Bloody Jack

Article excerpt

Dennis Cooley, Bloody Jack, rev. edn (Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press, 2002), xiii + 280pp. Paper. $19.95. ISBN 0-8886-4391-8.

'You are about to read a book like no other', the flap-cover of Dennis Cooley's Bloody Jack promises. Trained to be sceptical about strong claims, one finds great pleasure in the fact that with each new page, right until the very last, that initial promise holds true. Based loosely on the infamous Manitoban outlaw John 'Jack' Krafchenko, Bloody Jack employs a Rabelaisian verve to explore and explode the notions of history, poetry, story, language, author and reader. As it vaguely but insistently charts western Canadian culture, it becomes a catalogue of literary parodies, of (cunning) linguistic possibilities, brimming over with poetic extravaganza - for example, Cooley's own take on line breaks in verse and his unique ear/eye for unusual sound/image patterns - founded on an aesthetics of excess. Bloody Jack includes low and high genres such as newspaper reports, letters, (fake) interviews, the epic and the lyric, only to subvert them consistently in the tradition/revision of the Menippean satire's calling into question a society's values and beliefs. In relation to the original 1984 publication, this revised, expanded edition pushes the sense of playfulness even further: film scripts, synoptical prose pieces, and reflections on the status as a new edition (in its 'late teens') add more dimensions to the text-as-process - as in 'jail break, update', a hilarious meta-poetic and meta-linguistic parody that pokes fun at everything, treating the book as a 'wanted man [who] will not hesitate to use the puns with which he is armed' (p. …