Saturday, May 05, 2012

31. Bang for a Buck by Catherine Roman

Here is an odd little find, picked up for a buck itself (possibly less) at S.W. Welch's annual sidewalk sale.  It was the canlit, in particular the seamy underbelly of 80s and 90s Canada that intrigued me and Bang for a Buck didn't disappoint. It's the autobiography of a pretty wild woman who led a pretty wild life.  Her story is amazing, as are the situations and people she encounters along the way.  It's bizarrely written, though.  The entire book is so full of one-time idioms, unique turns of phrases and random references that it almost becomes like a stream of consciousness poem.  At times, it's even hard to understand specifically what she is talking about.  That's the thing, most of the book is narrative and the story just keeps charging ahead, so despite the excessive language, I had no trouble turning the pages.  By the end, I found myself somewhat caught up in her style, sympathetic to her and quite possibly understanding a bit of her inner psyche, which is I guess one of the end goals of poetry.  However, at times it was just too much, like she didn't have the confidence to simply tell the story.

And what a story.  This woman lived through a lot.  She started out in rural Ontario, starting out with a semi-functional nuclear family but eventually getting bumped from relative to relative, many of whom were already a part of the criminal element.  She just starts to get in to worse and worse situations, at least from society's perspective, finally ending up as a prostitute in a rural, mobile brothel up north.  While she gets beaten, sexually assaulted, kidnapped and constantly harassed, much of her life seems more like an adventure to her (and her real life) than some descent into badness.  There are some truly horrific situations, including getting kidnapped by this psycho french-canadian in the employ of the RCMP, where she is locked in his north Montreal house and forced to play shut-in wife and victim to his weird sex games.  Very scary.

It's hard to know what drives her.  I think a psychologist would recognize symptoms of mental dysfunction in her, both from abuse as a child possibly just innate.  The book ends without any real resolution, except perhaps that she has moved into a new stage of her life (though that is only hinted at).  She's only in her early-20s by the end and one must imagine that she got her life together enough to be able to write a book and get it published.  I'd be curious if today she is living a more stable life.


Brian Busby said...

I once owned the Somerville House first edition, a book blessed with a cover that looked for all the world like an ugly psych textbook. It's for that reason, I suppose, that I never got around to actually cracking it open. If memory serves, I bought it because of a cover blurb. Whose? Don't know... but I can say that it wasn't Anne Rice.

OlmanFeelyus said...

That makes perfect sense that they would have originally released the book with such a cover. How else could a Canadian publisher justify publishing such prurient material unless it was for academic or sociological reasons!

That Anne rice quote is really bizarre, as well as the book they chose to credit her with. Was this before Interview with a Vampire? Or is it a different Anne Rice?