31 December 2012

APB Book Review: Jump the Devil

by Joe Blades, Ashes, Paper, & Beans (CHSR 97.9 FM)

Jump the Devil
Richard Rathwell
Montreal, QC: 8th House Publishing
127 pp, ISBN 978-1-926716-11-4, $18.88, 2012

Jump the Devil is a work of fiction, a novella, narrated by interrelated characters in seriously dysfunctional relationships. The mostly internal narratives are by ex-peacekeeper soldiers with secrets, corrupt doctors, angry old men and women, abusers, a young woman trying to break free from her family’s restrictive expectations and religion. None of the narrators are all-clean or all-good. Many of them are obsessive about something—whether philandering, locking one’s husband in the basement, journalling, hating, daughter jealousy, preying on local women, skin bags of ears, social status, class, brand fashion status, etcetera. Their stories weave together like lines of traffic, or convoys on ruble-strewn streets moving too fast for their safety. The reader feels the roller-coaster hurtle of the narrators in their stories. Rathwell writes an engaging and convincing prose set in the tumultuous world around us. Some the book is set in part in England—where Rathwell lives—but it could be anywhere “Western”. It is also set in Central Africa and Egypt—with every place feeling disorientating and troubling to the various narrators—foreign to their upbringing—with swirling undercurrents of racial tension, hostility, and confusion. There is palpable violence throughout the book—with possible suicide vests, alleged past roles in massacres, so-called democratic uprisings, colonists, insurrectionists, rapists, terrorists, redemptionists, and revolutionaries engaged in war, genocide, revenge, rebellion, and fights for freedom nationally and personally. The reader or, as Ted Hughes put it, the "coauthor" is challenged by these labels/identities and where one stands in relation to other people and events in the world. With their own assumptions and ignorance, the reader is left haunted without ability to conclude these increasingly unresolved stories.

—Joe Blades is the award-winning producer–host of Ashes, Paper, & Beans broadcast weekly, since 1995, on CHSR 97.9 FM in Fredericton, NB. He is an artist, educator, and writer with seven published poetry collections—three of which have also been translated and published in Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina.

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