Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall’s Ghosted
Random House 2010

Reasons (Not necessarily good ones) that I didn’t expect to like Ghosted:
1. These words on the flyleaf: gangster, hotdogs, suicide, heroin-smoking, tragedies (bit redundant, eh);

2. Ray Robertson’s blurb beginning with “Lean and mean and…” (though ending “with a surprising amount of heart”);

3. The first sentence: “Mason Dubisee dodged a booze-propelled bullet on the day he was born”; and

4. Lots of vomit talk (I started reading this before breakfast, and I just stared at my food for ten minutes before I could convince myself that I wasn’t the one so brutally hungover).

Normally I don’t read a book’s flyleaf (I’m easily influenced), but I was hoping to make some quick eliminations from my unwieldy stack of IFOA reading.

All of the above nudged me closer to the works of Michael Cunningham and Anchee Min, so I honestly can’t tell you why I read on with this one, but I did, and this debut novelist reeled me in and I raced through this novel in two days.

There are, after all, other words on the flyleaf to counterbalance those above (love, dreams, bright idea).

There are more blurbs on the back (including Andrew Pyper’s: “The real pleasure, though, is in the lines: funny sad, funny strange and funny zing!).

That first scene, only about a dozen lines, is not only funny but sets the stage for the action to come.

And, hey, nobody wants to read about vomit, but the author’s ability to bring it off the page is a skill that comes in handy elsewhere too.

So my reasons for expecting not to like it weren’t too solid.

Ultimately, Ghosted‘s fragmented style makes it fun to read (his Notes on the Novel in Progress, emails, lists, notebook excerpts), and its short chapters, and abundance of dialogue makes the pages turn quickly. (If you’re a writer-type, you’ll get a laugh out of his literary endeavours for sure!)

Mason’s voice is distinctive. And no doubt the author’s experience which led to Down to This: squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shantytown (which was nominated for several literary non-fiction awards) contributed a great deal to the novel’s verisimilitude thematically and geographically.

Have you been surprised to find yourself enjoying a book that you might have superficially dismissed on another reading day?

Companion Reads: Doug Harris’s You comma Idiot, Sam Savage’s The Cry of the Sloth

PS The novel was worth reading alone for the brilliant passage that spans page 53 and, yes, I read it because the author will be appearing at this year’s International Festival of Authors in Toronto next month.