on November 30, 2005
If you only know Russell Smith from his somewhat supercilious column in the Globe and Mail you may be reluctant to read his novels. Don't be. Smith is an enemy of sanctimony, political correctness and conventional thinking. He writes clear, fresh prose that's full of surprises. Muriella Pent is furious social satire, but it's also a good story with characters you can care about. It turns out (who would have thought?) that Smith is a generous and sympathetic observer of our human failings. In fact, my only real complaint about this novel is the surprisingly sentimental resolution of its romantic subplot. There are a few other minor irritants, of course. If you're not offended at some point by Muriella Pent then you probably aren't paying attention; but I think you'll forgive it everything because of its sheer entertainment value. Smith has lit a sparkler in the gloom of Can-Lit, and it deserves an audience.
This is great, complex book, well written with great characters. Without repeating what has already been said, this is a book for people who care about art, rather than the politics of art, though Smith accomplishes this by satirizing the politics of art.
We have so-called artists who judge art not by the finished product but by who or what the artist is. And people who are not sure about art become intimidated by such pontificating, and stop thinking about art.
But art is what is important, not the politics or the political correctness.
Some of the secondary characters are also fascinating, especially the various arts graduate students.
In short, a great read by any standards, but an especially good read for people concerned about art.