DeeJay & Betty

by Anne Cameron,
224 pages,
ISBN: 1550171127

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Brief Reviews - Fiction
by Lorna Jackson

ANNE CAMERON never could stomach elitist, class-blind female intellectuals and she certainly doesn't woo that crowd in her latest novel, DeeJay and Betty (Harbour, 261 pages, $15.95 paper). Cameron mouths off about a culture grown

desensitized to vile acts; her characters respond to sexual abuse and cultural neglect with multi-phobic puns and tough-chick cliches. It's the back-talk of scars.

DeeJay and Betty grow up poor, traumatized, and driven by an idealized bootstrap ethic: with a crummy job and a smart mouth, a gal can take a few courses, land a better job, buy a house, sell it, and score waterfront. Presto. No more cycle of abuse.

Settled on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast, supposedly insulated from past demons, DeeJay's kids still feel confused shame every time their grandmother Patsy gets out of jail and shows up strung out. It seems unlikely they'd find comfort when Deejay gets sexually involved with Betty. But Cameron handles a complex issue -- women and children in isolation and at risk -- with a formulaic plot in which lesbian relationships are sanctuary. DeeJay's little girl simply turns wisecracker: "I guess some people really get their knickers in a knot about stuff like that, eh?"

Cameron gives voice to communities shaken by economic and sexual cataclysm, to people ignored by those living in urban comfort, but it's only one voice; she doesn't particularize their experience. This inability to make the voices of individuals distinguishable in the crowd -- perhaps it is a failure of imagination -- weakens the impact of Cameron's politics and her art.


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