A Millions.com Most Anticipated Book of 2013
A Hypoallergic Fall Literary Release to Know About
“Norm Sibum is not everyone’s cup of tea … instead of breathing air he inhales the exhaust of apocalyptic times.”—Books in Canada
A place: the Traymore Rooms, downtown Montreal, an old walk-up. Those who live there and drink at the nearby café form the heart of Traymorean society. Their number includes: Eggy, red-faced, West Virginian, a veteran of Korea; Eleanor R (not Eleanor Roosevelt); Dubois, French Canadian, optimist; Moonface, waitress-cum-Latin-scholar and sexpot inexpert; and, most recently, our hero Calhoun. A draft dodger and poetical type.
For a time all is life-as-usual: Calhoun argues with Eggy and Dubois, eats Eleanor’s cobblers, gossips of Moonface, muses on Virgil and the current President. With the arrival of a newcomer to Traymore, however, Calhoun’s thoughts grow fixated and dark. He comes to believe in the reality of evil. This woman breaks no laws and she inflicts no physical harm—yet for the citizens of Traymore, ex-pats and philosophers all, her presence becomes a vortex that draws them closer to the America they dread.
Intelligent and frighteningly absurd, with a voice as nimble as Gass’s and satire that pierces like Wallace’s, The Traymore Rooms is a sustained howl against libertarianism under George W. Bush.
PRAISE FOR The Traymore Rooms
“Poet Norm Sibum’s 700-pager should be on the radar of all the maximalism-starved readers who landed A Naked Singularity on our Top 10 list in 2012—though the book might more rightly be likened to something by William Gass or Alexander Theroux. Plot isn’t Sibum’s thing, exactly, but his erudition (considerable), sense of character (eccentric), and mood (quietly splenetic) more than compensate. The novel concerns a group of aging friends who share haunts in downtown Montreal. They talk, fight, love, and try to make sense of a historical moment that has disappointed their youthful hopes … the prose is a consistent pleasure.”—Garth Hallberg, The Millions
“The Traymore Rooms, a novel at once hugely ambitious and never above an off-colour crack … is going after a “Melvillian” game: the decline and fall of the American Empire, by means of highbrow bedroom farce. The combo harkens back to big-novel romps of the author’s youth, in particular John Barth’s Sot-Weed Factor (1960), which put Colonial America through dizzying bounces. The narrative reach alone is honourable … much of it comes across with smarts and verve, and it’s no surprise to learn that our narrator’s a poet.”—John Domini, The Brooklyn Rail
“Sibum does know when to add a beautiful sentence … the often-moving pontifications on roads not taken, lost friends and lost loves lend The Traymore Rooms an impressive, if occasional, gravity.”—Time Out New York
“The 696 pages of poet Norm Sibum’s debut are as good a reminder as any that the monumental novel has far from faded as a literary haymaker.”—Hypoallergic
“This is Sibum’s debut novel, and it isn’t so much a dip of his toe into the world of fiction as a cannonball off a third-storey hotel balcony… his prose is kinetic and constantly surprising … I doubt I’ll read anything quite so beguiling in 2013.”—The National Post
“A delightful raspberry in the face of conventional market wisdom … There’s a hint of David Foster Wallace’s shaggy-dog conceptualism here, and of John Barth’s postmodern metafiction, but rest assured, it’s also just plain fun.”—The Montreal Gazette
“Sibum opens up his miniature universe of The Traymore Rooms with a mixture of kindness and criticism. The length becomes an asset as the episodes come to resemble actual, and not novelistic time … Sibum’s antidote to middle-class sense of purpose is the meandering life, lingering on the boulevard—a kind of aristocratic rebellion.”—The Puritan
“Dude can write.”—Ed Turner, Biblioklept
“Seriously, wtf. Has 2013’s most ambitious English-language novel been written by a Canadian?”—Scott Esposito