Kip Flynn, the pierced and dreadlocked protagonist of Sean Dixon’s second novel for adults, makes her living selling roses, until she’s put out of business after an altercation with Pat York, son of a real estate mogul. The book opens with Kip’s boyfriend, Mani, being murdered by Pat’s father in an act of revenge gone wrong. In shock, Kip accepts payment from the Yorks in exchange for her silence, but thereafter finds herself inextricably linked to them. This puts her at odds with her roommate, Nancy, a local activist campaigning against the Yorks’ efforts to redevelop Kensington Market. As if all that weren’t enough, Kip has recently discovered she is pregnant.
Following The Girls Who Saw Everything, the love letter to Montreal that was his first adult novel, Dixon turns his attention to Toronto, the city he calls home, though this literary version exists ever so slightly outside of time and does not match up completely with Toronto’s actual geography. Dixon’s characters walk the city’s streets and avenues, explore its underground, and ascend to great heights, resulting in a somewhat fanciful re-creation of the familiar landscape.
Dixon’s postmodern narrative delights in challenging the conventions of the novel form, employing omniscient narration combined with magic realism and literary self-awareness. However, The Many Revenges of Kip Flynn is occasionally overwhelmed by everything it is trying to contain: in addition to its narrative escapades, it also wants to address Toronto’s history, geography, and topography, as well as matters of urban and architectural theory. It all gets to be too much at times.
The spell that Dixon casts around his imagined city is also broken in places by references to actual people and events, such as the mayor’s determination to end the “war on cars.” The overtly political material is too didactic, explaining things that have already been dramatically rendered. Such bald exposition is unnecessary: Dixon’s city is a living organism, a carnival, and a celebration of life itself.