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Posted: January 12, 2020

For insight into the Canadian experience, try Coles

Book Review

By Derryll White

Coles, Megan Gail (2019).  Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club

“The best shield for a bad man is a good woman after all.” – Megan Gail Coles

I always feel delight in exploring a new Newfoundland author. Invariably the language is different, not mine and not even quote ‘Canadian.’ The cadences, word choice texture – all distinctly Newfoundese. Megan Gail Coles is no different, in fact her diction and word choice, her slang, is even more grounded on the Rock than most writers. Her world view is also different from mainstream. From the start this writer had my undivided interest.

Coles takes all the politically-correct activities in our lives today and turns them upside down.  Want to be popular, want to fit in – be gay she says. Want to have a girlfriend? The author intimates it’s so easy – spend lots of money just like Justin Trudeau. Megan Coles lets Newfoundland speak to the rest of Canada. Don’t throw away the old values! Don’t live paycheque-to-paycheque! She harnesses all that makes Newfoundland different and unique to say to Canada “Careful, this is what you are losing!”

Megan Gail Coles puts the dark in noir. Her treatment of Newfoundland as place, as the formative feature of what men and women become there, is magically insightful and cuts to the deepest part of our being. Growing up on the Rock is not something that can be removed by money and cultural trappings. She talks soul and makes the reader wish that it was something one could maybe inherit. No, come from the outports to understand one, Iris and Olive both say. They share a unique humanity.

This is a dense novel, the pain of many characters and the whole province of Newfoundland packed into one singular day. Megan Gail Coles is very clear on what assholes men are, but she doesn’t spare the women who enable them. It’s clear that Coles has a lot more to say, and she will certainly be worth listening to. The writing shows equally as much strength and craft as the story does. For an insight into the Canadian experience, try Megan Gail Coles.

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Excerpts from the novel:

NAVIGATION – Iris thinks a comprehensive list must be made of all the songs that wound, catalogued and abolished en masse to prevent morning commuting mishaps.  She envisions women from Calgary to Sault Ste. Marie weeping upon steering wheels as sour sentiments are sung to them before 9 a.m. on a weekday morning.

Iris thinks the whole subverted pop genre, with juxtaposed lyrics and melody, needs to be expunged from a shared mental landscape.  As do greeting cards, surprise parties and poems about love.  The latter likely more pressing than the former but considerably easier to avoid.

SELF-INTEREST – When they do occasionally support something, in even an indirect way, they take a photo of it for visible proof and post it immediately on Instagram so they can enjoy the full scale of their benevolence.

Some people do nice things just to be nice, but not George’s people.

Sometimes they don’t do nice things at all.  They think they will and then forget.

NEWFOUNDLAND  He never really meant to fire that houseplant at her.  It was just handy to him, practically in his hand already.  Then Donna was off making out like Calv was a brute and calling him a baywop.  Donna gets right mean.

She’s on a mission to prove to all of Newfoundland that Calv is a cultureless shit cause he grew up wrong side of the overpass.

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.


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