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Highways and Dancehalls: A Novel

Atkinson, Diana

44 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 031215139X / ISBN 13: 9780312151393
Published by St Martins Pr
Used Condition: Very Good Hardcover
From Wonder Book (Frederick, MD, U.S.A.)

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First edition copy. . Very Good dust jacket. Bookseller Inventory # X05E-00009

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Highways and Dancehalls: A Novel

Publisher: St Martins Pr

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


Sarah, the seventeen year-old daughter of a Harvard-educated family teetering on divorce, finds herself traveling from town to town by Greyhound bus, trying to make a living as "Tabitha," an exotic dancer, while coming to terms with her past


If you take your raunch neat and don't demand too much characterization or satisfying connections, pick up Diana Atkinson's Highways and Dancehalls. Although short-listed for three big Canadian literary awards--the Governor General's Award for fiction, the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the Commonwealth Prize--it is, in the end, simply sad and sordid. Atkinson's litany of routine rapes, dead-end jobs, abusive boyfriends, and sex mills, narrated with a kind of glassy-eyed exhaustion, becomes as irreversible as a lobotomy.

Sarah, the 17-year-old daughter of Harvard-educated, Shakespeare-spouting parents, is also Tabitha, a stripper. She's a lousy waitress in an economy so bad that even waitresses boast two-page résumés. Her boyfriend's name is Lloyd, and we don't learn that much more about him. Because she's only 17 and wounded, the reader is expected to accept this dreadful, dope-dulled relationship. Sarah/Tabitha, through her journal-writing process, more or less pieces herself together on the highways and in the dancehalls of British Columbia's mining towns and middle-class suburbs. Underneath the vacuous delivery is a blighted intelligence yearning to redeem itself; Sarah will eventually come to terms with her shattered family life and the childhood illness that inflicted an even deeper psychological wounding.

Though Highways and Dancehalls is a somewhat engaging, gritty and hard-edged rhapsody to sleaze, the novel's limitations finally shred its credibility. Why should we want to revisit such a stale, sad setting as Lloyd's dark, depressing hippie pad, where the men "talk sports, cars, recent crimes, ancient torture methods, how you could commit the ultimate robbery. Most days the nailed-together kitchen table is hidden in smoke, beer bottles, dirty plates, R. Crumb comics, drug scissors, papers, and roaches." It's Sarah/Tabitha's friendships with other strippers that bring some authenticity and pathos to the narrative, but the ends, unlike those left by trailing G-strings, don't get tied up.

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