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The I.v. Lounge Reader

by Paul Vermeersch, ed.

The I.V. Lounge Reader is just about as far from the genteel literary sensibilites of much Canadian writing as Vancouver is from St. John’s. Ivy League it isn’t. Consisting of works chosen from the writers who have taken part in Toronto’s I.V. Lounge reading series, hosted by poet and anthology editor Paul Vermeersch, the collection showcases irreverently humorous writing that is largely tied to the urban environment in which much of it debuted. And though not all of the poetry and fiction in the Reader was performed on stage, it’s easy to imagine the pieces eliciting laughter and rapt attention from an audience.
Poems from David McGimpsy, Michael Holmes, and Patrick Rawley wryly comment on contemporary life, drawing on pop culture references that range from I Love Lucy to Cherry 2000. Sherwin Tjia’s “Treasure Hunt” takes the form of a macabre classified ad proclaiming a man’s sexual availability alongside a plea for information about his missing daughter.
Brian Panhuyzen’s “Bald Man Loogie” is a comically absurd story involving a chase between a spitter and the police against a city backdrop, while Michelle Berry hits a twisted universal note with “Little White Lie,” in which an everywoman takes surprising revenge on her unfaithful husband. Other notable stories include Kristi-ly Green’s “The Happy Diary,” a droll parody of the consequences of Oprah-esque recipes for happiness, and Peter Darbyshire’s sombre reflection on the ease of urban human cruelty.
With the only criteria for inclusion being the author’s participation in the reading series, the anthology could easily have fallen prey to uneven quality, with the more polished works contrasting those with rough edges. For the most part, though, the Reader has avoided this problem, likely because the reading series itself boasts many of the best writers that Canada, particularly Toronto, has to offer.