With characters ranging from the desperate to the obsessive to the wildly comic, Mark Anthony Jarman's 19 Knives employs dazzling linguistic verve and staggering metaphoric powers in every sentence. But Jarman doesn't just write about people, he puts us in their skin so that we feel their frailty and courage. No other contemporary Canadian short-story writer slices up the imaginative excitement, cultural hybridity, and Joycean play of language we see in 19 Knives. With one of the stories shortlisted for the U.S.'s prestigious O. Henry Prize and several others having won prizes or been published in magazines and journals across North America, this collection brings a major fiction writer to the fore.
Mark Anthony Jarman is the author of Knife Party at the Hotel Europa, My White Planet, 19 Knives, New Orleans Is Sinking, Dancing Nightly in the Tavern, and the travel book Ireland’s Eye. His novel, Salvage King Ya!, is on Amazon’s list of 50 Essential Canadian Books and is the number one book on Amazon’s list of best hockey fiction.
He won a Gold National Magazine Award in nonfiction, has twice won the Maclean-Hunter Endowment Award, won the Jack Hodgins Fiction Prize, was shortlisted for an Atlantic Book Award, the Alistair MacLeod Prize, the Thomas Raddall Prize, was included in The Journey Prize Anthology and Best Canadian Stories, and short-listed for Best American Essays and the O. Henry Award.
He has published in the Walrus, Canadian Geographic, Hobart, the Barcelona Review, Vrij Nederland, and reviews for the Globe and Mail. He is a graduate of The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a Yaddo fellow, has taught at the University of Victoria, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and now teaches at the University of New Brunswick, where he is fiction editor of the Fiddlehead literary journal.
The stories grab on and then pedal on imbalance; they tilt and stay dizzyingly tilted, careering, not necessarily toward any kind of resolution, but toward the marrow of a character's psyche...Voice is the foundation and strength of 19 Knives, and provides the primal energy of the stories...19 Knives is a sinuous, heartbreaking book that probes the fragility of human identity in a fresh, elemental way.
The frenzied pace of Mark Anthony Jarman's 19 Knives betrays the influence of the beat writers. But the dark figures who populate his devastating stories are more suggestive of David Foster Wallace...Like a quart of hand-picked berries, the stories offer sweet stabs of delight with enough grit and pesticide to set your teeth on edge.
Each of 19 Knives' 14 stories (all first-person narratives) integrates sparkling linguistic kinetics and honey-like narrative stickiness. Rejecting postmodern cynicism, Jarman celebrates life's ecstatic mysteries. Religious in their own way - finding meaning in music and everyday life, not empty theology - these stories shake like Muddy Waters riding a riff into the dark recesses of the night...Jarman gives us the best stuff. Solid gold.
It is very irritating to discover a wonderful book published too long ago to be an official 'book of the year.'...Jarman's collection is...brilliant. The writing is extraordinary, the stories are gripping, it is something new.
Jarman's ingenuity is undeniable; his lingual dexterity is prodigious, at times downright acrobatic...The stories are engaging and some are indeed enchanting, pulling the reader into the commonplace and hypnotic.
The best of many highlights in Jarman's new collection, 19 Knives, ['Burn Man on a Texas Porch'] is not only the best I've story I've read in a year, it's probably one of the best ever written by a Canadian. It's focused, intense, colloquial and darkly funny - carefully crafted while remaining bracingly idiosyncratic...Jarman can do things with a narrative hook and a single strong character that make perennial prize-winners like Bonnie Burnard and Alistair MacLeod seem like candle-dipping dowdies.
Beautiful writing, too, but not too beautiful. Jarman writes the way we'd like to talk, vocabulary tripping easily to tongue, snappy comebacks at just the right moment, never too formal or too painfully colloquial. He never makes a misstep, never puts words that are too big or too small in anyone's mouth; his dialogue sounds like it was transcribed from tape rather than imagined. The verisimilitude of his writing would be unbelievable were it not here on the page waiting to be read - and read it you should, for 19 Knives is short fiction at its finest.