Brian Preston, Stag

There ... well, there just aren't many books like Brian Preston's Stag out there, or to give it the full title from the front cover, Stag: A Novel for Guys Who Haven't Read a Novel in Years. The book's blurbs from Scott Thompson (of Kids in the Hall) and Steve Burgess are accurate, and Thompson's exactly right to call it "a breezy, perverse delight."

From the back cover:

Like any good novel, it starts off kind of slow, and you'll be thinking, is this really worth my time and attention, but around page 50 things start to kick in and soon enough you'll be totally hooked, you won't want to put it down until ultimately it explodes in a mind-blowing climax that'll leave you emotionally drained, yet wanting more. When this happens, go have a brownie because the book is over. You've got to get on with your life. Read it again in a year.

Doesn't everyone have antlers in their house?
It's humorous, in other words, though I don't agree with Preston that it's a "goofy, cartoonish novel." It's not Deep or Serious, either, but it's a novel of ideas in spite of itself, because it's very much not about the plot or about its gags (though there are plenty of gags!). I'm not sure how I haven't read any of Preston's other books before, but I've downloaded his Too Many Georges and am looking forward to that one, too.

For those of us living in Victoria, BC, Stag is timely and familiar and a poke in the eye (which we deserve, absolutely). Our narrator, Trevor, lives in an older house in Gordon Head that backs onto Mount Douglas Park (Pkols). He loves the deer that lives in his unkempt back yard, but the neighbours in their late 2000s subdivision hate them, and his neighbour Jim's a terrible person. Part of his feelings for the deer come from his solitude, because he's been single for 16 months since his wife took their kids and left him for a rich asshole doofus who lives on Ten Mile Point, but it's more complicated than that, because it's also about the shift between old Victoria and new Victoria, about the rural/urban interface, about the place of animals in the world, about inter-neighbourhood rivalries, and so on.

The novel eddies through all these things, but not like literary fiction would, and thank god for that. Really, it's just a story about a middle-aged guy who's been constantly disappointed by people but hasn't been disappointed by nature ("nature"), and I would pay good money to watch Seth Rogen play the role of Trevor. Not sure how a movie would render the deer--Marlene, Darlene, Charlene, and Primula--but again, I'd pay to see it.

If you want a more reviewerly review, tough. This book deserves lots of readers, and if the above description is at all intriguing, then you should absolutely buy a copy, and if you don't like it, then hassle me and I'll buy the book from you so I can give it to someone else. If I tell you much more about the book, I'll be giving things away, and you deserve the surprises.

So yeah, I really enjoyed Stag, even though I read enough novels every year that the subtitle implies it's not for me, and even if it's outside my usual wheelhouse. Too bad I can't be in one of the cities for his Stag and a Lady Tour this summer. Talking about books at the Fernie Distillers, I mean come on, right?!?


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