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December 7, 2010

Canada Reads Independently Spotlight: Lynn Coady's Play the Monster Blind

If I ever write a book, I would like Sheree Fitch to write a blurb for it. Though any “blurb” by Sheree Fitch would probably take the place of a whole back cover, but that would be all right. Because she would write something like, “Meet a world of  big dog rage and oversized underpants, boozing, boxing, irreverence, complicated sex, cheap hotel rooms and searching men and women. Coady’s east coast of  Canada , especially industrialized Cape Breton, is a landscape populated by the never get ways, the come from aways and the go aways. In Coady’s world there are razor -edged, truth-saying tellers; the smart and sassy, the off kilter and quirky and ordinary.” But only if I’d written Lynn Coady’s Play the Monster Blind.

Play the Monster Blind was published ten years ago to much acclaim and bestsellerdom and, for some reason that stupefies anybody who has ever read the book, is no longer in print. Which is odd for a book so vital that the Giller-shortlisted writer Alexander MacLeod just six weeks ago cited it in an interview as one of his favourite collections. Chad Pelley’s affection for the collection was apparent in the interview he conducted with Coady just last summer, in which he remarked, “I loved every single story…”

In her review, Karen Solie called the book, “a sure-footed dance to the often painful music of the working class of the Canadian East Coast, a tough but graceful negotiation of the living rooms, bars, workplaces, and childhood haunts where violence and tenderness, hilarity and despair, belonging and alienation coincide.” Margaret Gunning writes in January Magazine that “Coady has a deeper-than-intellectual understanding of human ambiguity which resonates in her audience as a sense of recognition”. Jim Taylor noted in The Antigonish Review that readers “should rejoice in the humanity of the Cape Breton characters who come to life in her landscape.” Open Book Toronto called the book “a keenly observed, imaginative collection”. Play the Monster Blind received a starred review in Quill & Quire, which found Coady’s “emotional arm’s length narrative style” even stronger here than in her award-winning debut novel.

Margaret Gunning writes: “To label [Coady’s] fiction “comic” is to do it a great disservice, because there is always so much more going on: delicate underlayers, dangling nerve-endings and things noted and remarked upon that the rest of us are  trying to forget. Without the belly laughs to punctuate the unbearable truth-telling, her work might be too uncomfortable to enjoy.”

I’ve read Coady before in a few anthologies, and also in her novel Mean Boy which delighted me back in 2006 and was one of my favourite books of that year. My experience with that novel and my love of short stories in general leaves me with every expectation that Play the Monster Blind will be a book that I love.

13 thoughts on “Canada Reads Independently Spotlight: Lynn Coady's Play the Monster Blind”

  1. melanie says:

    I’ve never read any Coady even though she has always been on my to-read list. I was excited to see this book on the Indies list because I have been wanting to read it for a while.

    (As an aside, I think your lovely and talented designer husband needs to make a blog buttom for your Indies so that some of us can put it on our blogs and pimp you out.)

  2. m says:

    I love Lynn Coady. Saints of Big Harbour is probably my favourite of hers, with Mean Boy close behind. She should be rich and famous based on her brilliance. I’m really looking forward to her next novel.

  3. alexis says:

    Mean Boy is my favourite. I think it was a terribly under-rated novel.

    She lives in Edmonton and someone once asked me if we were sisters. I was immensely flattered.

  4. Chad Pelley says:

    Melanie: Keep Coady on your to-read list, and move her up in queue. She’s fantastic. And I know a whole lot of people who call Mean Boy a favourite novel, and Play the Monster Blind a favourite books of shorts. I’m among them …

  5. Lynda says:

    I just looked up my little review of Play the Monster Blind and discovered that I was *astounded* when I read them! That I was! Here’s what I thought at the time (assuming this link works):

    1. Kerry says:

      Okay, now I am really excited. I am a little concerned about the other books in the running…

  6. Melwyk says:

    I’m looking forward to reading this one too…I greatly enjoyed Mean Boy and have been meaning to read more of her work. This is the perfect opportunity!

  7. Sheree says:

    I could still go on and on – when I like something a lot, it bubbles into exuberance. One of the reasons I chose this book is a long standing personal observation about the rare occurrence, almost absence of– humour in what we might call “literary fiction” by women. There are not a lot of funny literary Canadian women writers. ( Read Carol Shields short stories,some very funny gems in there and Bronwen Wallace) I will write on this in my english essay voice some day. I’ve got theories. Those Who Dare to Break Decorum might be the title.To me, this mixedness-of dark and light– is what American writer Lorrie Moore achieves in Birds of America. I think Lynne Coady’s work is that funny and penetrating and excellent. I hope the collection comes back.More to say .. in days ahead. The road of excess…. leads .. to ..

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