The Parabolist by Nicholas Ruddock

By Zoe Shapiro

Unless I have my nose buried in a really engrossing book, I’m a bit of a Trinity Bellwoods spastic. Cute dog to my left! Cute man on my right! Chick wearing a cute hat at 10 o clock! With park weather well and truly here, I tried to amend my skin tone (Scottish shade of pale) and went reading in the grass. And Clive Owen could’ve walked his Puggle right by me (pug/beagle mix…get your heads outta the gutter!) and I wouldn’t have noticed. I was reading The Parabolist by Nicholas Ruddock, a fab new piece of Canadian Fiction.
The book tells the story of a gang of U of T Med students in 1975. There’s Jasper; the unassuming lothario, John; his brother who flunks out and works in a Roman Bathhouse and Val; the beauty who falls for Roberto; a Mexican poet teaching them their literary requirement. It’s a languid novel, perfect for a slow springtime read. Beautiful Toronto cityscapes and metaphors fall off the pages and the narrative shifts unobtrusively between the characters. All of this subtle, sleight of hand writing belies unbelievable misadventures and bizarre occurrences that begin to pile up in the plot (Crisco at a crime scene? Mistaken cunnilingus?). By the halfway point this gentle novel becomes an eerie page-turner.
Whether Ruddock’s ending is the twist you saw coming or a frustrating diversion, I cannot help but admire his beautiful writing; Ruddock even manages to make poetry of anatomy class. Full of fantastic portraits of Toronto that have left me loved up on my city and an interesting cast, The Parabolist is definitely worth a read.

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