A Journey Out of the Mind
by Peter Gault,
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|Brief Reviews - Fiction
by John Doyle
IT'S RARE THESE days to find the macho, high-octane style one finds in Peter Gault's second novel Knucklehead (Elephant Press, 205 pages, $16.95 paper). Gault writes like a raging bull and, while a lot of Knucklehead really is bull, the novel has a compelling, jokey charm. "Knucklehead" is the pet name of the narrator, Billy Blowe, and the name of his boat. Billy is a Bay Street lawyer in early middle age who leaves his wife and job for adventure on the high seas. His wife is a faint figure in the story and his mother, a stripper, gets little more attention. Billy is concerned with himself and his Neanderthal male needs. Not that he isn't sensitive -- it's just that instead of crying when he's upset he vomits. The fact that this has happened while making love with his wife suggests that she isn't too sad to see the back of him. The reader never knows.
Billy can't sail but he's a big lug who'll do anything, and so he sets off from Toronto Island and heads for New York. The account of his near-death in freezing Lake Ontario is a hoot, and as overwritten as the rest of the novel: "I saw my lifeless carcass tumbling along the craggy bottom, flesh torn, limbs twisted into an unnatural caricature of the human form, rising purply white and bloated...." You get the picture. Gault never uses one adjective or expletive when a half-dozen can be blurted out.
In New York Billy hooks up with a Black con artist, Sir Charles, and they sail down the American East coast with many adventures. Near-shipwreck scenes abound. Sir Charles is a minor diversion but he's overshadowed by this loud tout who's bawling out his story. It's done with gusto and blares loud enough to give you an earache.