One of his people is undergoing cancer treatments. Another is addicted to crystal meth. And another has had to flee Toronto and move back home with his parents. As their worlds crumble around them, Greg Kearney makes the desperate lives of his characters brutally real, quietly heartbreaking and utterly hilarious.
It’s a quality he’s always had in his Rhubarb plays and in his short fiction, collected in the books Mommy Daddy Baby and Pretty, which won the 2012 ReLit Award for best new short-fiction book from a Canadian independent publisher. With The Desperates, Kearney now takes his blackly comic worldview into the realm of the Great Canadian Novel, where the lives of flawed yet tender people collide with each other in fascinating ways — only in Kearney’s new book, the flaws are stranger, the tenderness deeper, the collisions more extreme.
The transition from writing short fiction to a major novel would seem daunting but wasn’t, Kearney says. “I’m not really a short-storyist,” he says, revealing that he'd already entirely abandoned an “ill-conceived” novel about an advice columnist in favour of what became The Desperates. “You can tell when it doesn’t have a heartbeat,” Kearney says, “and this one did.”
The launch party for The Desperates takes place Thursday, Dec 5 at 6pm at Toronto’s venerable yet recently remodelled leather bar the Black Eagle. On the event’s Facebook page, Sex Geek blogger Andrea Zanin asked, “There's nothing in the book's description to indicate that it's in any way set in the leather scene or related to SM or leather culture, but picking the Eagle as a launch venue raises the question.”
Kearney responds, “No, sadly. The novel is set mostly in late '90s queer Toronto, but SM is definitely a very peripheral motif. The launch is at the Eagle because I am an old whore.”
Fans of the late, lamented Kurbash and Colby’s will find much to love in the novel, but it, like the launch party, is open to whores young and old alike, and I’ll have a longer interview with Kearney (and full review) in the pages of Xtra’s print edition next week.
The Desperates book launch
Thurs, Dec 5, 6pm
The Black Eagle, 457 Church St, Toronto
$21.95, Cormorant Books
Available at Glad Day Bookshop and other independent bookstores