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Abuse given powerful voice

EMOTIONAL ROLLER-COASTER. Scottish writer Toni Davidson comes to town with his new novel, Scar Culture. Credit: Xtra files

Brit-crits have compared Scar Culture to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Bastard Out Of Carolina, dubbing first-time Scottish writer Toni Davidson “as good as Irvine Welsh, more clear-sighted than James Kelman and less encumbered by desperate trendiness than Alan Warner.”

Scar Culture might be Davidson’s first novel but it’s not the 33-year-old gay writer’s first foray into the literary world-he’s the editor of And Thus I Will Sing Freely, Scotland’s first anthology of gay and lesbian writing, and Intoxication: An Anthology of Stimulant-Based Writing.

And Scar Culture certainly lives up to all the hype. It’s a dark and dirty exploration of abuse – sexual, physical, psychological – you name it, you’ll find it in this unbelievably emotional roller-coaster ride of a novel.

Davidson kick-drops readers into the midst of the harrowing lives of two very scarred young men, Click and Fright, and their equally damaged shrink, pyscho-hack Dr Curtis Sad. Sad is determined to bring Click and Fright through the years of trauma and abuse they’ve suffered by having them re-live their horrific experiences by way of a ground-breaking experiment, milieu therapy, that he’s been dying to try out.

After all, Click and Fright have withdrawn almost as deep into themselves as it’s humanly possible to go, silent to the point of being virtually catatonic. How much worse can it get? Read Scar Culture and you’ll see.

Davidson not only has the knack of taking us into the emotional devastation that lies behind each of these three characters but he is able to create a distinct and individual voice for each by using a variety of fictional styles that brilliantly come together in Sad’s narrative.

Click takes his name from the photographs, both real and imaginary, that he takes in order to tell the story of his life with his seriously damaged parents; his choppy narrative mirroring a series of snapshots.

Fright whispers his tale to a tape recorder, rasping with the effort; his story is the most powerful of the three and the most horrific as he relates not only the agony of being abused, but depicts how he was forced to watch his father abuse both his mother and his older brother.

As Davidson walks us through Sad’s completely misguided experiment, he reveals in clinical detail, the story behind this equally damaged soul.

Scar Culture is an absolutely extraordinary first novel, but it’s by no means an easy read. Davidson has stunningly conjured up the bleak and disturbing world of the abused, a world that all too often cries out for a voice – with Scar Culture, it has been given a powerful one indeed.

Scar Culture.

By Toni Davidson.

Random House Of Canada.

247 pages. $32.95.