Linked sketches skim the surface of a group of twentysomethings down and out in Vancouver.
Any night of the week Hannah and her crew—Blue, Carrotgirl, Jezebel, Eli, Em, Jay, Bernice, Oliver, Donna and Lily—hang out, get drunk or stoned, look for bedmates, get into fights. Hannah, 24, is the nascent writer of the group, but she has little to say: “She kept notes on their reckless cycles, her aimless conversations with welfare babies. She turned to a fresh page and wrote, ‘The morning after the night before.’” Hannah falls in love with Gritboy, a skateboard-riding, good-natured “dirty boy” who lives in a van and drinks most of his money away. Their romance is central to the story: they fall in love, he moves in, they get bored, she kicks him out, he takes up with Bernice, they keep bumping into each other, she takes off to forget about him (24 hours in San Francisco, a stretch in New York) and mostly gets over it at last. Most of the characters are solipsistic and frequently foolish. The book offers a useful prologue and epilogue (who did what to whom) and a chilling centerpiece, “Annie & Clay: A History,” a pseudo oral history by the crew that describes the gradual disintegration of a homeless couple. Annie is “from a long line of Edmonton punks, . . . the kind who forge through the snow to tear shit up at the strip mall Smitty’s.” She runs off at 15 with a 40-year-old biker, ends up rescued by her mother, toothless, with “Trust No Man” tattooed across her stomach. Clay skateboards, paints graffiti, is otherwise passive. Blue-eyed, freckled, most likely brain-damaged from nitrous oxide (“poor man’s crack,” from whipped-cream containers), glue, and other drugs. In the end, he’s howling at the moon, and Annie loses track of him.
Mostly sad stories about club kids, Canadian style. Wasted lives, a waste of time.