Venous Hum Paperback – Oct 1 2004
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Never fails to impress. Brash, macabre and irreverent. . . .
-Vancouver Sun (Vancouver Sun)
...Venous Hum rises above the crowd for the potency of the trauma and the sheer mania of the horror.
-Globe and Mail (Globe & Mail)
Mayr sutures the plot veolicty of a genre book together with literary language and politics, creating a Frankenstein's monster of a novel, one with more elegance and brains than you'd expect.
-Toronto Star (Toronto Star)
Mayr is half-German, half-Afro-Caribbean, a lesbian, all-Canadian, and a brilliant author.
-The Chronicle Herald (Chronicle Herald)
...Suzette Mayr's latest novel weaves an outrageously comical yet surreal tale of broken hearts, burning hearts, and hearts for dinner.
-Quill & Quire (Quill & Quire)
...Venous Hum never fails to impress. Brash, macabre and irreverent, it's the kind of story you want to hear from a later day Scherazade: So intoxicating you crave more.
-Vancouver Sun (Vancouver Sun)
But Venous Hum is far from hackneyed genre fiction- these are characters I would have happily stayed with for another 1000 pages, the dialogue sparkles like Salinger....
-THIS Magazine (THIS Magazine)
And if you're tired of the same old, same old, and looking for a novel that takes on vegetarianism, race and gender issues and the dreaded high school reunion with a bit of supernatural tossed in, then Venous Hum by Suzette Mayr is definitely the book-of-the-month for you. Mayr's contempoary referneces are acute, her characters lifelike and their personal dramas fiercely comical.
-Calgary Herald (Calgary Herald)
... a funny, insightful, sexy, intelligent horror novel with memorable characters that never takes itself too seriously. And it's written by an Albertan. Now that's spooky.
-VUE Weekly (VUE Weekly)
Suzette Mayr's third novel, Venous Hum (Arsenal Press) ratchets up the already nailbiting drama of a high-school reunion with racial and sexual tensions, extramatrial affairs, and cannibalistic, undead vegetarians.
-Canadian Press (Canadian Press)
In Venous Hum, Alberta author Suzette Mayr tuns the horror of high school reunions into genuine comic horror. Mayr is a very funny satirist...
-Capital Xtra (Capital Xtra!)
Venous Hum, an almost unpronouncable title by Suzette Mayr, is an exciting experience from beginning to end. One of the funniest, most entertaining works of fiction on the 2004 list, this is a bold and often outrageous work about girls going wild.
-University of Toronto Quarterly (University of Toronto Quarterly)
From the Publisher
You might want to grab your blankie...Venous Hum, Suzette Mayrs new novel, is an unconventional horror story.
Sure, the reader encounters bloodsucking third grade teachers, zombies and undead vegetarians, all of which are scary. But the true horror the reader faces is one that hits much closer to home. Anyone watching the news these days knows that our crumbling health care system is the site of horrors more frightening than vampires or zombies.
Venous Hum takes place in a not so distant future where same sex marriage has been legalized (even in Alberta!). But it is far from Utopia. Hospitals are closing to make way for shoppingmalls. The poor kids get the life sucked right out of them by sinister grade school teachers. And laid-off nurses are collecting pop cans to make ends meet.
Suzette Mayrs tale will give you the social program willies!See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
One of the rules of this site regarding reviews is 'don't post spoilers'...this should also apply to blurbs. It may already be too late but if you do plan on reading this book, *please* do not read the back cover. It reveals details that don't come into obvious play until the denouement (although naturally signposted the whole way, as per any clever work -- and this book is very clever). Things that are much more rewarding to figure out for yourself.
Another note about the blurb on the back: '[This book is] is an exclaimation mark at the end of a sentence announcing the end of writing as you know it, and the beginning of something entirely new.' That might be appropriate to paste to the back of 'Ulysses', but Suzette Mayr is not James Joyce. Her decision not to use inverted commas for dialogue might be coincidental, but there is a definite 'Ulysses'-like moment near the end of the book (think the Brothel scene a.k.a. Circe) that feels less like a colleague's nod than an aspirant's first, jerky imitation.
Speaking of the dialogue, it is a strength of this book: simultaneously exaggerated and believable. One gets the feeling many of the exchanges in the book are little more than second-hand recountings on behalf of the author -- nothing new in fiction, of course, but this novel strives for a satirical stance and falls short because one can't tell with any of the given issues whether the author is being funny or not. Moments that border on hilarity suffer sudden fits of what certainly feels like preaching.
'Venous Hum' is a 'satire on sexual preference', according to the blurb, but what exactly does this mean? Who are we supposed to be laughing at? People who *have* a sexual preference? If not that, then perhaps specific sexual preferences? Should the reader then be laughing at lesbians? Or at the cliches of lesbianism? Unless one is a lesbian, this is all quite dangerous territory. By reading this book, which by its satirical nature establishes authority on that which is being satirised, one is trusting the author to make this danger an edgy and exciting experience; to share with the reader a sarcastic, perhaps unsettling but ultimately reader-friedly parody. Instead, 'Venous Hum' is often alienating and snide. At certain points I felt almost guilty for not being a lesbian, for not finding certain things funny. Is the target readership exclusively lesbian? Are my reactions to the overbearing lesbian themes that almost kill the germ of the story itself like an overdose of antibodies...a cliche?
A satire attacks cliches. Unfortunately, attacking cliches is fast becoming a cliche. This book lacks one of two things required to make a satire work: subtlety and/or silliness.
The magic-realism element is unbalanced, with far too much clunky realism (very little subtlety in the characters, symbolism and story development) and not enough magic (until the end, where the sudden-supernatural tries to answer all the reader's questions other than 'is this really necessary?'). This lack of equilibrium plagues the novel throughout and reduces the overall product to a farce -- which is where silliness could have been an asset. One rarely gets the impression that this book, or its author, is honestly as amused at itself as it wants the reader to be.
Even more fatal, however, than this lack of comedic definition is the presence of point-of-view problems. 'Venous Hum', through its almost amateurish PoV transitions, will teach a writer more about poV than a book that 'gets it right'.
A narrative that switches point-of-view between chapters is standard and unambitious -- but also comfortable and inviting. Doing the same within a single chapter (again, something for which Joyce was and is renowned) is viable but risky. Attempting over six different points-of-view within a single paragraph, paying no heed to segue or physical location and allocating a mere sentence to each point-of-view, is clumsy and confusing.
Later, there are switches of PoV to characters who are not at all integral to the story *or* the satire. I am not a fan of skimming anything I choose to read, but it wasn't difficult to glaze over these extraneous slips (some of which occur quite close to the climax). Although the roaming point-of-view does its best to trick the reader into being interested in all the characters, one decides early on *whose* story the author is telling, and any portions that fail to do so are subject to disinterest and impatience.
As an aside, I'll admit that my favourite character was a minor one and none of the main characters interested me other than as elements of the story, which suggests that Mayr is not telling the best story in her narrative universe, but certainly *could*.
But 'Venous Hum' gets two stars because 1) the idea of mixing lesbians, suburbia and vampires ('cannibalistic, undead vegetarians' -- which sort of implies that the characters are vegetative and have no life) is certainly original and at times works very well. The prose is tight and evocative, regardless of the loose structure...and 2) the entire middle part, a flashback which doesn't play too many games with PoV, is a great read. The clever moments throughout the book are less laugh-out-loud than a sardonic smirk, but there aren't enough such witty moments to justify the narrative flaws.
Vampires, lesbians, vegans and a high school reunion...I could have been sold on this book with that alone, but am glad I was not, because I wouldn't have gotten what I paid for.