Read in January/February 2013.

View all my reviews

The protagonist of Mean Boy is Lawrence (formerly Larry) Campbell, age 19. He’s from Prince Edward Island and is attending Westcock University in New Brunswick. It’s 1975.

The title is ironic. On page 35, he says, “I am trying to be meaner these days…” The highlight of Lawrence’s university experience is the poetry class he’s taking with his hero, poet Jim Arsenault.

Lawrence uptalks, which distresses him. Jim calls him “Larry” which annoys him.

Jim has been denied tenure, much to Lawrence’s consternation (he would have gone to the University of Toronto if Jim hadn’t been at Westcock). He and some of the other students (Todd and Sherrie) in the poetry class decide to write a letter to the admin and get all the students to sign it. The petition feels like a transgressive act to Lawrence and Sherrie.

Meanwhile, there are student/prof drinking-parties at Jim’s house and a poetry reading by Dermot Schofield, Jim’s frenemy + fellow poet, which turns into a comedy of errors. Oh, an awesome subplot featuring Lawrence’s cousin Janet that turns out to be not what you think. Instead, Lawrence learns a lesson about distancing yourself from your family in order to be able to write about them.

In the end, everyone’s flaws are revealed.

I guessed that “Westcock” was actually Mount Allison and a quick search confirmed that supposition to be correct. And it turns out that the character of Jim Arsenault is based on real-life poet/Mount Allison prof John Thompson, which apparently cheesed off some people who knew him. Interesting.

I’ve read all of Lynn Coady’s books prior to this one (Strange Heaven, Play the Monster Blind, Saints of Big Harbour; her latest, The Antagonist, is on my shelf). I read Strange Heaven because it was lauded at the time, and while I thought it was good, I didn’t really get the upop. I had the same feeling with PtMB and SoBH. Good, but missing… something. imo. Obviously others thought they were perfect. But Mean Boy, Mean Boy I loved. The ending gets a little crazy (I can’t seem to escape drug-induced hazes in fiction of late) but I will forgive this because endings are hard.

More 55-cent Books

Books Read May – December 2005

The brevity of this list reminds me of how prolific a reader I used to be. In grade seven, my teacher had us start a list of books read at the back of one of our notebooks. I think it was more of a suggestion than an assignment because I don’t remember anyone else keeping up with it. But I did, and by the end of the school year, I had read ~120 books. I remember being so thrilled when I hit 100. Anyhow, the school year being approximately 10 months, that’s about 12 books / month. Or a book every 2.5 days.

Okay, so I can still read a book in two days. Or one, even. But these days I seem to spend a lot of my time reading Stuff That Is Not Books. Like blogs. Or submissions. 🙂

  1. Saints of Big Harbour by Lynn Coady n
  2. The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy by Barbara Vine n#
  3. A Child’s Book of True Crime by Chloe Hooper n+
  4. Wide Open by Nicola Barker n+#*
  5. Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith n#
  6. Time Off for Good Behavior by Lani Diane Rich n+
  7. A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel m+
  8. Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell e+#
  9. Geographies of Home by Loida Maritza Perez n+
  10. Liza’s England by Pat Barker n#*
  11. For Rabbit, With Love & Squalor by Anne Roiphe e#
  12. Letting Loose the Hounds by Brady Udall s+#
  13. The Digital Sublime by Vincent Mosco nf+
  14. The Real World of Technology by Ursula Franklin nf+
  15. Under Technology’s Thumb by William Leiss nf+
  16. The Small Details of Life by Kathryn Carter nf+
  17. The Extraordinary Work of Ordinary Writing by Jennifor Sinor nf+#
  18. Reading Between the Lines by Betty Jane Wylie nf+