Ava Van der Meer is a student at the University of Pennsylvania, pursuing a major in Political Science and a minor in Economics. An avid reader and writer, her pieces appear in UPenn’s travel magazine STAMPED and arts magazine 34th Street. Ava also enjoys painting, running, and traveling the world in her free time. Her review of Jonathan Barrow’s novel On the Run With Mary received a top prize in the 2016 University of Pennsylvania creative writing competition.
Little can mirror the hyper-exaggerated, hypersexual imagination of Jonathan Barrow’s On the Run with Mary—an engaging picaresque with perversely comic undertones. To be sure, this rendition of the 20th century is definitely not for the faint of heart and far from your run-of-the-mill coming-of-age story. Don’t expect any topic to be off-limits as you join a young, jaded schoolboy as he flees from an elitist English boarding school to brave the streets of 1960s London. Befriending a talking 34-year-old dachshund named Mary, the narrator navigates a luckless, schizophrenic world of substance abuse, evil headmasters, bodily excrement, and sexual licentiousness. Dead rats are crowded on quickly passing trains, terriers commit suicide by jumping off the Waterloo Bridge, and entire busloads of strangers defecate on each other. Taxi drivers are paid in sexual favors, priests are burned alive in crematoriums, and schoolchildren swim in sewers with frogmen. Time and time again, the narrator is sexually abused by his superiors as he runs from the large metal “hook” of his eccentric former headmaster. Barrow discards logic and common sense, subverting normalcy with a sense of paranoia and morbidity that is only occasionally punctuated by small snippets of unreciprocated kindness ... Read the full text