Norman Bray, In the Performance of His Life

Publisher: Emblem Editions
Finalist for the Governor General’s Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (Canada and Caribbean region)

A Globe and Mail Notable Book of the Year

For years, Toronto stage actor Norman Bray has renounced all responsibility in the name of his “art.” Now, middle-aged, teetering on the edge of financial ruin, and clinging to the faded light of his career, Norman must answer to the bank, to the adult children of his recently deceased common-law wife, and, most of all, to his own illusions about himself. Making matters worse, Amy, his stepdaughter-of-a-sort, discovers her late mother’s journals and the unhappiness they contain. Meanwhile, Norman finds himself embroiled in the affairs of an attractive neighbour, with unexpected consequences. Highly original, skewering, hilarious, humane, Trevor Cole’s brilliant debut looks at the precarious ties of love and family and the plight of a man who has reached the end of the line — and has only himself to blame.


“You’re fucking late, Norman.” Robert Chenowirth, bald, lacquered with sweat, and aggressively unshaven, sits in front of an aging control panel on a swivel chair so flimsy that its ability to withstand his enormous bulk defies logic to the point of sorcery. His vast T-shirted belly (the T-shirt, black,...
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1. What’s in a title? Norman Bray in the Performance of His Life is a comic novel that can be read casually for belly laughs but becomes funnier and funnier the more closely it is read. Like Cervantes, whom he emulates and invokes through his repeated references to Man of La Mancha (the Broadway...

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“The flat-out funniest novel of the year.… In the tradition of novels like Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, Cole gives us a flawed protagonist facing a crisis, then ratchets up the comedy as the protagonist digs himself in more deeply.…”
Winnipeg Free Press

“This is a very, very funny book.… Trevor Cole knows how to tell a story of the I-couldn’t-put-it-down variety; Norman’s performance is filled with giddy surprises and wonderful set pieces. The book is smart and deft; it zips along. This is fine writing, with a light and generous touch.… Just delicious!”
Globe and Mail

“The funniest book on offer.… Endlessly entertaining.… Norman Bray is a triumph for Trevor Cole.”

“Norman Bray, like the novel he occupies, is complex, amusing, charming, vexing, and vastly entertaining. He’s a character you cannot forget and you thank god he doesn’t live next door. Trevor Cole has enormous talent.”
–Paul Quarrington

“Trevor Cole, in his debut novel, has created a character as complex, infuriating, unpleasant and funny as any we’ve seen in a long time.… Howlingly funny.… Norman Bray takes on a life that spills beyond the covers of Trevor Cole’s sparkling novel…”
–Montreal Gazette

“Trevor Cole has created a highly original character – one of those rare fictional beings who is impossible to forget.… Darkly funny and perfectly pitched, Cole’s novel introduces an intriguing new voice in fiction.”
Calgary Herald

“In Norman Bray, Trevor Cole gives a star turn.”
National Post

“Cole belongs to the Truman Capote school of stylists; his prose is clear as a mountain stream.…”
–David Gilmour, Toronto Star

“Cole’s great accomplishment is to write seductively and sympathetically about someone as narcissistic and bullying as is actor Norman Bray, leaving the reader in a wonderfully uneasy state of delight and horror. Tightly structured, funny, poignant – this wonderful novel delivers the pleasure of seeing that Norman is, under the correct circumstances, capable of leaving himself behind.”
–Jury citation, Governor General’s Award

“Cole deftly manipulates tone, diction, and point of view to create a brilliant study of Norman’s persecuted artist persona and the peculiarly endearing person who hides behind it. The narrative voice is agile and witty.… Extraordinary.”
Quill & Quire

Norman Bray is so smart and funny, and it moves along with such speed, you’re almost tricked into thinking it’s a comedy. But this book is more than that – Cole has written a layered, resonant novel, full of surprises.”
–Sarah Fulford, Toronto Life

“There are delicate, subtle shadings of characterizations, hidden pockets of humour and observations of the human condition that make Norman Bray a rewarding read.… Cole has written a punchy, frothy first novel that rings true on many levels.”
Edmonton Journal