Is There a Guy in All of Us? | Review of “Guy” by Jowita Bydlowska (2016) Wolsak & Wynn

I purchased a copy of this book at the 2016 Toronto Word on the Street festival

Guy

How we interact with people – how we talked to them, how we think about them, whom we consider friends, etc.  – is always an important element for us to consider. Do we ever reflect on our actions and our thoughts anymore in this fast-paced age? Or do we just go from one personal gratification to another without giving a second thought of the people around us. Jowita Bydlowska has written a novel giving us a perspective of a narcissistic male whose only concern is his next sexual encounter. And she has documented that guy well in her book Guy. (And appropriately named him Guy.)

Page 9

The beach is full. It is almost always full this time of day. There are cars parked on the sand, some with their hatchbacks open, sudden buffets of beige and while food – the food of the people who come this beach. The food of people who grow large and soft: children with apathetic eyes, women with chafed thighs, men with rolls of flesh over their hips.

There are Fours and Fives everywhere. Their eyes flick over my face, flick away. Flick back again. I love them for it, but the nerve. It’s the media, the music videos. Every wannabe Britney Spears thinks she is Britney Spears. But if you were to stick the actual Britney Spears on this beach with no handlers? After a few hours she’d be violently pink from the sun, and her thighs would be as chafed as every other girl’s here. Unhandled, she’d be burping up yellow Cheetos. She’d deteriorate from a Seven to a Four just like that.

A Four walks by, looks up from her phone. Small lips, big nose. Small breasts, a belly.

Bydlowska has captured a element of the human condition here. I kept flashing back to the plot of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho and while Bydlowska’s Guy is not as ultra violent as Patrick Bateman, he is indeed as vile at times. There is a conceit about him that we all somehow can relate to – we know somebody like that – and in doing so a reader takes time out to pause to consider their realities.

Page 82-83

For my part, I’ve given Dolores a printout with numbers and email addresses that are missing on crucial letter or have the number one instead of a seven and so on.

I know that it’s almost impossible to hide in the world anymore, and that young women like Dolores make online stalking their pastime, but it’s relatively hard to find me out there. Besides, even plain girls who meet princes get distracted – by math, by a boy with a guitar, by becoming passionate about saving pets, etcetera.

I make a nice memory, but my silence makes it quickly obvious that they were right about their instincts that it was too good to be true. And the the fake numbers and so on prove it. There was no mistake.

It would be well enough alone if Guy was just a conceited jerk in his personal affairs but Bydlowdska has given another element of his life for us to consider our realities in. Guy is a talent agent and his attitudes towards women spread to his success in the popular music scene. Are our tastes in popular culture caused by the likes of Guy. Perhaps. And it is frightening to think so.

Page 113

My idea for making the tumour $isi’s thing turns out to be brilliant. Post-tumour, there are TV appearances: morning shows, afternoon shows, even a few evening show appearances. There are a couple of magazine articles. We get interview requests – too many, so we have to start turning them down. $isi has been asked to give advice on everything from how to be at parties to healthy eating to fashion in the bedroom. For the latest release, we rejig the lyrics so that the song has the word grey in it. The ribbon colour for brain tumour is grey. With a nod toward Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” the writer comes up with a title: “Black to Grey.”

Although $isi is on the way to recovery, it’s important to continue with our Thing, to keep giving it a positive spin. Everyone works hard to keep the tumour issue in the public eye.

I have many ideas.

Jowita Bydlowska has truly documented an element of the human condition with her novel Guy. She has given readers pause in their own actions and thoughts about their attitudes towards other people. It is a darkly funny read at times but one that is reflective as well.

*****

Link to Wolsak And Wynn’s webpage for Guy

Link to Jowita Bydlowska’s website

Link to my Q&A with Jowita Bydlowska -“A non-fiction writer reports (creatively or otherwise) from reality, and a fiction writer observes, filters, and interprets the same reality and reports from imagination.”

 

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