A sure-footed, confident writer, Guy Vanderhaeghe is back, transcending cliche while revisiting old themes in a new volume of stories.
Haunted by life’s transience, Mark Anthony Jarman’s collection of interlinked stories evokes the fever-dream landscape of humid and sensual Italy.
Julie Paul’s writing has an edge. Humour, sensuality, and a healthy measure of darkness lend the stories in The Pull of the Moon an emotional veracity.
These are stories of guys who are crippled by drugs, who marry the wrong women, and who do not lead particularly noble, awful or even interesting lives. They are folks.
In issue 84 of Canadian Notes and Queries, Patricia Robinson addresses the literary trend of domestic realism in Canada. According to Robinson, our country suffers from a literary landscape that is overpopulated with stories (both short and long) of a certain readily recognizable type. They are stories that “have no resonance beyond the personal lives of their characters,” about people who “ruminate rather than act,” and focus largely on their sex lives, social missteps and sibling rivalries. Stories by Alice Munro and Norman Levine may immediately come to mind.
Travelling Light is a collection of short stories by Peter Behrens, the winner of the 2006 Governor General’s Award for fiction. Arranged more geographically than chronologically, his collection contains some of Behrens’ earliest pieces as well as some more recent stories.
To convey dire stories without a touch of gloom is a gift. For George Saunders in Tenth of December, his first book in six years, this particular gift comes wrapped in an economy of language tied up with a ribbon of dark humour.
Still hot on the heels of her Giller Prize nominated novel The Antagonist, Lynn Coady returns with Hellgoing, her first short story collection since 2000’s Play The Monster Blind. These nine stories will quickly transport the reader into familiar Coady territory: troubled families, big city vs. small town drunks, pregnant teenagers, strained amorous relationships, the literary world and devout Catholics.
In his essay “The Monster Mash,” David Sedaris recalls, as a child, repeatedly exhuming the bodies of dead hamsters and guinea pigs. His motivation for grave-robbing? A genuine aesthetic interest in what his dead pets’ corpses looked like in various stages of decay. As gruesome that sounds, adolescent fascination with death is, as Sedaris points out, not all that uncommon. “At that age, death is something that happens only to animals and grandparents, and studying it is like a science project, the good kind that doesn’t involve homework.”
It is surprising that there are not more well known editors-turned-writers. Toni Morrison is the great one; Diana Athill is another shining example, best known for her lively memoirs, especially Stet: An Editor’s Life. With the exception of a 1967 novella, she appears to have published no fiction except Midsummer Night in the Workhouse, her collection of short stories, written in 1958 and just reissued as a very attractive paperback. Her mastery of the language makes it a very smooth read, but it is far from inspired.
“Somewhere, that is, between the verifiable and measurable tick and the ensuing, and otherwise unremarkable, tock…” Johanna Skibsrud moulds time and space to investigate the contents of what is shared and isn’t shared between friends, close relations and strangers.
Johanna Skibsrud, winner of the 2010 Giller Prize for her debut novel, The Sentimentalists, returns with a collection of short stories This Will Be Difficult to Explain and Other Stories. She appears at Paragraph’s Books & Breakfast, Sunday 30th Oct to launch the book. I recently caught up with her in Montreal.
“I learned early on that things don’t come out of nowhere,” says the narrator in “Baby Teeth,” one of eleven stories in Teri Vlassopoulos’s Bats or Swallows. “There is always a buildup.”
It is a book that could comfortably be shelved both with the collected works of Shakespeare and The Compleat Beatles.