Recently I was trying to explain to my partner just one of Jordan Tannahill’s obsessions - the crucial difference between a person and a body. Sounds like mental masturbation to me, he blithely replied. To which I said, Maybe. But if this is mental masturbation, bring it on! My aging brain and sedate existence loved every page of this wildly lived life with its constant philosophical dissection, tussle with the ambiguities of language, and characters who were almost beyond belief.
Tannahill is an artist who jumps on as many platforms as he can - writes plays, acts, produces, makes videos, and most recently has written his first novel. He is so innately driven that he borrowed $1200.00 from his mother when he was 13 to put on a play. She is either the muse or the fodder for much of his work. She has been quoted as saying that this has made her both very uncomfortable and extremely proud. They say that the mark of intelligence is holding two opposite opinions in your head at the same time. She handles that with ease and love.
The novel is book-ended by four or five seconds in real time. Tannahill enters his mother’s bedroom and is instantly struck by the fact that she might be dead. What proceeds are scraps of his own life. Lots of flash back and flash forward. Sex flows through everything. He is a young gay boy/man searching /not searching for love and commitment. His best buddy Ana is a partner in creative crime. She’s a real gem! Wil, his first serious relationship, becomes the co-architect of a small space in downtown Toronto called Video-fag where everything imaginable happens. (I looked it up…this space continues.)
Tannahill occupies so much geographical, psychic and intellectual terrain. You could compare him to the Norwegian writer Knausgaard whose bestselling auto-fiction has immersed thousands in his daily anguish with life. But Tannahill is wilder, more fluid. He wanders all over his body, through different towns and cities, dense philosophical argument, enthralling us with the likes of Julia Kristeva, St. Augustine, Descartes, just to name a few. Pretty damned amazing to be a voyeur into his world, if only for a few hours!