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Mammals is the story of Uncle, who, like Pierre Mérot, is a bachelor in his 40s who drinks, fails at relationships and works futile jobs. Families are not support systems in Uncle’s world. They trigger headaches and ruin relationships, particularly his mother. Uncle, who moves out of his parents’ home in his mid-twenties, only to move back in his forties, is usually depressed, but incredibly funny. Blame some of that on the alcohol. The most memorable scenes in the book, however, are Uncle’s seemingly good employment stints at the Museum connected with the Ministry of Defence, a hip publishing company and Walt Disney College. Many of his co-workers are miserable underachievers. They live out fantasies in chat rooms and complain about how shitty their jobs are. At Walt Disney College he enjoys teaching a subject he knows very little about and attends seminars on how to appropriately deal with volatile students and unpredictable parents with shotguns. Uncle believes “work is one of the principal causes of human misery, the other is love.”

Take for instance the two loves of his life. He calls them his attempts at emotional suicide. These relationships last a long time and offer him very little happiness. His first attempt is Jojo, a Polish woman he marries so she can stay in the country and who is also more depressed than he. The other is a divorcée with three children, an alcoholic and sadist he refers to as Cruella (ie. the Disney villain). Mammals is a revealing account of a bachelor’s sexual pursuits, his unfulfilled days at work and his dependency on alcohol. His humility and insecurity make you sympathize with him and his honesty makes you care. (Andrea Nene)

by Pierre Mérot, $21.95, 216 pgs, House of Anansi Press, 110 Spadina Ave., Suite 801, Toronto, ON, M5V 2K4,

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