A PERFECT NIGHT TO GO TO CHINA by David Gilmour (Thomas Allen), 179 pages, $26.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN
Finally, a book from David Gilmour gives me something other than the urge to throw up.
I know there are women out there lamenting the fact that A Perfect Night To Go To China has just snapped up the Governor General's Award for English-language fiction, but, honestly, girls, even I, who have trashed him in the past, have to admit that this book is worthy.
After penning a series of repellent novels about older men chasing younger girls, Gilmour's written a slim, beautiful and simple volume about a man who makes a devastating and life-changing mistake. Roman, a daytime TV talk show host, slips away to a bar for a quick drink while his son sleeps at home. When he returns, the boy is gone.
For 180 pages, we live with his guilt and his quick descent into alcohol and drug-fuelled despair.
Gilmour has always been a good writer candid and with an uncanny ability to capture a feeling or an image in a small, precise phrase. He just kept applying his talent to masturbatory male fantasies, thinking we'd let him get away with it because he could string a sentence together.
Here, he's made a turn. Gone is the irony, the arrogance, the pornographic obsessions. In their place there's honesty, doubt, questions.
He also mines his own television experience to great effect. The scenes with his co-workers and boss give the story another level of authenticity.
It's usually considered inappropriate to look too closely to a writer's personal life to explain the kind of transformation Gilmour has plainly gone through. Major props to Gilmour's new editor, Patrick Crean. But I have a strong feeling that the woman to whom the book is dedicated deserves a lot of credit for this one.