FISHING FOR BACON
By Michael Davie
The Bacon in the title of this enjoyable comic debut from Calgary author Michael Davie is Bacon Sobelowski, an unprepossessing young man just out of high school and wondering what to do with his life. His options are limited since the only thing he seems to like doing is fishing, and he isn’t very good at that. He also lives in Bellevue, a small town that used to be a Greyhound stop on the Crowsnest Trail Highway but is now just a lonesome drive-by. His one goal in life, inspired by the wisdom of Kenny Rogers, is to find his special “someone.”
This sets up a conventional plot, as Bacon, armed only with his second-hand spincaster fishing rod with the thumb-button trigger and Kamlooper lure, is nearly undone by a wild-at-heart first love, the evil ways of the big city (that is, Calgary), the charms of a cousin who arrives by surprise from Korea, and a game of sexual bingo played at a tourist camp. As with fictional progenitors like Candide and Joseph Andrews, Bacon is somewhat of a passive protagonist in all of this. Despite all of his agonizing over hormonal urges, he is at heart an innocent abroad, naive in the ways of the flesh and the world. Rather than a wandering rogue like his absent father, he is a quiet drunk with a nesting impulse (one that rather dramatically expresses itself in a Bellevue landmark). And so the fun revolves around the novel’s supporting cast of loonies, especially the horny, tough-as-nails, predatory women. Indeed the world Bacon travels through is very much a woman’s world. The men he meets tend to be romantics – sentimental, kind-hearted and obliging. Even the mysterious Laszlo Maximilian Mursky, one of the more bizarre creations in recent Canadian fiction, is a weirdly effete, uxorious villain. It is the women who are in control.
Bacon complains of his “bad timing” throughout the book, but Davies’s timing – and timing is the essence of comedy – is excellent. The dialogue maintains a nice rhythm for humorous emphases, the gags are well developed, and the plot keeps all its balls juggling in the air for the duration. Though it doesn’t entirely come together at the end, leaving a number of those balls still in play, it makes for a fun ride with many laughs along the way.
Review first published in Quill & Quire, March 2009.