The Original Face
With the rise of smart technology and the prevalence of the Internet in everyday life, who am I?
Where is the line between the person that I am IRL (in real life) and the image of myself that I have curated on the Internet? How am I going to pay my bills?
These are the questions asked in Guillaume Morisette’s second novel The Original Face (Véhicule Press). Daniel Kerry, a freelance web designer and post-internet artist, is pushing thirty and dealing with the expectations of his age while struggling to pay rent in Montreal and later Toronto. Over the course of The Original Face, he grapples with the obstacles every artist and self-employed person must contend with. This isn’t a novel ripe with conflict or plot, but it vigorously explores the mundane problems that a generation of people face as freelancing becomes a more common way of life, and as the Internet becomes our primary vehicle for self-expression.
The Original Face spoke to my experience as a young-ish freelancer in Montreal with terrifying accuracy. The qualities in Daniel that I have the most difficulty swallowing – the snobbishness, the entitlement, the narcissism – are the qualities I dislike the most in myself. And I don’t think I’m alone in relating to Daniel. It’s those qualities that are so frequently brought up in rants about millennials. Morissette, with his keen understanding of this new generation of adults, has portrayed us in a way that challenges us to be critical of ourselves.
As well as presenting an eerily relatable protagonist, Morissette portrays strong friendships between men and women that are based on a mutual love of art and a shared malaise over their economic opportunities. It’s rare to see platonic friendships between the sexes in the foreground of novels, and I applaud Morissette for featuring them so prevalently. If only the female characters were as developed as the friendships. There are at least four women in The Original Face with little to no defining qualities. They are interchangeable and forgettable, which is unfortunate because Morissette has demonstrated his ability to write engaging female characters. Daniel’s girlfriend Grace, for instance, is beautiful, insecure, friendly, emotionally intelligent, and a million other things. It’s too bad that Daniel’s friends aren’t treated with the same care and attention.
Aside from the lack of depth in some female characters, The Original Face successfully portrays the life of so many young people in Montreal. The Internet looms over our lives, but it is also a free space for artistic and self expression. The novel is an astute and cutting examination of millennial life off and on line. It forces us to challenge our entitlement, our notions of self, and our expectations of the future. Using a mix of longer chapters, and short tweet-like paragraphs, Morissette questions our understanding of the Internet and how it influences our everyday choices. “Had a dream in which I clicked on a hyperlink and it led directly into another brain,”1 Daniel says, mirroring the feeling of reading The Original Face, and reminding us that the Internet has changed the way we look at the world.
Like the protagonists in The Original Face and his first novel New Tab, Morisette lives and works in Montreal. New Tab was a finalist for both the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. The Original Face has been listed as one of the most-anticipated books of the rest of 2017 by the Globe and Mail, and will likely go on to secure Morisette’s place as a literary force and voice for a generation of freelancers.
Morissette, Guillaume, The Original Face (Montreal: Véhicule Press. 2017).
 Medley, Mark. “The most-anticipated books of the rest of 2017.” The Globe and Mail. 13 Aug. 2017. The Globe and Mail. Web. 14 Aug. 2017.
The Original Face (IBSN: 9781550654783) will be available in October 2017 for $19.95.
© Leigh Kinch-Pedrosa, 2017
Leigh Kinch-Pedrosa is the general manager of Confabulation Montreal, an organization dedicated to the growth of the storytelling community in Canada. She is the founder of The Confab Story Lab and has produced live events for CBC Books All Told and Off-JFL. She has told stories for Tales From the Black, Yarn, Vanier College, Confabulation, and Phi Centre’s ongoing exhibit Lucid Realities.