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Chris Blank

noise, much like Smith's first novel How Insensitive, deals with young, Torontonian ladder-climbers.

Noise book cover This time the story revolves around James, a restaurant critic. We follow James as he tries to understand his relationships with those around him, and watch his struggles as he tries to make a name for himself.

On the front flap Noise is touted as a "a throwback to the hilariously unsatisfactory heroes and heroines of Kingsley Amis and Evelyn Waugh." There is humour here, to be certain, a snideness indicative of anyone who has grown up through the 80s and lived through the 90s. But through this critical exploration of self we should see growth and change; with Smith's characters this is overshadowed by the character's pathetic attempts to be popular. Perhaps we are supposed to laugh at silly James and his silly life, but it feels that Smith truly wants us to like these characters, not ridicule them as it is tempting to do.

It is difficult to decide whether or not to like these characters, with their dreams of becoming the cultural elite. Sometimes the writing feels like first rate satire while other times it feels Smith is just whining about his own twenty-something years gone by (Smith was born in 63).

Smith appears to be dredging his youth, getting rid of his growing-pains baggage before he writes some serious contemplation on contemporary society. You can see it there, the probing pen trying to capture what it is that makes urban life tick. Perhaps now that Smith has written about over-aged kids trying to grow up he can himself grow up as a novelist.

Noise is well written, Smith cannot be denied that. Let us hope he starts writing books about something else than growing up, because it seems doubtful he has much more ground to cover there.

published by porcupine's quill
ISBN 0-88984-197-7

Chris Blank is a Vancouver based writer.

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