Kevin Chong


(A Novel)

"First-rate debut...Saul is an enormously appealing character, a biracial Holden Caulfield whose hatred of phonies extends to himself in several outrageously funny scenes...We've been introduced to a dozen or more sharply drawn seriocomic characters, taken a magical mystery tour through the suburban worlds of folk and rock music, and heard what must surely be the last word on the subject of student protests...A heart-tugging delight. First novels don't get any better than this."

"Ambitious and sharply funny first novel. At heart, Baroque-a-Nova is a remarkably wise meditation on the flaws and seductions of life lived in the media soup...Baroque-a-Nova is an admirable and humane attempt to show the merits and pitfalls of shooting for more."
Washington Post

"A first-person narration that steadfastly refuses to be melodramatic and a protagonist who never loses the ability to make fun of himself...A first novel that explores with wit and heart two generations haunted by the Summer of Love."

"This is a thoroughly enjoyable novel, and it can
proudly take its place in the pantheon of new writing
reassessing the way Canadian literature talks about
landscape, family, childhood, and race."
Globe & Mail

"Baroque-a-nova is compact, clear-sighted, and nervy.
Chong's grasp of suburban tackiness is laugh-out-loud
Quill & Quire

Saul St. Pierre, 18, adrift in lust and apathy, learns of his mother's death on the radio. He thinks it should be a day like any other. He never knew her - she had left him and his father when he was a baby. The novel follows Saul in the week leading to her funeral.

In this tale of a motherless youth, Kevin Chong's voice is original, funny and contemporary. It also is a voice that is cool and witty, with unexpected lyrical turns of poetry about the everyday world of suburban strip malls, TV re-runs, dollar stores, karaoke bars, high school anarchists, and junk-heap celebrity. And it is a voice that is surprising in its compassion and maturity.

Saul's parents, Ian and Helena St. Pierre, enjoyed minor success as a singing duo in the 1970s. Now, a German rap group has resurrected one of their songs, turning it into global hit 20 years later. A TV documentary crew tracks Helena to Thailand where she had transformed herself into a saint before committing suicide. The TV crew then comes to the Vancouver suburb to interview Ian and Saul.

Saul has other difficulties that week. He has been living with his stepmother Jana, the only reliable adult he's ever known, but she is dating a cop who wants to marry her. His relationship with his girlfriend Rose is complicated. He and his friend Navi are staging a demonstration against censorship at school and are suspended. Then, there are the two young women from New York, who, responding to Ian's new-found celebrity, have driven across the continent to find him.

Into Saul's life flow all the currents of our diverse, co-mingled world. Although Saul shows no particular promise, we come to love him. We want to put our arms around him and tell him he'll be okay. By the end, we believe it might be true.

Penguin Canada 2001
Putnam US 2002

KEVIN CHONG, born in 1975 in Hong Kong, moved with his family to Vancouver in 1977. He graduated from University of British Columbia in 1997, and earned his MFA in creative writing at New York's Columbia university in 2000 where Michael Cunningham served as his thesis advisor. Though he completed Baroque-A-Nova in New York, Chong's novel is set in the dispiriting suburb of Vancouver where Chong spent his adolescence yearning to break free. He can't quite figure out why he was impelled to write about Canada while he was in the United States.

"I had come to New York because it was real, in the way the Empire State building was real, in the way Hubert Selby Jr's Last Exit to Brooklyn was real, in the way the Manhattan of Woody Allen's Annie Hall was real. Ladner, the suburb where I grew up, setting of no book or movie I'd ever come across, wasn't," he says. Yet, the view from America transformed the region into a "place." And in the process, Chong has created Saul St. Pierre, the most appealing young hero in contemporary literature.