Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/11/2010 (3282 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
By Keith Cadieux
Quattro Books, 90 pages, $17
In this literary fun house of a novella, a bizarre vision in a mirror at a hardware store leads a young man to spend an inordinate amount of time staring at his reflection.
The curious thing is that he is not actually staring at himself, so much as he is gazing at the reflection itself. The young man decides that he must build a room made entirely of mirrors, a "pyschomanteum."
In his first book, Winnipeg author Keith Cadieux draws you in with a combination of spookiness, suspense and voyeurism. After the narrator's initial encounter, you are right there with him frantically trying to recreate it.
The setting is a gloomy city, cold, dark and icy. The narrator is an unnamed man in his mid-20s, a former master's student who is working at a big-box hardware store.
He lives alone in a run-down apartment. He a has a crush on a girl he works with, but he has no other associations.
Since it is written in the style of a journal or log book, the account seems personal and honest. It is at once a detailed report of an experiment and a traditional, reflective journal.
The tone is ironic and at other times embittered. The narrator regrets his time "wasted" on a degree he didn't finish. "If I really make myself think about it," he laments, "there are all kinds things that have gone unfinished, goals unfulfilled."
As the experiment progresses, he becomes focused and empowered by his goal. He is terrified and compelled by what he might discover.
Cadieux's writing is precise and detailed without any excess bulk. He describes his initial experience in the mirror aisle: "There was a violence to it. [It] was as though something from behind the glass had smashed up against it."
At times you feel as if you are holding your breath with him. "It felt like something behind or maybe somehow within the reflection," the narrator explains, "something that I couldn't see, had pushed up hard against [the glass]. Had wanted out."
The obsessive and detailed style of the novella is comparable to American writer Paul Auster's novel City of Glass. The narrator compiles all the information he can about mirrors, determined to gain concrete information about his mysterious experience.
Given that Gaze is about this young man gazing at his reflection, it seems like he might discover something about himself over the course of his experiment, rather than getting a glimpse of the supernatural.
The journal entries creep around the implications of the act of self-reflection, but never quite go beyond the reflective surface of the mirror.
Gaze is reminiscent of a traditional ghost story in that it keeps you in suspense until the end. This novella strives to be a reflective ghost story, questioning why we are curious and terrified of the supernatural and why we think about it at all.
An avid reader, Kate Edmond works for Stella's Cafe and Bakery in Winnipeg.