STICKBOY by Shane L. Koyczan (House of Parlance), 177 pages, $$22.99 paper. Rating: NNNN
I've heard Shane Koyczan perform spoken word five or six times now, and I think he may be one of the greatest orators on earth. Right up there with Obama. Seriously.
Inevitably, the question arises - is his power in the writing or more in the performance?
Stickboy, his debut novel in verse, puts that question to rest. The book succeeds admirably without the advantage of Koyczan's onstage delivery.
The story covers key stages in the life of a boy who is constantly bullied for being overweight. Koyczan's narrative keeps the suspense quotient high and the sentimentality low, but the real star is his grippingly readable style. The gift for apt metaphor and snappy phrasing he displays in his poetry is even better controlled here.
He reminds me of writers like Raymond Chandler and even Jack Kerouac. A face is like an over-steamed potato with a butter knife jab for a mouth. The spaghetti strap on a girl's gown hangs just off her shoulder like a smile on her arm.
Koyczan has a fertile imagination and spends such metaphors freely. Not all of them come up to the high standard he sets with the best of them. If I were his editor, I'd probably nix about one in 10. Then I'd immediately run to Scholastic and try to cut a distribution deal, because a wise, compassionate book like this on the subject of bullying could go down big in the school system.
Koyczan is still a very young writer - he's only 30 - but if he continues to develop his talent at this pace, I can easily see him selling a lot of books and becoming a key writer for his generation.