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Book Reviews

Anxious Gravity

by Jeff Wells

Reflecting back on his life, twentysomething Gideon Gast finds that, when it comes right down to it, he’s spent most of his time “in anticipation and remembrance of sex.” Caught between his born-again mom and Marxist dad, who are both wrestling for control of their son’s soul, Gideon takes refuge in his grandmother’s basement flat. There he delves into the world of shortwave radio (when he’s not masturbating), and checks out the social scene at a Baptist youth retreat where he’s more interested in making a move on Patti Hula than he is in finding God. After a one-night stand with a buxom fiftyish history prof, Gideon’s road to Damascus leads him back to Toronto.
Anxious Gravity is a deftly paced novel, packed with clever turns of phrase and erudite wordplay. First-time novelist Jeff Wells is best known as the principal satirist for Frank magazine, and his portrait of Gideon’s stint at Overcomer Bible College is particularly hilarious. Wells uses the situation to satirize everything from the school’s music policy (everything after the death of Sousa is forbidden) to the petty sins of students and faculty participating in a college-wide confession.
What fails to amuse, however, is Gideon’s puerile preoccupation with sex, a matter made worse by the taint of “old-boys” male chauvinism. There are hints of the anxious gravity that infuses Gideon’s all-too-serious approach to life, a gravitas that is clearly at the heart of Wells’s satire, but these moments get lost in the attention given to his protagonist’s catalogue of sexual conquests. Anxious Gravity is certainly a funny book, but it could have been a great deal more.