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Stripmalling, Jon Paul Fiorentino (ECW)

Bang-on bleak reading for anyone who's ever been stuck in a dead-end job.

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The cover of this book describes it as "a novel," but it's part-diary, part-story, part-comedy, part-comic book. Chronicling suspiciously autobiographical protagonist Jonny's journey from young wage slave in a Winnipeg strip mall to divorced writing professor in a Montreal basement apartment, Stripmalling jumps from confessional to fiction to film script. The book is punctuated by Toronto artist Evan Munday's comic-strip versions of events. Fiorentino's stories are humourous and real, like a run-in with the elementary school bully while clutching a Care Bear at an advanced age. The diary style can be unwieldy, and Munday's comic summary provides a more streamlined version of the narrative. Fiorentino's strip-mall aesthetic feels authentically bleak for anyone who's ever been stuck there waiting for a bus or a better job.

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