“I didn’t know what I wanted, all I knew was how poorly I felt without it.”
New Tab, Guillaume Morissette’s sophomore release from Esplanade (Vehicule Press) follows Thomas, a video game designer and (slightly older) undergrad in Montreal for a year of his life while he works at figuring things out. Meeting new people. Dealing with a mishmash of roommates. Going to house parties and feeling awkward. Speaking French. Going to bars and feeling awkward… The novel is not about action, drama, or that perfect eureka moment of adulthood. Not really. Rather, Thomas sorts through the impending boredom of his life in a very reflective and critical way, and with humorous insight. He is thoughtful, self-depricating, unsure, self-involved, but mostly he finds a way to translate the culturally-acute 20something emotional psyche into a story that is relatable. The novel is precise about revealing the blurred out down time in between the big stuff. Like day-after regrets or almost moments that didn’t amount to anything, but made you really question yourself and everything around you.
What I found especially interesting was Morissette’s seemingly random asides. The story is speckled with single statements that don’t connect to anything before it. Little islands of thought in Thomas’ narrative showing us, even more so, his introspective headspace. It also echoes the feeling of wanting to be heard, of developing personal philosophies out of sheer boredom or despair with no one to share it with. Morissette has a background in poetry, and this style can be seen in his previous collection I am My Own Betrayal (Maison Kasini). The more I think about it the more I wonder if it’s actually a stylistic symptom of expressing ourselves primarily via (online) status, which is large theme in Morrisette’s work. Either way, it’s wonderfully relatable and amusing. Kind of like thinking up the perfect tweet (a modern day eureka moment in itself)
Morissette is the poet Eeyore. A modern technical-intellectual who has captured the millennial undergrad and all his distinctive insecurities. But instead of launching his protagonist into an idealized scenario, full of true callings and real love, he explores the perennial rut of dissatisfaction. Is it a generational thing? Maybe. But I think the mood is something everyone can understand. It’s not easy to be an internet champion and have it translate onto the page in a literary way, but New Tab reads like abstract Snapchat (snapstract?) : a short moment in our lives that disappears as quickly as it came, but leaves us with all the feelings. The good and the bad.