It’s not quite as bad as Edith’s dreams. Not quite.

But almost. And that’s because Suzette Mayr has a way of writing that pricks beneath the skin.

“That night Edith dreams of hares. Hares hanging by their necks, throttled by catgut in a thicket of trees. Someone has executed them, hares the size of small birds, their soft, drooping bodies. All dead. Their long ears dangling, the half-closed yellow eyes. Hares hanging like grisly earrings from the branches. Edith wakes abruptly in her brand-new condominium building of shiny chrome and concrete, the walls painted with interior design catalogue shades of grey she picked herself, the grey of time dripping away as grey water.”

And it’s not shiny chrome and concrete. It’s peeling chrome and musty foundations.

Silver peelings that stick to you like spiderwebs. A smell that provokes a migraine.

But it’s also hilarious. At times.

Except when it’s all talk of decomposition.

“…haven’t you noticed how sick all our colleagues are? The medical leaves? Froese’s nervous breakdown? The general nuttiness about semi-colons and rampant incompetence? You think that’s all a coincidence? Don’t you feel like what we’re trying to accomplish is becoming more and more impossible?”

And, then it gets real, see?

Because don’t you feel like that sometimes?

The “more and more impossible” bit?

And aren’t things at Crawley Hall just a little too recognizable? I don’t know any perogie royalty, but I recognize the ooze. Don’t you?

“The dean shoots for Mona Leung, the perogie heiress and philanthropist with her seventy-year-old yoga-and-golf body, who’s appeared in the doorway, her fingers and earlobes chunked with diamond, her hair a svelte white bob. Students and professors ooze up to her.”

Edith’s working world is a challenge. Her class in “Canadian Literature before 1950″ is “as exciting as a buckwheat pancake” and she, the teacher, is “lump and undercooked”. But Edith? “I’m just happy to have a job,” she says.

But happy is a stretch. “All she has ever wanted is to read books. Write books. Talk about, sleep with, breathe, shit, and eat books. Maybe find true love with someone like her who understand the crucial, necessary, life-giving essence of books.”

Her dreams haven’t turned out as she dreamed. After all, all those bloody hares. They make it hard to turn the pages.

Suzette Mayr’s books are unforgettable.


Suzette Mayr's 2011 novel

One of my favourites of the reading year and nominated for the 2011 Giller Prize