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Strange Ghosts is a thoughtfully guided tour through novelist, playwright and AIDS activist Darren Greer’s philosophies and experiences. Although it begins with an admission of his former cocaine habit and recovery, this is no James Frey-style exercise in narcissistic woe. Along with honest portrayals of personal events, including discovering his HIV status and breaking up with his lover in Paris, Greer also devotes attention to larger global issues, including 9/11, the socio-political climate in South Africa, the Cambodian killing fields, corporate politics and contemporary visual art. The collection’s most poignant essays deal, however, with Greer’s family life and identity politics. Expanding on the familial dynamics of coming out, Greer describes how the struggle for self-definition “without the moral codes and religious definitions of the previous centuries” is, in fact, universal. When Greer’s father’s Italian heritage is shown to be mythology, and his real, Aboriginal ancestry revealed, the whole family wrestles with redefinition. Although Greer occasionally overuses repetition and can sometimes muddle complex ideas with oversimplified phrases (“It was a sign of things to come” or “my mother used to say that for every negative there is a positive”), this book accomplishes what Greer believes all art should do–it restores a little bit of your faith in the world. (Suzanne Alyssa Andrew)

by Darren Greer, $24.95, 174 pgs, Cormorant Books, 215 Spadina Avenue, Studio 230, Toronto, ON, M5T 2C7

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