Zero Gravity is Toronto author Sharon English's second collection of short stories. The book is rooted in Vancouver, with side trips to British Columbia's Kootenay mountains, Montreal and Delphi, Greece. English's characters lead accelerated lives only to be seized by spiritual emptiness. Their attempts to escape -- by joining, by quitting, by falling in and out of love -- make for funny, insightful and intense reading. The author presents a fly's-eye view of urban experience, coming at city life from multiple angles that unite, as the book progresses, into a vivid experience of isolation and adaptation. The book's unusual imagery and controlled prose deliver an edgy and anxious commentary on a new century.
'What is remarkable about most of these stories is that, though they at first seem disaffected, detached, and apathetically ''cool''' they are, at their best, ultimately hopeful. People change, they find friends, they face humiliation, and they move on. It isn't particularly hip to admit that you need a friend, or that you're not doing what you want with your life, but these characters do it anyway, and when they do, it's refreshing.'
'a talented, keenly observant writer.'
'The writing rarely fails to engage. First sentences make an impression. Some examples: ''In his seventh year at TrendCrop, Dayton began to disappear.'' or ''Emily and Clive once went to a party held in honour of a dead cat.'' And for the most part, the book stays this good, maintaining a steady register of mood and an uncluttered immediacy of expression. The sort of exact language necessary when measuring forces like gravity. Which is a weak force really, especially among human bodies.'
'English has a strong sensibility and while she can see the faults of her characters, she is always sympathetic to them. People make mistakes, but no one in this universe is evil. The stories are suffused with a gentleness about human failings and an understanding of human need. Frailty, desire and need are perceived as part of the human package, and English's attitude to humanity is acceptance punctuated with acerbity. It's a splendid combination.'
'Nadine Gordimer writes that the short story is the art of ''the only thing one can be sure of -- the present moment.' Zero Gravity upends this notion by evoking the uncertainty upon which the present moment floats. In these stories, English makes art out of incertitude, out of the giddiness and fear that can inhere in a moment, especially when that moment is a life-altering one.'
'Most of the writers on our underrated list are veterans who have spent their careers toiling in the suburbs of oblivion. Sharon English, however, is still an up-and-comer, with only two story collections under her belt -- though they should have been enough in themselves to raise her profile considerably. Her debut, Uncomfortably Numb, stood out as a strong collection of linked coming-of-age stories (no mean feat in this country), but it was Zero Gravity that really announced her arrival as one of our sharpest new talents, wedding precision of language to a remarkable moral and imaginative range. That it made it onto the Giller longlist was slight consolation, given the presence of both Ondaatje and Vassanji in that year's final five.'