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The Traymore Rooms: A Novel in Five Parts Paperback – October 1, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Traymore Rooms apartments offer refuge to a variety of colorful characters, as recorded by narrator ex-pat draft dodger Calhoun. Approaching the end of their lives, with little to offer the world except disassociated political rants and convoluted interpersonal rivalries, the older members of the community hit on long-suffering waitresses, argue over politics and observe as others play musical beds, ever aware that death is approaching. Calhoun himself is implausibly attractive to a wide variety of women, from youthful Moonface to experienced Eleanor; he eschews the opportunities this offers him and is outright hostile to newcomer Margery Prentiss for reasons unclear. Like their tirades, the book in which these characters are trapped sometimes seems endless, situations shifting through a kaleidoscope of events dissimilar on the surface but identical in their basics. One unifying theme is the narrow keyhole through which Calhoun and his male chums peer at the women around them, relentlessly assessing them in terms of allure, affronted whenever one of the objects of desire expresses urges and ambitions not defined by those of the men. Although the individual men have their charms, the overall effect is to present them as self-absorbed sexist relics of a now vanished age, theatrical figures who will vanish having achieved little.


"Poet Norm Sibum’s 700-pager should be on the radar of all the maximalism-starved readers who landed A Naked Singularity on our Top 10 list in 2012—though the book might more rightly be likened to something by William Gass or Alexander Theroux. Plot isn’t Sibum’s thing, exactly, but his erudition (considerable), sense of character (eccentric), and mood (quietly splenetic) more than compensate. The novel concerns a group of aging friends who share haunts in downtown Montreal. They talk, fight, love, and try to make sense of a historical moment that has disappointed their youthful hopes ... the prose is a consistent pleasure."—Garth Hallberg, The Millions

"The Traymore Rooms, a novel at once hugely ambitious and never above an off-colour crack … is going after a “Melvillian” game: the decline and fall of the American Empire, by means of highbrow bedroom farce. The combo harkens back to big-novel romps of the author’s youth, in particular John Barth’s Sot-Weed Factor (1960), which put Colonial America through dizzying bounces. The narrative reach alone is honourable … much of it comes across with smarts and verve, and it’s no surprise to learn that our narrator’s a poet."—John Domini, The Brooklyn Rail

"Sibum does know when to add a beautiful sentence … the often-moving pontifications on roads not taken, lost friends and lost loves lend The Traymore Rooms an impressive, if occasional, gravity.”—Time Out New York

"The 696 pages of poet Norm Sibum’s debut are as good a reminder as any that the monumental novel has far from faded as a literary haymaker."—Hypoallergic

"This is Sibum’s debut novel, and it isn’t so much a dip of his toe into the world of fiction as a cannonball off a third-storey hotel balcony… his prose is kinetic and constantly surprising … I doubt I’ll read anything quite so beguiling in 2013."—The National Post

"A delightful raspberry in the face of conventional market wisdom … There’s a hint of David Foster Wallace’s shaggy-dog conceptualism here, and of John Barth’s postmodern metafiction, but rest assured, it’s also just plain fun.”—The Montreal Gazette

"Sibum opens up his miniature universe of The Traymore Rooms with a mixture of kindness and criticism. The length becomes an asset as the episodes come to resemble actual, and not novelistic time … Sibum’s antidote to middle-class sense of purpose is the meandering life, lingering on the boulevard—a kind of aristocratic rebellion.”—The Puritan

"Dude can write."—Ed Turner, Biblioklept

"Seriously, wtf. Has 2013's most ambitious English-language novel been written by a Canadian?"—Scott Esposito

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More About the Author

Norm Sibum has been writing and publishing poetry for over thirty years. Born in Germany in 1947, he grew up in Alaska, Utah, and Washington before moving to Vancouver in 1968. He has published several volumes of poetry in Canada and England. Sibum currently lives and works in Montreal, Quebec.

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The Traymore Rooms: A Novel in Five Parts
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