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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Jon Paul Fiorentino

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To purchase Stripmalling

Title: Stripmalling
Author: Jon Paul Fiorentino
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009
Length: 163 pages
Availability: Stripmalling - US
Stripmalling - UK
Stripmalling - Canada
  • With illustrations by Evan Munday

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Our Assessment:

B : well-paced fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Globe & Mail . 6/3/2009 Malcolm Sutton
Quill & Quire . 4/2009 Alex Good

  From the Reviews:
  • "One can't help but feel, even after a page or two of Jonny's confessions, that he exposes his faults and social liability, not in order to exorcize demons, but to ingratiate himself to the reader. (...) I like this little book." - Malcolm Sutton, Globe & Mail

  • "This is all very knowing and postmodern, but handled with a light comic touch, which is set in deliberate opposition to "dead 'serious' prose fiction." Fiorentino’s sensibility is pure Coupland (.....) A collage-like experience, Stripmalling is a hybrid book forged out of multiple angles and perspectives. It is also a funny and clever experiment in tale-telling." - Alex Good, Quill & Quire

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Stripmalling is one of those self-conscious, self-referential novels -- and it makes that very clear from the get-go:

This novel is about a failed writer named Jonny, his mid-life crisis, and his latest failed manuscript, a novel called Stripmalling.
       And, of course, it's an experimental work, the narrator-author not quite sure about how he wants to go about it, even once he's well into it:
     I think Stripmalling will follow a dialogic structure where my stories will be interspersed with journal entries documenting my mid-life crisis. maybe that's my way out. I'm not very fond of things happening in stories. Mine is a static literature.
       Indeed, Fiorentino doesn't present a straightforward, chapter-and-verse novel. Instead, he offers short episodes and commentary -- including some by Dora, the woman in Jonny's life (or out of it, as he starts on the book). There is some narrative flow, usually for a few chapters at a time, but story is definitely not first and foremost on Jonny's mind.
       Jonny also meets and gets involved with someone named Evan -- and Evan agrees to illustrate some of his work. So, interspersed in the book, are two sections of comic-strips, the longer of which repeats part of the story -- and is also then repeated, in purely verbal form, in a 'treatment' (i.e. a script for the comic) appended to the book. (There are also some preliminary sketches at the end of the book and, more amusingly, some closing credits in comic form.)
       Jonny is a Fiorentino-like modest success (Jonny's break-out work of comedy bits is Asthmatronics, Fiorentino's was Asthmatica). Jonny has a stand-up act, too, as well as devout parents and a Satan-worshipping brother -- which make for some fodder for his comedy act (but fortunately not too much in the story itself). Jonny has a bit of a drugs and alcohol problem -- he tries to avoid booze around the toddler Jackson, Dora and his son, but as they pass the twelve-packs of beer at the supermarket the youngster points: "Look ! It's Daddy's medicine !" -- and plays pretty loose with sex as well (occasionally helped along by being drug-addled).
       There's also some corporate-bashing: Jonny works at a 'Shill' gas station for a while, and the strip mall is taken over by Hypermart. Pamphlets from both companies are also appended at the end of the novel, with Fiorentino's satire getting a bit too broad as he describes Hyper- (read: Wal)mart's corporate history, with bits like:
Last year, Satan himself presented Slim Wilton with a lifetime achievement award.
       Fiorentino rarely overdoes it, however, even when treading on the dangerous subject matter of writing itself. There is enough variety here, and enough clever and funny bits to make it worthwhile. Not particularly weighty, Stripmalling is an amusing, breezy read.

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Stripmalling: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Jon Paul Fiorentino is a Canadian poet and teaches at Concordia University.

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