Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Fearsome Yet Elementary Particles

I’ve been reviewing books for a few years now, but I’d hesitate to call myself an expert. Given my focus on non-fiction and contemporary fiction, it’s not as if I have the breadth and experience to be, oh, say, the review editor of Quill & Quire. I mean, you’d really have to know your stuff to be the review editor of the Canadian book industry trade magazine.

So, like I said, I’m no expert. But it strikes me that if you decide to review a book, you might want to take the time to make sure you spell the title correctly. In today’s Sunday Star, Nathan Whitlock takes a crack at The Fearsome Particles. Only problem is that he calls the book The Elementary Particles. Twice:

Cole attempts something both slightly bigger and slightly smaller with The Elementary Particles, his second novel. Instead of resting all of the story's weight upon the shoulders of a singular figure such as Norman Bray, Cole shares the narrative and the troubles among three main characters — a father, a mother, and a son.


Norman Bray in the Performance of His Life lived and died by its central character, who overshadowed all others. In The Elementary Particles, Cole has expanded his range effectively, though with some loss of narrative vitality and cohesion. Both books suffer from endings that feel more like a sudden loss of authorial will than a conclusion. Yet I finished both novels feeling completely satisfied, even grateful, like a lab rat happy to see food appear every time it presses the lever.

Perhaps Cole's new book is very Houellebecq-ish. I'm not sure. All I know is that we're all human, and we all make mistakes. Even Nathan Whitlock.