Smells good

THE SHOW THAT SMELLS by Derek McCormack (ECW),.

THE SHOW THAT SMELLS by Derek McCormack (ECW), 98 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNNN

Have I been drugged, or am I just reading Derek McCormack? I’m in a mirror maze with Coco Chanel, her rival, designer and perfumer Elsa Schiaparelli, carnie country singer Jimmie Rodgers and his wife, Carrie, Lon Chaney and the Carter Family, not to mention various sideshow freaks, vampires and McCormack himself.


It’s a slim volume full of McCormack’s trademark carnival rides of surreal high camp, delivered in precise, thoughtfully crafted sentences.

The Show That Smells is probably the creepiest, funniest, most inventive and, yes, smelliest blood-spurtin’ novel you’ve ever read.

And it’s funny.

Jimmie is dying of TB, and Carrie sells her soul to try to save him, becoming Schiaparelli’s wife in a macabre matrimonial ceremony. There’s dirty vampire sex, baby-blood-scented/-flavoured items, a celebration of queer monstrosity and high fashion inspired by freak-show deformities.

In short, there are many ways to get floored by McCormack’s imagination and technique, The author of nine books, he’s known for his aggressively minimalist style and playful relationship to traditional narrative.

If the Canadian publishing industry weren’t infested with scaredy-cats, he’d be a much bigger deal. America’s not afraid to embrace him, the indie scene loves him, and with his latest adventure in experimental absurdity, CanLit should be next.

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