BOWMAN, Bonnie (1955- )

Author Tags: Fiction

Having contributed articles for numerous regional and national publications, including local community newspapers, Georgia Straight and the Vancouver Sun, Bowman was the winner of the 22nd annual international 3-day writing contest. “It took this contest to get me to write,” she says. “It’s almost fun—in a sadistic way. It’s like a marathon or something.” Bowman is also a musician, playing with her band The Skin Tones. Her first novel is Skin (Anvil, 2000). In her second novel, Spaz (Anvil, 2010), a shoe-maker follows his ambition to design the perfect woman's shoe, and find the ideal foot to fit his creation.


Skin (Anvil Press, 2000) 1895636329 $12.95
Spaz (Anvil Press, 2010) 9781897535271 $20.00

[BCBW 2010]


The final frontier, for Captain Kirk, was space. For Brian Kaufman, it could be sex. The kind of stuff that frequently enlivens Kaufman’s tri-annual sub-TERRAIN magazine after 28 issues is a far cry from smut—it’s far too sophisticated to be dirty—but there are sometimes impolite, gritty, ribald or downright rude thoughts that percolate through its pages.

[Like jewellery in the tongue, frank language tends to make the grant-makers nervous. Consequently, more than 30 Canadian literati have written letters to support the editorial choices that Kaufman has made since he founded Anvil Press and sub-TERRAIN in 1988.]

While maintaining British Columbia’s only literary invention, the annual Three-Day Novel Contest, Kaufman’s Anvil Press has produced 25 titles and launched the careers of Grant Buday (Monday Night Man), Dennis E. Bolen (Stupid Crimes), Bud Osborn (Lonesome Monsters) and Mark Jarman (Salvage King Ya!)

Bonnie Bowman is a new case in point.

At the outset of Bonnie Bowman’s salacious, adrenaline-pumped and caffeine-laced Three-Day Novel Skin (Anvil $12.95), the first-time novelist has self-consciously thanked her parents. “Their suspicion I was switched at birth,” Bowman says, “will undoubtedly be strengthened by this.”

Skin is about a beautiful, would-be porn star who meets an ugly dermatologist who has an exceptionally large penis. To the literal-minded this could be a dark and possibly pointless comedy that makes Portnoy’s Complaint seem tame; to a sympathetic reader, it’s an excruciatingly sad morality tale about the lack of love.

Beauty lies within.

Despite its scenes of lust, fellatio and masturbation, Skin has as much in common with Eleanor Rigby as Penthouse. Cynthia Poole and Nathan Swan are desperate and lonely people. They are starved for tenderness, far more pathetic than sexy, and they wander in a wilderness of lust and cold-mindedness until Bowman briefly grants them a temporary reprieve on the final pages.

“And here he was, her doctor, crouched over her like an animal, a primal beast with his own abnormality digging into the bed, his carnal desires overwhelming any scrap of dignity he might possess within his soul. He felt like screaming, pounding his head against the wall...

“What kind of freak was he? He couldn’t do it. He felt sick, ill, disgusted, and crept back down the bed, pulling her skirt back down as he went.”

Most publishing houses in Canada wouldn’t dare consider such work; it might require a defence. But Bowman has found a home at Anvil. A few thousand readers—ideally—might seek out her work, but that’s more than enough to prompt a follow-up, whether a second book ever gets published or not.

Skin is poised prose, clearly not the product of just three days writing. If any defence is necessary for Skin, Bowman has pointed out that different people are offended by different things. She herself finds Harlequin romances offensive.

For every person who might be offended by Skin, there is another person who will be offended by attempts to degrade it. “He felt her nipple harden under the gauzy material as she moved his hand around in slow circles.” Whether you like it or not, it’s just life.

[BCBW Summer 2000]