City of Victoria Butler Book Prize: M.A.C. Farrant, The World Afloat (Winner)
In The World Afloat, a series of seventy-five “miniatures” that melds narrative with elements of prose poem and farce, master of the absurd and expert observer M.A.C. Farrant peers into the complexities of human experience – through the rear window.
Inside the linoleum-lined kitchens and lace-trimmed living rooms that drift through these stories, Farrant interrupts the daily routines – doctor’s appointments, gardening, mealtimes – of her eccentric yet familiar characters with intensely surreal, laugh-out-loud moments. What happens when a whimsical spirit becomes captive to a middle-aged body? At the end of a Love Your Package workshop, what does the wrap-up dinner look like? Can a soggy tomato salad really end someone’s marriage? Brimming with pathos and bathos in equal measure, Farrant’s smart prose offers escape and renewal from the monotony of modern life, while at the same time poking fun at her readers’ pathological devotion to the technology and interpersonal relationships that leave them feeling bored and empty. Sexuality and depravity, childhood and bad parenting, and love and divorce are all deftly handled in this hot flash of a book that goes straight to the heart of things. As each “miniature” reads stranger (and truer) than the one before, Farrant manages to coax her readers from their well-worn, earthbound narratives and into a world afloat on satire, absurdity, and, in her most brilliant moments, expansive joy.
Currently residing in North Saanich, BC, M.A.C. Farrant is the author of ten collections of satirical and philosophical short fiction; a novel-length memoir, My Turquoise Years; a book of humorous essays, The Secret Lives of Litterbugs; and the stage adaptation of My Turquoise Years, which premiered at Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre in 2013.
Farrant has been nominated for many awards, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, VanCity Book Prize, National Magazine Awards, Gemini Award (for the Bravo short-film adaptation of her story “Rob’s Guns & Ammo”), Victoria Book Prize, and two Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards for her play My Turquoise Years, among others. She is a regular book reviewer for the Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail, and National Post.
Farrant has taught writing at the University of Victoria, Victoria School of Writing, and Banff Centre for the Arts, and was writer-in-residence at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
“My sole recommendation for summertime reading is M.A.C. Farrant’s latest book The World Afloat. Why? It’s the perfect beach or sundeck read. The book is 75 short pieces or “miniatures” as the North Saanich writer calls them. These mini-opuses are witty and quirky. They’re sometimes funny, sometimes surreal and always sharply observed. By peeping at life from the margins — and ignoring the deep wagon tracks of traditional narrative — Farrant emerges as an original voice conveying something compelling and true about what it means to be human. What’s more, The World Afloat sells for a bargain $12.95 — so the price is miniature, too. Plus, being only slightly larger than a pocketbook, it fits neatly into one’s hands.”
– Victoria Times Colonist
“Farrant is definitely a reader’s writer. In The World Afloat: Miniatures, Vancouver Island writer Farrant presents 75 stories, most less than a page long, and most using Farrant’s customary sense of humour as she examines ordinary life and transforms it into the eccentric or reveals its essential oddities. These small slices of life show that perspective can change everything. … Farrant is concerned with the quirky reality of life, a reality that words bump up against in their attempt to capture it. … Suffering and sadness are inescapable, but happiness also abounds. Stylistically the stories are snappy and direct, and Farrant uses accessible and idiomatic language fluidly.”
– Vancouver Sun
“On almost every page we find ourselves sitting up, pop-eyed, thinking did you just say that? … The wackiness appears wildly spontaneous, but belies the polish with which each character is made vivid, each event sharp-edged … The World Afloat is quite a gorgeous little book, with a handsome cover, as enigmatic as the miniatures it encloses. I should also mention it is very reasonably priced.”
– WordWorks (BC Writers Federation magazine)
“Just as the woman on the cover appears to drift effortlessly among the cosmos, each micro-story in The World Afloat is deftly captured with grace, humour, and enviable creativity. It is the book any writer wished she wrote, that inspires any reader to pick up her pen and give it a go. M.A.C. Farrant’s ‘fierce words meant to delight’ do just that, and as each story ends, one can’t but help inhaling the next one. Farrant takes the mundane and twists it – just when you think the story might get sad or downright serious there’s a little crumb at the end, one that tastes of laughter.”
– Victoria Book Prizes Jury, 2014
“Canadian readers would be ill-advised to ignore M.A.C. Farrant’s The World Afloat. … Farrant attunes us to the individual’s struggle to make sense of everyday life. Her stories revel in the unfailing tendency of things around us to come undone. … She creates a constellation of very focused fragments, all of which function as windows to reveal precisely those moments when the supposed solidity of everyday experience melts into air … Farrant, as a modern literary explorer, claims fresh territories of form and genre.”
—The Bull Calf
“Miniatures, yes. Or if we see Farrant’s new collection like a painting, like a wide comprehensive Bosch-like canvas, these are details, lifted from the whole and magnified, allowing us to look more closely. We never fear we will go adrift in this world afloat because the narrator is anchored. … Some pieces are complete stories, but short. Others are teasers or hints or scenes. And some are small works of genius – laugh out loud funny or thoughtful. She has perfected this technique – nay, it is an art.”
– Coastal Spectator
“The miniatures of The World Afloat are … as wild as colourful birthday helium balloons released into a hurricane; small points of cheerful light whirled in a dark and violent wind … Like poems, or recalled fragments of dreams, these kinds of stories are meant to resonate, rather than reveal, to stir up the mental sludge, flush out the septic tank of the subconscious, to make us feel more truly aware and alive.”
– BC Bookworld
“Madcap miniatures, helium-filled vignettes that untether the ordinary from itself and use the mundane as a launch pad for a series bizarre, hilarious, surrealist prose-poem adventures. … A wild hot-air balloon ride drifting over patchwork fields, hovering over each just long enough for some odd detail to reveal itself before floating on.” – Contemporary Verse 2