2013 Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award — Winner
2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize — Shortlisted
2012 BMO Winterset Award — Finalist
From critically acclaimed and award-winning writer, Russell Wangersky, comes a new collection of short fiction.
Everyone has something they’re good at: one particular personal skill that they use to keep their lives moving forward when their worlds suddenly become difficult or near-impossible. For some, it’s denial; for others, blunt pragmatism. Still others depend on an over-inflated view of self to keep criticism and doubt at bay.
In his new short story collection, Whirl Away, Russell Wangersky – author of critically-acclaimed fiction and non-fiction including The Glass Harmonica, Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself and The Hour of Bad Decisions – looks at what happens when people’s personal coping skills go awry. These are people who discover their anchor-chain has broken: characters safe in the world of self-deception or even self-delusion, forced to face the fact that their main line of defense has become their greatest weakness.
From the caretaker of a prairie amusement park to the lone occupant of a collapsing Newfoundland town, from a travelling sports drink marketer with a pressing need to get off the road to an elevator inspector who finds himself losing his marriage while sensuously burying himself in the tastes and smells of the kitchen, these are people who spin wildly out of control, finding themselves in a new and different world.
With skillful and eerie verisimilitude, Wangersky places most of the protagonists in this new collection of short stories squarely inside the dark hearts of their respective occupations. The breadth of Wangersky's knowledge and research into different jobs is truly astounding and worth the price of the book alone.
...a very accomplished collection, with some very fine writing.
Like Cheever or Munro, Russell Wangersky delves stealthily into disquieting corners of the domestic sphere, his stories dissecting lives when they are fracturing, lives at stress points, lives much like the roller coaster at the centre of McNally's Fair, an exciting and popular ride gleaming with fresh paint, but about to collapse from hidden rust and broken bolts.
With sympathy for both males and females, Whirl Away explores romance, disillusionment, money worries, infidelity, layoffs and tipping points, quiet conflicts like butter simmering on a stove and about to angrily turn colour and burn.
Again and again the author revisits the idea of the invisible threat, of capricious catastrophe, of the fine, flickering balance between good and evil in human nature, and the folly of trust.
Whirl Away is a persuasive, artful collection and Wangersky portrays all manner of characters...with vividness and delicacy...
Tautly written, perfectly edited, sharply detailed...and cleverly imagined, these stories are some of the finest examples I've ever read of how short stories ought to be written.
The stories in Whirl Away provide ample evidence for anyone wanting to argue that literary short fiction remains stuck in a Chekhovian rut.
...all at once brutal and gentle, funny and cruel, timely and timeless.