Home Movies:
A Novel

by Ray Robertson,
ISBN: 1896951023

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First Novels - What's with Young Men These Days?
by Eva Tihanyi

Ray Robertson's Home Movies (Cormorant, 228 pages, $19.95 trade paper) also deals with a young man from a southern Ontario town who escapes to Toronto to become a successful musician. James Thompson, almost twenty-five, is a country and western singer whose third recording is considered unacceptable by his small independent Canadian record label. Consequently, he is given four months to return to his roots (in Datum, a fictitious border town best known for manufacturing auto parts) on an "epiphany-hunting trip" and redo the material. If he doesn't succeed, his contract will be terminated.

James hates going home, is haunted by his father's unusual death, which occurred before James was even born: six hours into his marriage, his dad had decided to check out a sale on car transmissions and was involved in a fatal accident. James has a hard time "digesting the accepted wisdom that said his father's death could be simply and directly attributed to a heavy piece of machinery falling on his head." The more he tries to find meaning in this event, the more confused he feels.

Back in Datum, James stays with his Uncle Buckly, who has promised him a special gift for his twentieth birthday, a gift, he implies, that will help James come to terms with his familial preoccupations. In the meantime, James has a recording to re-work. Enter Melissa, a serendipitously attractive nineteen-year-old James Thompson fan and poet who cites Baudelaire, the early D. H. Lawrence, and Patsy Cline as her early major influences-and who just happens to know exactly how to find James. The most contrived scenes in the novel are the ones in which Melissa acts out her determination to play muse to him, both in and out of the bedroom.

Fortunately, Robertson's other characterizations are more credible. And so is the novel's ending: Uncle Buckly's gift wakes James to the possibility that, more often than not, the only significance in life is the significance we ourselves create.


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