October 8, 2013
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". . .life intermixed with the new web reality."
Canadian author Lynn Coady’s uniquely structured novel, The Antagonist, offers up a complex unruly character in Gordon Rankin, or “Rank,” who launches an e-mail rant aimed at former college mate Adam. Rankin’s virtual tirade is triggered by Adam’s decision to deploy Rank as the central character in his recent novel, embarrassingly right down to the smallest intimate and salacious details in the life they shared two decades earlier.
Rank views Adam as a thief who didn’t quite accurately tell the story so he threatens to write his own version of his life. Over a three-month period, Rank’s sometimes-intoxicated rants at various times of the day focus on his struggles dealing with his large stature, so huge as a child that he was treated like an adult and expected by his father to be an enforcer. In high school, his bullying father sends Rank out to deal with “punks” who hung around the ice cream shop owned by the father. Tragedy ensues when Rank’s jab results in one of the hoodlums suffering permanent brain damage, sending Rank to juvenile detention. But with the help of a social worker, he ultimately makes it to college on a hockey scholarship.
The tension in the book centers on Rank’s college years, his relationship with Adam and two other friends who languish “stoned brainless” at a student-rented house or hanging around “Goldfingers,” a club where they score drugs and where Rank works as a bouncer. Adam meanwhile never responds to the emails and soon closes his Facebook account, obviously afraid of Rank’s cyberstalking and lurking.
Coady portrays a gentle character caught up with others’ expectations because of his size. As Rank peels away at his past, he reaffirms his own identity which is markedly different from Adam’s book character, where he is depicted as an angry thug and “innate criminal.”
The book’s strength is in presenting life intermixed with the new web reality. The emails are masterfully written, sprinkled with everyday sometimes-vulgar language, and with occasionally humorous dialogue. Once, during his cyberstalking Rank finds an old girlfriend on Facebook. She writes back, “… way to go Rank, I see you have no friends.”
Reviewer: Kate Padilla