Searching for Petronius Totem

Searching for Petronius Totem

by Peter Unwin

May 2, 2017
6 x 9, paper, 250 pages
CDN/US $21.95

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An utterly original, satirical novel about a cross-country road trip, the meaning of art, and — as always — flying edible robot chickens.

Following a dramatic break-up with his long-suffering wife, Jack Vesoovian retreats to a Hamilton rooming house, where he impulsively decides to take to the road to track down his life-long colleague, Petronius Totem.

Petronius Totem has disappeared following the unlikely success of his memoir, Ten Thousand Busted Chunks, praised for its searing honesty. But when it is discovered to be a pack of lies, Petronius Totem becomes universally despised.

Meanwhile, Jack faces another grim truth: the world is being taken over by a sinister multi-national Fibre-Optic Catering business that has created a chicken-like food matter than can actually fly. Can he and Petronius Totem escape into a virtual future that is free of Chick Lit and flying fibre-optic chickens? Or will Jack return home to his wife Elaine whom it seems, with good reason, will shoot him on sight?

Searching for Petronius Totem is a love story for the age: a wild, imaginative, and utterly original novel.

“If you only read one book in your life, make sure it’s this one. Jack Vesoovian is the greatest Canadian author since Jane Austen, and has finally found a subject worthy of his talent.” — Petronius Totem

“And I thought the author was dead!” — R. Barthes

“Exterminate with extreme prejudice.” — Stanley Leggit, CEO, Leggit Fibre Optics & Digital Fried Chicken

Reviews and Interviews

“Let me get straight to the point. This is a brilliant book: a savagely satirical romp, a slaughterhouse for sacred cows (tender sensibilities beware) an eulogy for the Romantic hero, a fever dream of early 21st century anxiety, a midlife identity crisis, and a voyage of self-discovery. Simultaneously poignant and absurd . . .” — Kerry on Can Lit

“[A}n outrageously original story delivered through flamboyant prose and audacious metaphors. A satirical post-postmodern novel, Unwin’s latest creation is reminiscent of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49; however, whereas Pynchon’s novel seems to resist any meaningful interpretation of its symbols and themes, Unwin has skillfully crafted unfathomable scenarios embedded with meaning relevant to the world we live in today.” — Existere 37.1, Winter 2018.

“It reads like a mash-up of Atwood at her most speculative, Coupland at his most curmudgeonly, and David McGimpsey’s Twitter feed. . . this could be the right moment for a topical, immersive satire.” — Laura Frey, “CanLit for Cynics,” Carte Blanche, September 20, 2017.

“Richly exhausting and loaded with linguistic trickery, Unwin’s latest is a love story for oddballs and an ode to the artistic spirit in all its exasperating beauty.” — Alberta Views, September 2017.

“[A] coruscating, frustrating, and sometimes blisteringly funny evisceration of sacred cows in the realms of digital technology, identity politics, and CanLit. . . a scabrous, gleefully offensive, high-energy ride across a landscape that looks oddly familiar, but is viewed at an oblique angle and through a purposefully distorted lens.” — Quill and Quire, June 2017.

“[A]t its heart a guy book — there’s drinking, there’s women, there’s a mission, there’s quite a bit of grass, there’s laughing, there’s poetry.” — Toronto Star, July 21, 2017.

Preview trailer: