A new novel from one of our best young writers, Blood Sports is the tough, gritty story of the brutal cat-and-mouse relationship between two cousins — Tom and Jeremy Bauer — set in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.
Tom, a young man, hardly innocent, has been caught up over the years in Jeremy’s world of drugs, extortion, and prostitutes, while Jeremy, vindictive, vicious, either protects Tom or uses him, but always controls him. Added to the mix is Paulie, a junkie two years clean and Tom’s girlfriend, and also the mother of his daughter. This lethal triangle shifts when word gets out Tom has been talking to the police, and men from the past who have a lot to lose reappear. Suddenly Tom and Paulie are pawns in a much larger game, with everything at stake.
With the storytelling skill and engrossing characterizations that have made her previous books so popular, Robinson keeps the tension humming in this riveting novel. This is Eden Robinson at the height of her powers.
“I was born on the same day as Edgar Allan Poe and Dolly Parton. I am absolutely certain that this affects my writing in some way.”
|Publisher:||McClelland & Stewart|
|Product dimensions:||5.58(w) x 8.18(h) x 0.64(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
If you’re not eighteen yet, I want you to put this letter down right now. Okay? There’s a whole bunch of shit you don’t need to deal with until you’re ready. Your mom (I call her Paulie, even though she hates it. Try it, and you’ll get her Popeye squint) and I talked it over. We agreed not to put the heavy on you because we’re trying not to fuck your head up too bad.
You probably won’t be Melody when you read this. I’m wondering what Paulie will change your name to. Paulie was stuck on Anastasia, after the princess, but I thought no one would be able to spell it and you’d get tagged with Stacy or Staz or anything but your real name. My top choice was Sarah, but Paulie thought that was going to bite you in the ass in school when you met up with the hundred other Sarahs in your class. We went through a whole bunch of baby-name books, and couldn’t agree on a single name. Paulie’s picks were too fancy and she thought mine were dull. Her words in the operating room: “If you fucking stick my girl with Jennifer while I’m under, I will rip your nuts off.”
Paulie wanted an all-natural birth at home. Her friends here are into hippie shit like giving birth in wading pools and eating the placenta. Besides, she hates hospitals, doesn’t think they’re clean enough and hated the thought of you in a germ-factory. I’m not a big fan of hospitals myself, so we were all set to have you enter the world at home (no pool or placenta though). But things got hairy, and Ella, the midwife, called an ambulance. Paulie kept saying she’d spent enough of her life wasted and didn’t want any shit, but she ended up having every drug in the book. I’m sure when she’s mad she tells you what a pain you were to deliver.
Paulie exploded when they put the tent around her belly because she wanted to watch you coming, even if they were going to cut you out. Is your mom all ladylike now? Ha. I bet she is. You wouldn’t believe the things that came out of her mouth, but they put the tent up anyway and she asked me to videotape everything so she could watch it later. I saw the first incision and said, “Can’t do it, Paulie.”
The midwife wouldn’t videotape, but she said she’d describe everything to Paulie. Ella is this tiny fireball, a Filipina in her mid-forties, and she had to hop to peek over. I went and found her a stool and then waited in the hallway because there was no way I could listen to that. I walked down to the vending machine and got a coffee. So I missed your grand entrance. But we have a tape of everything up to that point, even the ambulance ride. I’m sure Paulie’s made you watch it by now. I stapled Ella’s business card to the back of this page, so you can look her up if you want.
I could hear you crying. You were loud as an opera singer. I could hear you all the way down the hall. Sad fact: Your dad is a big old weenie. I got a head rush and had to sit down. When I finally got my rear in gear, the nurse and midwife were checking you out, cleaning you up and swaddling you in the corner. The surgeon was finishing up your mom. She was pretty wiped. We’d been awake for three days by then.
When Paulie asked Ella if she should nurse, Ella laid you on her and you latched just like that. No problemo. All the shit going down and you took it in stride. Your mom’s smile, all proud of you.
“Come around here, you’ve got to see this,” Paulie said. “It’s like she’s mainlining.”
The nurse beside her stiffened. We’d had to disclose about Paulie being in Narcotics Anonymous. I think we freaked some of the staff. The whole week we were in the hospital, they acted like we were going to break out the rigs and turn our room into a shooting gallery.
I never got the deal with newborns. You were bald but hairy, red and wrinkled like any other newborn, and I’m sorry, Mel, but man, that is not a good look on you. You were sucking at Paulina’s boob like there was no tomorrow, your eyes screwed tight in ecstasy.
Reading Group Guide
1. Eden Robinson has referred to Blood Sports as a contemporary retelling of Hansel and Gretel — the original, ultra-gory version of the tale. In what ways, if any, do you find Robinson’s novel to be similar (in form, for instance, or in its underlying view of the world) to the traditional fairy tale?2. Blood Sports is packed with references to popular culture — from brand-name products to street slang to characters who might have appeared in a tv detective show. Does this affect the book’s status as a literary novel? Does serious fiction have an obligation to be lofty, or should we applaud Robinson for attempting to capture contemporary textures in her work?3. The novel’s opening section is presented in the form of a letter that Tom writes to his daughter some time — possibly years — after the events in the rest of the book have taken place. Why do you think Robinson chose this strategy of, in a sense, beginning with the ending? How did this affect your reading of the ensuing story?4. Jeremy is a deeply troubling character — a homicidal master criminal — and yet he is both charming and hugely successful, at least in material terms. Is this purely a cartoon, or on some level a reflection of real life?5. From the book’s earliest sections — like the chapter in which Tom and his family get a portrait taken at a Wal-Mart photo studio — family is front and centre. What do you think the book is saying about the role of family in our lives? Is Tom misguided in clinging to the idea of family as a source of meaning, even as his family relationships seem on the verge of destroying him?6. Eden Robinson comes from an aboriginal background. She is Haisla, and currently lives in her ancestral village in northern British Columbia. Keeping this in mind, does it surprise you that much of her work — Blood Sports included — focuses on non-native Canadians living in urban settings? Should it?7. Robinson often includes shocking material in her stories. Which scenes in Blood Sports stood out to you as the most disturbing, and why? What do you think are Robinson’s artistic reasons for including shocking material in her work?8. What do you make of Tom’s behaviour over the course of the novel? Is he a decent person who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, or is he somehow complicit in the mayhem that follows him wherever he goes?9. In something of a departure from her previous work, Robinson has written Blood Sports in a patchwork of different styles and voices — including standard narrative, script format, a letter, and so on. There are also several sudden jumps backwards and forwards in time. Why do you think she chose to write the book in this way, and how might the experience of reading it have been different if she’d used a more conventional structure?10. Robinson has said that she often thinks of the situations she writes about — even many of the violent and troubling ones — as being, on some level, comical. Did you find yourself chuckling at any uncomfortable moments while reading Blood Sports? If so, what do you think is the significance of this kind of humour, and is it “healthy”?11. On the surface, Blood Sports doesn’t seem to have much in common with most well-known Canadian novels — though Robinson says she’s a voracious reader of Canadian fiction. How is this book different from, and similar to, other Canadian novels you’ve read? Do you think that the concepts of CanLit, and of Canadian identity in general, are useful when discussing a work like this?12. In interviews, Robinson has mentioned that she watches a lot of movies, and that she’s been influenced somewhat by contemporary directors like David Cronenberg. In what ways, if any, do you see the influence of film in Blood Sports? Conversely, in what ways is Blood Sports distinctively bookish and un-movie-like? Could a story like this ever be filmed?13. “Hate is everything they said it would be and it waits for you like an airbag.” Is the sentiment expressed in the novel’s epigraph (quoted from a book of stories by Canadian author Mark Anthony Jarman) confirmed by the story as a whole?14. Blood Sports is a sequel to an earlier novella of Robinson’s, “Contact Sports,” which describes Tom, Jeremy, and some of the novel’s other characters at an earlier period in their lives. Recently, Robinson has said that she has considered writing yet another story about these characters. What might happen in a sequel to Blood Sports, and why do you think these particular characters hold so much allure for the author?