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PEOPLE LIVE STILL IN CASHTOWN CORNERS
By TONY BURGESS (ChiZine Publications; 2010)

Here we have a twisted yet highly literary tale of mass murder told from the killerís point of view. According to the back cover description itís ďan account of a tragedy we all thought was senseless,Ē but Iím not sure about that; after reading this book the killings still seem pretty senseless to me!

     The narrator is Bob Clark, the troubled owner of a gas station in a tiny Ontario town known as Cashtown Corners. One day Bob goes completely schitz, and, for reasons he himself doesnít entirely comprehend, strangles a woman patron in her car. He follows this with another equally senseless murder and then a cop killing, which turns him into an immediate fugitive. After a dash through a nearby cornfield Bob winds up in a house whose occupants, a middle-class family, he massacres--and then goes completely bonkers, hallucinating lengthy conversations with his victimsí corpses and relentlessly pondering the minutiae of his actions, with no ready answers available.

     This novel, as with Tony Burgessís previous publications (including PONTYPOOL CHANGES EVERYTHING, the basis of the Ď09 flick PONTYPOOL), is somewhat lacking in narrative clarity (why donít the police ever search the house where Bob holes up?), with elegantly scatterbrained prose (ďThe plane, which now waits quietly, still touching the building, has in fact some of the airís properties and this isnít an illusionĒ) and a disarmingly carefree, vaguely sarcastic tone. This makes it difficult to discern whether Burgessís eccentricities are intended as sincere depictions of the narratorís deteriorating psyche or mere authorial quirks.

     Adding to the weirdness are a section of black and white photographs, allegedly of the crimes and locales depicted in the novel. Also pictured is a World Trade Center birdhouse sculpture made by one of Bobís victims and an unfinished copy of same, apparently one of several ďtributes to a tribute.Ē This ties in with a reverie Bob has early on involving the events of 9-11. What precisely this juxtaposition might signify (if anything) is, like so much else in these pages, left up to the reader to decide for him/herself. 

     

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