A piercing epistolary novel, The Antagonist explores, with wit and compassion, how the impressions of others shape, pervert, and flummox both our perceptions of ourselves and our very nature.
Gordon Rankin Jr., aka “Rank,” thinks of himself as “King Midas in reverse”—and indeed misfortune seems to follow him at every turn. Against his will and his nature, he has long been considered—given his enormous size and strength—a goon and enforcer by his classmates, by his hockey coaches, and, not least, by his “tiny, angry” father. He gamely lives up to their expectations, until a vicious twist of fate forces him to flee underground. Now pushing forty, he discovers that an old, trusted friend from his college days has published a novel that borrows freely from the traumatic events of Rank’s own life. Outraged by this betrayal and feeling cruelly misrepresented, he bashes out his own version of his story in a barrage of e-mails to the novelist that range from funny to furious to heartbreaking.
With The Antagonist, Lynn Coady demonstrates all of the gifts that have made her one of Canada’s most respected young writers. Here she gives us an astonishing story of sons and fathers and mothers, of the rewards and betrayals of male friendship, and a large-spirited, hilarious, and exhilarating portrait of a man tearing his life apart in order to put himself back together.
This ebook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.
Canadian author Coady's new novel (after Mean Boy) is composed of letters from Gordon Rankin Jr. to his university pal Adam, a correspondence that began when "Rank" recognized a less-than-flattering portrayal of himself in Adam's recent novel. Angry at seeing his life story pilfered for a forgettable novel make that angry at his life the almost 40-year-old Rank begins e-mailing Adam. His rancor turns into an odd epistolary autobiography, covering his early years in a small town in Canada and his aborted college career, both periods when he got into trouble for violence. (Rank is "genetically blessed" with size.) The prose is sharp and very funny, and some of the characters, particularly Rank's father, Gord, a bitter failure of a man, are deftly etched. Coady is an ambitious writer, exploring themes of masculinity, religion, and the perils and promise of the fictional enterprise, and her decision to write from the male perspective is brave and successful. But the plot often meanders and the handling of narrative perspectives creates formal questions that are never answered. (At times, a third-person "omnipotent narrator," either the author or someone else with access and hindsight, takes over Rank's first-person duties.) Still, the pathos and humor brought to a challenging life story will appeal to many readers.
I liked it a lot. A story of a man trying to cope with his life after a tragedy. The beginning didn't grab me, but it gets more captivating as you get into it. Makes you think about friendships.