Torontoist Review of Books - Showbiz by Jason Anderson
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Torontoist Review of Books – Showbiz by Jason Anderson

2005_10_20showbiz.jpgEye film critic Jason Anderson knows show business. Not only is he a long running film critic but prior to losing sleep watching dozens of films a week, Anderson was the weekly’s music editor. It’s no surprise then that Anderson’s first novel, Showbiz, tells the story of Jimmy Wynn, an all-but forgotten presidential impersonator in the 1960s.
But Wynn’s career dies when president Cannon, Anderson’s fictional copy of JFK, is gunned down in New Orleans. The performer disappears from the public eye until he’s unearthed by struggling Canadian journalist Nathan Grant. Writing for a magazine dedicated to the life and times of the assassinated president, Grant goes on a cross-country chase looking for Wynn’s connection to the president. He soon starts unearthing a mystery that puts his life at risk.
Anderson has crafted an alternate reality that has many disconcerting resonances to ours. Anderson’s President Teddy Cannon is a tongue in cheek copy of JFK, the man that with his rumoured trysts with Hollywood bombshells, and mastery of TV cameras arguably wedded politics to celebrity.


Like Kennedy, Cannon’s assassination is shrouded in the same veil of conspiracy. Was it Cuban dissidents? The CIA? The Russians? the Mob? More importantly Cannon’s life, or more importantly his death, gripped the popular consciousness that years later echoes of the event can still be felt.
Kennedy too was like that. Forty years after the fact, I don’t think we’ll be talking much about Ronald Reagan, a man who was in office almost three times as long as JFK. But Kennedy’s assassination remains a central point in American pop culture and has spawned hundreds of works. Anderson’s Showbiz is another one.
It’s a worthy addition. Anderson has a firm grip on the absurdities of celebrity and I get the feeling that the vapid, empty celebrities he writes about are probably an amalgam of people he’s interviewed over the years. There’s also traces of Don DeLillo here, another author who also tried to tackle the JFK myth (he wrote a novel on the life of Lee Harvey Oswald). Like DeLillo, Anderson has tried to shine a light on the event from a different angle. The resulting reflection is uncannily familiar yet unsettlingly different, making it original and interesting enough to deserve our attention.
Jason Anderson reads from his new novel as part of the Perpetual Motion Roadshow tommorow (Oct. 21st, 8pm, Gladstone Art Bar).

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