Sep 27, 2011

Tiny Monkey droppings - Idaho Winter by Tony Burgess

Idaho Winter (ECW Press, 2011)

Description (from the publisher)
Idaho Winter begins as the story of a boy with an extraordinarily painful existence. He is, through no fault of his own, loathed by everyone in the town where he lives. His father, Early Winter, feeds him roadkill for breakfast. The crossing guard steers cars toward him as he crosses the road. Parents encourage their children to plot cruelly against him. One morning Idaho finds it too much to bear and hides down by the river where he meets Madison. Madison, astonishingly, is as hurt by how he’s treated as he is. For the first time in his life Idaho experiences someone’s empathy and it opens a terrible world of pain in him. He dotes on Madison, in awe of her, and he cleans her muddy feet in the river, drying them with his shirt. Suddenly, hunting dogs descend on the scene and, trained to attack the smell of Idaho, set their jaws on Madison’s feet.
Then Idaho does something that changes everything. He gets up and runs home. Not so strange until the author realizes that this part was never written. Idaho becomes enraged upon learning that his suffering has been cruelly designed by a clumsy writer who confesses that he made his book meaner than all the others so it would stand out. Idaho locks the author in a closet and runs off, armed with the knowledge that the entire world is invented and that he has the power now to imagine it differently.
When the author emerges from the closet he finds that his novel is now unrecognizable. Phantoms and monsters, beasts from the boy’s angry thoughts now dominate the streets. Beneath the earth there is a resistance movement of secondary characters, including the poor Madison who is now bedridden and what’s more: anyone who comes within 50 feet of her is paralyzed with sadness and cannot move or be moved. The author sets out with these characters to cure the novel, to find a way to bring its mind and heart together as they embark on a journey as perilous and paradoxical as anything HG Wells or Lewis Carroll ever imagined.
What the Tiny Monkey Thinks
Idaho is walking slowly. His feet are sore from deep dog bites and his stomach is roiling with the maggoty paw his father forced him to eat. It’s hard to say what Idaho really looks like. His hair is probably brown, but it’s so matted down with the dung of bedbugs that it could be red. His eyes, I’ve never seen; they are more than merely lowered; they are hidden, hooded, sunken back. Not enough nutrition in him to light them, maybe, or just no reason for them to look out. His hands are puffy, but I don’t think he’s a large boy; it may be that his extremities are swollen from the infectious mouths that bite him while he sleeps or just lies there, as he does, all summer — an unmoving unfortunate boy with no reason to rise.
Tony Burgess is a madman. A lovely madman, fun to talk to, kind and gentle, but a madman nonetheless, capable of unnerving a reader in a few short sentences. And Idaho Winter is unnerving for many reasons, not the least for being the most unhinged novel written for young adults since Lewis Carroll unleashed his fantasies on poor little Alice. Yet what else could you hope to expect from the author of Pontypool Changes Everything, the definitive Canadian zombie novel (and one freaky great film to boot). Idaho Winter is a mindf#@k of astonishing proportions, an excursion into a world where the rules simply don't apply. I thought I detected a theme of writers block at one point, as the unnamed narrator bemoans the fact that he doesn't have a clue where his character has gone or what he'll do (a sensation I'm sure all authors can relate to). There are breaths of Luigi Pirandello's absurdist masterpiece Six Characters in Search of an Author throughout Burgess' imaginative weirdscape, breaths that intermingle with the surrealism of Luis Buñuel, the paranoia of Franz Kafka and David Lynch, and the dream imagery of Salvador Dali. Idaho Winter is spectacularly peculiar, demanding, funny, gross, and unforgettable. If young adults are looking for tales of Twilight-like romance, stay far away; if they are yearning for real risk and reward in their literature, this should be just the ticket.

Tiny Monkey Loves

2 comments:

Buried In Print said...

So interesting! I'm sampling the books shortlisted for this year's ReLit Award, so I have one of his ahead of me for that. But I love the sounds of the zombie novel: that one went straight on my TBR list. Thanks!

Hannah said...

This sounds so intriguing! Albeit a little confusing.


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