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A piercing epistolary novel, The Antagonist explores, with wit and compassion, how the impressions of others shape, pervert, and flummox both our perceptions of ourselves and our very nature. Gordon Rankin Jr., aka "Rank," thinks of himself as "King Midas in reverse"--and indeed misfortune seems to follow him at every turn. Against his will and his nature, he has long been considered--given his enormous size and strength--a goon and enforcer by his classmates, by his hockey coaches, and, not least, by his "tiny, angry" father. He gamely lives up to their expectations, until a vicious twist of fate forces him to flee underground. Now pushing forty, he discovers that an old, trusted friend from his college days has published a novel that borrows freely from the traumatic events of Rank's own life. Outraged by this betrayal and feeling cruelly misrepresented, he bashes out his own version of his story in a barrage of e-mails to the novelist that range from funny to furious to heartbreaking.With The Antagonist, Lynn Coady demonstrates all of the gifts that have made her one of Canada's most respected young writers. Here she gives us an astonishing story of sons and fathers and mothers, of the rewards and betrayals of male friendship, and a large-spirited, hilarious, and exhilarating portrait of a man tearing his life apart in order to put himself back together.
Earnest, small-town Lawrence Campbell is fascinated by his poetry professor, the charismatic and uncompromising Jim Arsenault. Larry is determined to escape a life of thrifty drudgery and intellectual poverty working for his parents' motel and mini-golf business on Prince Edward Island. Jim appears to the young poet as a beacon of authenticity - mercurial, endlessly creative, fearless in his confrontations with the forces of conformity. And he drinks a lot. Jim's magnetic personality soon draws Larry's entire poetry composition class into his orbit. Among the other literary acolytes are Sherrie Mitten, with her ringletted blonde hair and guileless blue eyes, the turtlenecked, urbane Claude who writes villanelles, and the champion of rhyming couplets about the heroic struggles of the Maritime proletariat, Todd. Casting a huge shadow over the group is the varsity football player and recreational drug user Chuck Slaughter - titanically strong, capriciously violent, hilariously indifferent to the charms of the poetic life - who has nearly given up terrifying Larry in order to pursue an awkward romantic interest in Sherrie. Drawn by ambition and fascination, the group assembles itself fawningly around Jim, tagging along to bars, showing up at readings, thrilled to be invited to Jim's home, a shambling farmhouse in the woods where he lives with Moira, his shrewish backwoods muse. Lost in adulation, Larry is so delighted to be singled out for Jim's attention that he does not pause to wonder what Jim expects from his increasingly close relationship with the young poet.Closely observed and deeply funny, Mean Boy tells the story of Larry's year-long battle against the indiscriminate use of quotation marks in advertising and his disillusionment as his narcissistic, hard-drinking idol spins out of control and threatens to take the young man's cherished notions about art and poetry down with him. Mean Boy is Lynn Coady's most polished and ambitious work to date.From the Hardcover edition.