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Book review of Kevin Canty's "Everything"

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Date published: 8/1/2010

KEVIN CANTY'S strength as a writer has always seemed to be short fiction. With his fourth novel "Everything," however, that perception may be changed.

That is not to say that his first three novels were not very good, because Canty is an excellent writer and there is merit in most everything he writes. But there is a maturation in the themes that makes "Everything" more meaningful. If ever asked by a newcomer to Canty what I would recommend, it would've been his three short-story collections. Now I would offer up "Everything" as well.

Though "Everything" is a novel, it emerges from several characters whose individual stories could've easily appeared in the pages of The New Yorker and not as part of the greater whole. And like most of Canty's characters (or like most of the world's characters), they are flawed and oftentimes sad. "Everything" is a novel about the day to day and the relationships between these flawed individuals.

"RL regards the telephone. It rings again. It is his ex-wife on the line, the ex-wife who has left him five messages in three days, none of which say more than Call me.

Eventually he will have to answer, but he can't think of any reason it has to be now.

He doesn't like to talk to her. He doesn't like to lie, and he lies whenever he talks to her--not even about consequential things, about the small stuff, the everday "

Canty creates likable characters, and one can't help but feel empathy for most of them, but sometimes Canty reserves the worst for those who seemingly have the most in life. There's Edgar who works for RL at a fishing shop in Montana. He's a good-looking artist who loves his wife and young child and enjoys his work taking the well-heeled on fishing trips on the Bitterroot River. Anyone familiar with Canty's writing though knows that such characters never live unscathed lives, and Edgar's fall is probably the hardest by the end of "Everything."

"When he wasn't feeling sorry for himself, Edgar thought this was a wonderful world, with beautiful people in it, and occasional miracles."

Much of Canty's earlier work had a dark tinge to it and the pervading feeling was one of pessimism. The sentence above, sans the self-pity, may mark a new view of the author's world. In "Everything," there is a little chink of optimism and the world's possibilities don't seem quite as distant.

Drew Gallagher is a freelance reviewer in Spotsylvania.

EVERYTHING By Kevin Canty(Doubleday, $25.95, 304 pp.)