Fear and loathing in suburbia
By Gerald Lynch
Paperback, $15.95, 244 pgs.
These are the people in your neighborhood. . .
From the outset, Troutstream by Gerald Lynch seems to be nothing more than a stereotypical view of suburban culture in Canada and of the world. The reader is first presented with the image of a suburban utopia where the sun constantly shines and the characters lie somewhere in between that plastic television family from the Duracell ads and the '50s sitcom ideal family unit yakking it up at the neighborhood barbecue.
It is only when the reader is taken inside the characters of the book that Lynch's excellent writing style and piercing wit allows us to see the underbelly of the community, in a manner similar to the way people cautiously walk through a zoo the animals are normal and fun to watch from afar, but try to stick your hand too far inside the cage and you may have it bitten off.
The story is seen through the eyes of the different residents of Troutstream, a suburban Ottawa community. It follows no distinct single narrative but offers many stories of life in the demented suburb. Perspectives range from a pothead university student (Carleton, no less!), to a mixed-up elementary school teacher with an Elvis obsession, to a psychic with uncontrollable and disturbing visions about the future, to everything that can be imagined in between.
The map of the community of Troutstream, which Lynch cleverly provides at the beginning of the book serves as a fitting start to the reader's tour. The novel itself is arranged to resemble this aerial map the reader begins with a far-off, distant look of the everyday community and gradually, chapter-by-chapter, with each original story the reader is pulled in for a closer look at what truly resides in Troutstream. And what does reside there is far from any suburban ideals of Hawaiian shirts and sandals and plunges deep into the dark reservoirs of the human soul with the reader clinging on for the ride.
With intensely-descriptive and well-crafted language, Lynch takes us deep into the heads of the residents of Troutstream. A large number of the narratives are written in the first person and allow the reader to serve as a voyeur into the world of people who are capable of, and practice, adultery, racism, abuse and even murder.
The suburbs seemlessly melt into a freakish type of commune full of bizarre characters and events who exemplify the deterioration of the human spirit. At times funny, and at other times terrifying, the intertwining lives of the characters prove always interesting. They lay trapped in their identical and symmetrical cages, waiting for the barbecue to finish the burgers while the world around them, and inside them, crumbles to the ground.