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by N.J. Dodic

N.J. Dodic, in his second novel, Muck, adds an intriguing wrinkle to the convention of basing a novel around the interplay between a main text and its “editor’s” footnotes, which occurs most famously in Pale Fire by Nabokov. Here the editor is ostensibly Dodic himself. Dodic’s editor persona, as he appears in the introduction and copious footnotes, is surly and intrusive and apparently obsessed with researching the authenticity of the story and offering his commentary. Dodic is also a character in the main text, which is purportedly the notebook entries of Hester Fuddrucker, a drifter damaged in mind and body living in and around Toronto, asked by Dodic to write a “life on the street” diary for a magazine.

There’s a marvellous tension in Muck between fact, fiction, and fabulation. The authenticity of the various layers of text is perpetually in question and in conflict with other layers. Do we believe in the reports of the homicidal Fuddrucker? The ostensibly well-researched notes of the editor Dodic who clearly has his own agenda? One has to wonder in what way the author is similar to his like-named editor persona. How much of this has been constructed from a patchwork of real events and people? None of the voices can be taken at face value.

Fuddrucker’s diary records and comments on the squalid, murderous details of his life up to the death of his twisted soul-mate – his beloved cat – and the moments before his own demise. He also recounts the bizarre and damaging events of his childhood in Ireland.

His story is so stylized and told with such a dark irony and sense of its own absurdity that one’s compassion is abstracted; one can wincingly, blackly, feel for the protoganist, and can be compelled by his voice as one is by the voices of Beckett’s characters. And indeed the character of Fuddrucker owes much to Beckett: he’s a misanthropic, obsessive, verbally inventive tramp creating a world out of his own misery, his language filled with arcane references and memories.

Dodic could have been more extreme in his intrusions into the main text, especially in the second half of the book where the obligato voice of the footnotes is less effective, and somewhat obscured by the morbid, compelling drive of Fuddrucker’s narrative. Though filled with accounts of bestiality, necrophilia, and casual homicide, the main story itself seems somehow familar and as such loses some of its potential impact. The other framing levels of the novel do call into question, however, whether this is due to the narrator’s limitations and not the novel’s.

If little of this book is credible, Dodic has managed to make all of it absorbing by devising a completely duplicitous way to show us the threadbare rope by which we are able to suspend our disbelief.


Reviewer: Gary Barwin

Publisher: Gutter


Price: $14.95

Page Count: 188 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 1-896356-07-9

Released: Apr.

Issue Date: 1996-4

Categories: Fiction: Novels