I find it impossible to give Lynn Crosbie's book Paul's Case a starred rating because this book wasn't enjoyable in the common sense of the word. It nauseated me. It made me deeply uncomfortable. It made me long for the times when my commute would be over so that I could stop reading it. And that's kind of the point.
This book is, on the surface, a work of fiction: it's certainly classified that way in the Dewey decimal system. But it's also so much more than that. It is startlingly intertextual, referring back to other texts, informing itself with meanings from great distances away, literature that you would never think to connect with the subject matter. It is a palimpsest of other sources, of images, of words piled one upon another in complicated and sometimes impenetrable layers of meaning. It scrapes away and builds upon, never fully obscuring the layers beneath. The images are disturbing, decontextualized, eroticized, carved out and resignified. It is a hermeneutic running in circles, defining and redefining itself part and whole, in a shifting and unstable geography of meaning. It grasps at everything, and nothing. It is a text that is impossible to pin down and grasp. It is a trip down the rabbit hole, into a nonsensical world that, in bits and flashes, makes sense and then suddenly ceases.
Like the crimes it portrays, the psyche it grasps at.
The book circles and circumnavigates the crimes and person of Paul Bernardo, trying to interrogate him through his victims, through his wife, through himself, through the evidence. The book is the reaction of author and poet Crosbie, as she struggles to come to grips with him by writing him letters. It has to be fiction: non-fiction, essays, lists of facts can't begin to get at it. It has to be allusion, illusion, alliteration, metaphor, imagined words put into dead girls' mouths. It is offensive, repugnant, violating, necessary. What gives you the right to imagine words in a dead girl's mouth? What gives you the right not to?
It is a violent text, filled with violence and violent imagining. Perversion. Obsession. It is a like a horrific sonnet from an author obsessed with Bernardo, with grasping him, conquering him, coming to terms with him - who ultimately cannot.
You won't enjoy this book, and I would be worried if you did. Only you can decide if what the author is doing is worth it.
I papered over the cover like an old textbook: his face disturbs me.