In Myna Wallin’s second book, a reluctant cougar tells all. She feasts on young men of all kinds, in a world where sex isn’t dirty but love is coated in grime. In this raucous novel, she runs the gauntlet of men, including a narcissistic art history buff, a semiotics professor, a foot fetishist, a jaded brand consultant, a homeless man, and a bisexual mime.
[…] The evening ended with readings by Myna Wallin. She read a homage to Layton, a poem which satirized the larger than life quality of the poet by asserting that he ought to be carven into Mount Royale, along with the visages of Cohen and Richler, in a Mount Rushmore style edifice. (Though this has already been accomplished in the hearts of all zealots of Canlit.) She also didn’t pass up the chance to give a poetic treatment of Layton’s prolific love life and lifelong search for matrimonial bliss, a treatment that is well in line with her work “Confessions of A Reluctant Cougar.” It was from the latter book that her other readings came. In theme, like in Varnum’s poetry, Wallin alluded to the influence that social media is having on our relationships. Under the affect of social media, Wallin, like the ancient poet Juvenal, apparently finds it hard not to write satire. Thus the Wordstage audience was treated, in Wallin’s effective, sonorous recitation, to selections from the her acclaimed book that bears comparison to the best satire of Juvenal and the other masters of ancient times who gift of the muse was turned to exposing the absurdity of their social life.
The word ‘Cougar’ has joined the modern lexicon and no longer does it just mean our large feline pals. It also mean a woman of a certain age who has a marked preference for becoming intimately involved with attractive and highly sexed younger men. But Myna Wallin’s book Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar runs far deeper. On the surface it’s breezy and often hilarious – and hilariously honest. But between the lines, there’s a nice bittersweet subtext, about how difficult it is to really know someone, to really be with them, and beautifully evokes that poignant feeling when sadness mixes with elation, those moments you know you’re experiencing something that will stay with you and you can actually feel time going by, regretting you can’t just freeze the moment. Myna Wallin’s writing is fluid and easy, like talking with a very funny, very smart old friend, and there are some really great turns of phrase; ie, “it costs too much to be rich.” As one friend said to me after reading Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar, “I devoured it.” Really enjoyable work and an author definitely worth watching.
Wallin’s merciless wit subverts the Chick Lit genre, cleverly critiquing its man- chasing imperatives and dating cliches… It’s refreshing to read Wallin’s tone of ironic detachment from the fantasies that fuel dating-culture stereotypes and manufactured elements of desire in dating narratives such as Sex and the City.
With humour and insight, Wallin’s narrator deliberates on the confusing mess that love can be while musing on her current and shaky love affair… here it is a call to action, a call for the liberation of the female body.
Do not read Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar in an airport. Glittery pink text shouts the title over a photo of a sexy, beribboned stiletto. Men stare. Airports are sexually charged, people-watching havens to begin with and Myna Wallin’s protagonist Olivia would have prowled them like a big cat at a watering hole. Confessions generally reads as a sort of Bushnell, but with a slight smattering of a darker pathos.
Myna Wallin is the four S’s. Sexy, Sassy, Sensual, and Smart. A super vixen of all super vixen’s with the literary and female spirit to back this statement up. Not only does she ooze the four S’s, so does her writing… Cougar or not, you need to read not only Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar, but pick up all of Myna’s other works.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising that reviewing a book with the word ”confessions” in the title would prompt me towards my own confessions. Here goes. First, this is not a book that I review without connection not only do the author and I share the same publisher (the fabulous Tightrope Books) but we are also literary buddies, hanging out at readings and once members of the same writing group.
Emboldened by the first, a second, unrelated confession: I like chick lit. Correction: I like good chick lit. I own almost the entire Emily Giffin library, who I’ve heard called the smart women’s chick lit writer (or was that me that made that declaration?) for good reason. Before I continue downhill towards other confessions (I am an avid Coronation Street fan; I’m sipping a late night glass of wine out of a coffee mug as I start this review), let me clarify that being a fan of good chick lit means which means I do occasionally read the bad in order to make the distinction. So I know the good when I see it. And I like Myna’s new book.
The author of a previous poetry collection (A Thousand Profane Pieces, Tightrope 2006, details at www.mynawalling.com), Myna Wallin has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, but Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar represents her first full-length foray into prose fiction. From the beginning a reader can see she’s in for a good time with this book, which opens with a profile of Man #1020, who is revealed to have a screen name of â€œRenaissance Manâ€ and who is apparently a confident, hopeless romantic who will read you poetry and take walks along the beach with you.
As you whirl through the book, you’ll meet many such profiles, as they appear before each chapter to reveal a different character in the dating life of Olivia, who as the back cover notes â€œfeasts on young men of all kindsâ€. But in spite of the breezy tone that these one-page deals add to the book, the narrative is also grounded by a particular relationship that forms the main through line of the story, with the younger William, a TA in Art history at York University.
With short chapters that rarely span more than fifteen pages, the delivery of William and Olivia is obviously light, the way a girls-night-out conversation turns after a couple of martinis. Yet while Olivia is clearly a woman on the prowl, interspersing memories of other encounters (a threesome, a foot fetishist to name the most racy), through the main arc of her current relationship, you have to admire this woman not just for her care-free attitude but her candour, romanticism-married-with-practicality, and her self-respect. Even at the end of a date gone bad, like the one with the psychoanalysis-obsessed â€œMr. Dead on Arrivalâ€, she still manages to stay in good spirits, noting that the night wasn’t a total loss since â€œshe would definitely go back to the restaurant over the weekend and chat up that adorable waiterâ€ (71). A true cougar indeed.
Olivia is a cheerful character who manages to keep it together even through the duds, even through the separate vacations she takes because William can’t stand hot tropical weather. She takes the ups and downs of her relationship in stride, and while you’ll never drag the ending out of me, let’s just say that her optimism keeps this character afloat. As for the reader, the book not only offers the reading equivalent of a good night out, but a warm character who is not only willing to invite you into her world but also to share all its juiciest details.