Torontoist Reads: How Happy To Read Katrina Onstad
Admittedly, the story of an urban columnist who drinks crantini’s sets off alarm bells. It sounds well-traveled because it is well-traveled; the ghost of a horrible TV show that we will not mention still haunts us years after the fact. But the story of Maxine, an urban columnist who drinks crantini’s in How Happy To Be, has very little syrup for the pancakes, so to speak.
Maxime is presumably the alter-ego of former (and best) National Post movie critic Katrina Onstad during the Toronto Film Festival circa 2000. (We are able to say this with some certainty because Katrina Onstad is the writer of the book and it makes sense.) She works at a paper called The Daily, which is the National Post, and has an unspoken rivalry/annoyance with Allissa Allan, who is Leah McLaren. Thinly veiled, a phrase that we wish we didn’t have to use, is unfortunately perfect description. The story dives in and out of TIFF parties, romance with a physist, and Maxime’s ultimate rejection of ‘situationalist bullshit’ – ie, drinking crantini’s. At times hilarious, at times touching (aren’t they all?), How Happy To Be appeals on different levels (see: “the thinking woman’s answer to chick lit”).
Maxime faces absurd situations at every turn, or at least she makes absurd situations at every turn, bringing out her sharpest wit. This is all balanced out by the emotional weight of impending family and romance issues, which intertwine with the backdrop of The Daily absurdism, which make parts of the book read faster than other parts. It all works toward fleshing out her crisis, with parts impactful humour and parts resolution, and setting the story apart from any TV show that may have those vague similarities we mentioned. A wonderful read.