Ottawa
2 min

Greer finds a comfortable new style

A journey beyond a contemporary Hades

Darren Greer’s second novel, Still Life With June, is a rendering of a loner’s life in plain relief. The protagonist, Cameron Dodds, keeps to himself, but spins a number of yarns for the reader.



“It’s a first person narrative,” says Greer. “Cameron is very subjective. It could very well be him standing in front of you on stage blathering on.”



And Cameron does go on. He rarely pauses for breath in between navigating his depressing world, cruising gay bars on Christmas for other loners’ stories, working at a Salvation Army Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centre, and sitting in a miserable unpublished writers’ group. He lists things he hates the most, decries consumer culture, slams gay Hollywood films and even asks how the expression “crazy as a loon” originated.



Still Life with June is Greer’s second novel published by Cormorant Press. Greer, who recently moved from downtown Ottawa to downtown Toronto, now alternates between both cities. He is currently touring the book. A good-sized crowd, over 50, attended the book launch at the Lookout in early June and the touring will take Greer to most Pride festivals across Canada.



While Tyler’s Cape was lyrical and poetic, June is cynical and resonant. His experience as a playwright comes to the fore in the dialogue.



“Tyler’s Cape took nine months to write the first draft,” says Greer, “but Still Life With June was written in a white heat.



“I wanted to write something that reflected modern technology, like internet, e-mails, the way that we communicate now – which is in bits and pieces.”



The novel is in bits and pieces, with chapters sometimes consisting of only a single line. Cameron’s quick, honest delivery often throws the reader off, but what holds the story together is the main character’s interest in June. June is a 33-year-old woman with Down’s Syndrome whose brother committed suicide in the very clinic where Dodds works. He impersonates the brother and visits June regularly at the Sisters of Good Mercy.



Cameron leads the reader through an underworld of modern drug subculture, writer subculture, gay bars and mental illness. June, stubborn, loving, rambunctious, hyper and a disgusting eater, is one of Cameron’s few connections beyond this contemporary Hades. He hangs around Dagnia Daley from the writer’s group and sometimes chats with the Filipino lesbian couple who are his landlords. Otherwise, Dodds has only a cat, Juxtaposition, to come home to. He also peruses confidential files at work, examining the life of June’s brother, Darrel Greene. Cameron seems to want to find an identity through Darrel’s.



The ending of the book came as a revelation. While on the home stretch of the novel, the ending just struck Greer. He finished the first draft of June after writing in three two-week bursts.



“When I started writing it,” says Greer, “I didn’t sleep, I didn’t do anything – I just wrote.”



STILL LIFE WITH JUNE.

Darren Greer.

Cormorant Books Inc.

$29.95.