Saturday, May 13, 2006

Just Read: “Down to the Dirt” by Joel Hynes

Down to the Dirt by Joel Hynes, 2005, 0786715375.

A fairly decent book. Set in Newfoundland and mainly told through the voices of the two main characters, Keith and Natasha. The novel focuses on Keith over six or seven years, from losing his virginity to an older woman when he was 13 to an alcoholic daze when he is twenty.

Keith is a no-good: kicked out of his house, playing hockey just so he could fight, drinking and smoking dope, unemployed, in trouble with the police, etc. Keith hooks up with Natasha and even lives with her and her parents for awhile, until he gets drunk, fights with the dad and insults the mother.

I bought the novel off the review in Publishers Weekly. The selling part to me was this:

"True, they speak a Celtic-tinged dialect (which Hynes captures masterfully), and they commit their minor social crimes in an isolated, rural setting that amplifies their discontent. Hynes's antihero is Keith Kavanagh, a hard-drinking bad boy ("a bit of a savage," his best friend Andy admits), who strives in self-destructive ways for love and respect. Keith's clipped but evocative narration trades off with the similarly poetic, snappish, adolescent narration by Andy and Keith's girlfriend, Natasha. The self-contained chapters read almost like short stories: the birth of Andy and Keith's friendship; Keith's drug-addled killing of a sick cat; a run-in between Natasha and her father over a sex toy. Raunchy, humorous and energetic, Hynes's novel engrosses, but never truly surprises"

The dialect is indeed different. Hynes use of slang made me keep thinking the characters talk in an Irish accent. There are some funny parts too: the above mentioned dildo scene, Keith telling Natasha how to pour sugar in a gas tank, Keith scoring the winning goal in a hockey championship. But, I didnt see the novel as black humor, bildungsroman is more accurate.

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