Wrong Bar, by Nathaniel G. Moore, a Toronto-based poet and once “Taddle Creek’s most rejected author,” tells the odd and alienating story of failing writer and Maudlin city resident Charles Haas. Mixing styles, rejecting classic literary rules, Moore tells a sometimes confusing story riddled with poetic images and odd dialogue.
The multiple plots can be misleading. At first, Haas seems to have people tied up and gagged at his fish store, but that doesn’t stick. Then, he gets buried alive, a definite reminder of an earlier manuscript he’s shown to too many adolescents. We delve into that storyline within a storyline in which the town learns of a twisted teen’s horrible casket prank gone wrong at a much-hyped club event. Finally, we get a glimpse of a moving post-breakup conversation between Charles Haas and his ex, Chelsey.
Oh, and there’s also a bug-like robot called K.L.O.S.U.R.E intent on destroying our rejected poet.
At times, it reads like Hunter S. Thompson’s drug epic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Paranoïd Haas is trying to make it as a writer, and his intern just isn’t that motivated to help. Haas obviously lives in a fantasy land that only makes sense to him, and he isn’t oblivious to the irritation this can cause his intern.
Otherwise, the “let’s choose a place to party” scene is reminiscent of the four-way phone conference found in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, where the bored and jaded young plan to party with nonchalance and a total lack of personal investment. There’s also a certain Generation X feel to the book.
The novel might be an accurate reflection of its author, often eccentric, bathing in self-references, and very involved in the local literary scene. But it’s also a celebration of art, a kind of excited storytelling. In fact, the stories and plots and characters aren’t the only changeable aspects of the book. From completely odd Fear and Loathing-esque deliriums to screenplays to a journalistic re-telling of events, the story changes formats, changes shapes, ending in a beautifully eloquent portrayal of two human beings distanced from one another in an awkward conversation.
It sometimes reads like something written by someone with ADHD. That’s probably intentional, since the author himself said he was very much influenced by the 140-character limit of Twitter. The confusing array of high teenagers and killing robots and made-for-entertainment caskets are rendered in a writing style unique to Nathaniel G. Moore, a poetic prose that is, for lack of a better word, fun.
Maybe this uniqueness will help Nathaniel G. Moore, maybe it’ll hurt him. The novel can border on the too eccentric, the too experimental, and may lose readers because of its unusual format. But it’s a beautiful risk taken by what seems to be an uncompromising poet. In an era when bestsellers are fabricated and calculated down to the very letter, this unpredictable novel is a welcome addition to the Canadian literary scene.
Joseph Elfassi is a freelance journalist and photographer. You can visit his blog at www.elfassi.ca/wordpress.