Culture | Culture Brief

What did you say to me?

You just read Doug Harris’ novel, You comma Idiot. When you began reading the story, you were very confused, as it is written in a second-person narrative. “Who is the author addressing?” you wondered. “Am I supposed to be the main character? Is the protagonist telling me the story?” You even went so far as to Google “second-person,” and look at a very suspect website that advertised “Power Novel” courses (if it can’t be written in under a day, it is definitely not great literature), and informed you that the second-person point of view was the most difficult to write, and that they did not recommend using it, especially for first-time writers.

Yet, there is Doug Harris- first-time Canadian novelist, who managed to write in the second-person quite successfully. Yes, you, should really read You comma Idiot. (You have decided to stop writing in second-person for the rest of this article, as you’re not sure how Doug Harris wanted to write this way for his entire novel because you’re so exasperated you want to throw your laptop across the library).

The press release for this novel used the descriptor words “quirky” and “gritty” and referred to the writing style as a mix of Nick Hornby (About a Boy) and Douglas Coupland (The Gum Thief). I approached feeling deeply skeptical, as I’ve found that usually when something is described in a manner involving the words “eccentric” or “idiosyncratic”, it means the novel is pretentious and pseudo-intellectual. I cracked open Harris’ work and, for the first fifty pages, I was slightly confused, but mostly irritated and unimpressed. To my surprise, by the time I reached one hundred pages, I was hooked. Lee Goodstone, You comma Idiot’s protagonist, is a drug-dealing slacker who also happens to be sleeping with his best friend’s girlfriend. Somehow his charm sneaks up on you. By the end of the novel, Lee felt like an old-friend, someone that I had run into again after a long time and spent the day reminiscing with.

Harris’s book is a surprisingly meaningful work. The author has managed to engage in a rare combination of wit and realism, creating a story in which the action of the plot is secondary to character development. You comma Idiot is mostly a really fun and engaging read, and a welcome break from all the other “eccentric” or “quirky” novels out there, overbearing in their attempts at literary greatness through offbeat realism.


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