Book review: YOU Comma Idiot

By Paul Beriault

Let’s start this review the way YOU Comma Idiot is written — you are Doug Harris, TV commercial director, and you wrote your entire first novel in the second person. You wrote it about a Montreal hash dealer, who by way of luck sleeps with a couple of women way out of his league. You wrote it about having a cat named Sam Spayed, and his owner Lee Goodstone. You wrote it about getting high, and sometimes made not getting high a point of significance. And then you finished the book with your reconciled characters walking side-by-side, while “somewhere in the distance, a siren is wailing.”

Unfortunately for Harris, the second person perspective starts to strain after about the second page. The repetition of “you,” “you’re” and “you’ve” kills the reader’s concentration. It’s luckily a quick and simple read, so little is missed by the occasional lapse in attention. It fits comfortably into the category of slacker literature, a genre which is often underappreciated. We all know someone who’s like Goodstone, and we all have a little Goodstone in ourselves. That’s part of YOU Comma Idiot’s appeal.

Despite feeling like a movie, it’s still a funny book. It rollicks along thanks in part to the narrator’s narcissistic charm. He has a kind of persistent insouciance that alternately exasperates and delights.

Montreal is the setting of the book — readers familiar with the city will recognize streets, landmarks and even the weekly “tam tam” parties on the mountain in the summer.

YOU Comma Idiot is a book that reads like a reversal of the usual book-turned-screenplay process. It’s easy to imagine a movie frame in every sentence. It is usually funny, sometimes insightful and it can catch you off guard with moments of poignancy. But it suffers from lack of a strong plot, and never fully explains the motivations behind the characters. Like the review blurb on the book jacket says, you should wait for the movie.

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