Friday, November 14, 2008

Fiction: Entitlement: A Novel by Jonathan Bennett

Canada owns a contemporary tradition of producing authors who are also working poets. In recent years wordsmiths like Helen Humphries, Andrea MacPherson and Anne Simpson have made room between books of poetry to write novels that are understandably quite unlike those being created by authors whose backgrounds are less focused on the sound a single word makes when dropped upon the page.

Now understand: this is not a bad thing. But it does explain the almost ethereal tone that Jonathan Bennett’s Entitlement (ECW) takes on occasion. And it’s an interesting juxtaposition -- ethereal -- because in some ways, Entitlement could almost be called LadLit (if that was a term that was still being used, which of course it is not), focused as it is with the concerns of men and boys.

The men and boys in Entitlement, however, are of a rare and almost invisible breed: they are of the ruling class of Canada’s moneyed establishment. And so Entitlement evolves to a discussion of class in a culture that does not discuss it. It’s not a lesson, though. Nor even a social comment in a big picture sort of way. Bennett may be a poet, but he’s also a damn fine storyteller, as he proved with his first novel, After Battersea Park, which he proved again in his collection of short stories, 2003’s Verandah People, and which he proves conclusively in Entitlement.

Was there ever a question that Jonathan Bennett was fast on his way to cementing his place in Canadian literature? There isn’t anymore.



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