VENOUS HUM by Suzette Mayr (Arsenal Pulp), 231 pages, $21.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Calgary author Suzette Mayr's writing has a ton of style and energy, but her very funny and involving novel Venous Hum goes off the rails.
It's the story of Lai Fun Kugelheim's and best friend Stefanja Dumanowski's attempts to put together a 20-year reunion of their high school class. But there's trouble lurking. Lai Fun's lesbian partner and co-parent is a rising star in the corporate sector and way too absent, leading Lai Fun to an affair with Stefanja's husband.
Anyway, Lai Fun hated high school, so how could a reunion possibly be any fun in the first place? Plus Lai Fun's hippie parents seem a little off.
The story had me in its grip until, seemingly out of nowhere, the novel took a very macabre turn two-thirds of the way through. Only then did I realize that the tale, including Lai Fun's implausible relationships, is reaching for magic realism, something a reader ought to figure out before she's read well over 100 pages.
I wish an editor had saved Venous Hum and steered Mayr away from this strategy. Lai Fun's motivations, her sexual yearnings, her antics during her wild wedding, and especially Mrs. Blake, the English teacher from hell, are all edgy, funny and totally believable, precisely because Mayr is a really good writer.
There's lots of talent here. No tricks required.