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Boldface Names Paperback – Aug 24 2009
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Quill & Quire
National Post gossip columnist Shinan Govani follows the time-honoured advice “write what you know” in his fiction debut, a novel that traces the adventures of a Toronto-based gossip columnist (he prefers the designation “social archivist”) named Ravi who writes for the National Mirror. Without giving too much away, the Roman Holiday-like storyline involves Ravi’s squiring around a wannabe pop princess who may in fact become authentic media royalty. This gives Ravi/Govani plenty of space to do what he does best, which is people-watching, party-hopping, and obsessing over chatter, celebrities, and clothes. There isn’t much more to Ravi than this. He has no inner or personal life. His wife is only social camouflage, his mother a source of ethnic humour. Dialogue is made to do most of the work throughout; the rest is a kind of zippy columnese (“sunshine vomited out of her copiously lipsticked mouth”) that fills in the gaps. References to recent movies colourize the self-consciously Old Hollywood plot, with wildly mixed results. The illuminated cross on Montreal’s Mount Royal beams “whiter than Meryl Streep’s hair in The Devil Wears Prada.” Sitting in an airport lobby Ravi tries to affect a “Bill Murray-in-Lost-in-Translation” look but is immediately mistaken for “that dude in the stoner comedy Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.” There is quite a lot of this. Along the way are random thoughts on the nature of fame and celebrity and the business of reporting on same, lots of star-spotting and name-dropping, and some roman à clef cuteness (including references to Lord and Lady Ivory, and the Formidable Authoress who presides over an explosive Giller Prize gala), all of which is delivered with a gentleness that never quite rises to the level of satire. A Canadian Glamorama this is not. What it is, in other words, is exactly the book you expect it to be – topical, inoffensive, relentlessly glib in a charming sort of way, and light as air. To complain about it not being something more is pointless. In all likelihood much of the novel will be incomprehensible to readers in a couple of years anyway, when its boldface names have faded.
"Shinan Govani works with bemused detachment in a bizarro world of fame whores and the truly famous, and he knows the difference. In Boldface Names, he plumbs the depths of the shallow party circuit, and finds humanity beneath the celebrity, and wisdom beyond mere wit."
? Richard Johnson, Page Six, New York Post ()