Book reviews by author Jeffrey Round
Christopher DiRaddo’s, The Geography of Pluto – transformative Quebecois queer fiction at its best
Originally published by Cormorant Books in 2014, Christopher DiRaddo’s The Geography of Pluto is an acclaimed slice-of-gay-life novel set in 1990s Montreal. It has now been republished by Véhicule Press, and there is plenty to recommend about it.
Will Ambrose is a geography teacher who comes out in his early twenties with the support of his lesbian gal-pal, Angie. Together, they explore the ins and outs of Montreal’s LGBTQ social scene. While sharing laughs and learning lessons along the way, Will struggles to forge an identity he is truly comfortable with. But that is easier said than done. Bewildered by his search for an elusive happiness that appears before him, mirage-like, he finds commitment difficult.
First-love woes are followed by second-love hopes and fear, as the sensitive Will soon finds himself lost in the bars and back rooms of gay life. He also has to adjust to his mother’s fight for mortality as she battles cancer. In so doing, Will needs all the transformative powers, symbolized by the planet Pluto and the Underworld it represents, in order to survive.
The tale unfolds simply and straightforwardly. The style is invisible, the best kind of style there is. It never gets in the way and never wavers in pursuit of its target, insinuating itself into the reader’s heart. The book is full of small gems of personal insight, lovingly crafted, the moments that, for good and bad, make up a life well-lived when looked back on in time.
There is something dishabille about Quebecois fiction, as writer Gabrielle Roy coined it with her famed 1945 novel, Bonheure d’occasion (second-hand happiness), yet one that never loses hope. In his own inimitable way, DiRaddo nails that quality.
Twenty-eight-year-old Will, a teacher living in Montreal, has spent the last few months recovering from a breakup with his first serious boyfriend, Max. He has resumed his search for companionship, but has he truly moved on? Will’s mother Katherine – one of the few people, perhaps the only one, who loves him unconditionally – is also in recovery, from a bout with colon cancer that haunts her body and mind with the possibility of relapse. Having experienced heartbreak, and fearful of tragedy, Will must come to terms with the rule of impermanence: to see past lost treasures and unwanted returns, to find hope and solace in the absolute certainty of change. In The Geography of Pluto, DiRaddo perfectly captures the ebb and flow of life through the insightful, exciting, and often playful story of a young man’s day-to-day struggle with uncertainty.
Christopher DiRaddo is a Canadian fiction writer, editor and producer living in Montreal.His first novel, The Geography of Pluto, was published by Cormorant Books in 2014. The book was named one of the Top 20 Bestselling LGBTQ modern classics of 2016 by Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop. DiRaddo is also the author of several short stories and essays that have appeared in Arsenal Pulp Press anthologies, including the collection First Person Queer: Who We Are (So Far), which won the Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBTQ Anthology in 2007.
DiRaddo is also the producer and host of the Violet Hour, a queer reading series that takes place in the off-hours of a strip club in Montreal’s gay village. In 2017, DiRaddo began to work as an associate producer for the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival, where he created an LGBTQ series for the festival and, in 2018, the Blue Metropolis Violet Literary Prize, an annual award presented to an established Canadian LGBTQ writer in recognition of a body of work.
DiRaddo is also the current president of the Quebec Writers’ Federation
About the Author
Jeffrey Round is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and songwriter. His breakout novel, A CAGE OF BONES, was listed on AfterElton’s 50 Best Gay Books. LAKE ON THE MOUNTAIN, the first of seven Dan Sharp mysteries, won a Lambda Award in 2013. His latest book is the poetry collection THREADS from Beautiful Dreamer Press. His fifteenth novel, THE SULPHUR SPRINGS CURE, will be published by Cormorant books in 2024. www.jeffreyround.com