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Defying Convention: Reading Short Stories

By stephvandermeulen
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Contemporary CanLit Short Stories
Radio Belly

Radio Belly

Stories
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

"Radio Belly is a fun ride through some strange places, and Cram is a whip-smart storyteller who aims to shake up our reading expectations in ways that delight and surprise." -- Zoe Whittall, Globe & Mail

"Buffy Cram's book of short stories, Radio Belly, is full of kooky tales that reel a reader in and don't let go. She tackles issues, but combines them with magical thinking, so that the resulting stories are both really far out, but also very real at the same time." -- Vancouver Sun

A formidable …

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Divinity Gene, The

Divinity Gene, The

Stories
edition:Paperback

Recipient of the Honour of Distinction for the Dayne Ogilvie award, and long-listed for the Frank O'Connor Short Story Prize, the largest prize for a book of short stories worldwide, The Divinity Gene, is a beguiling and bizarre collection of stories from a remarkable new voice in Canadian fiction.

 

A mob of teens descends upon Paris in the thrall of a self-help author; a grotesque yard-sale statuette frees a dying man from his silence; the hottest club in town is staffed by angels. This is the u …

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This Cake is for the Party

This Cake is for the Party

Stories
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Finalist for the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize and longlisted for the 2010 Frank O’Connor Award
Sarah Selecky’s first book takes dead aim at a young generation of men and women who often set out with the best of intentions, only to have plans thwarted or hopes betrayed.
These are stories about friendships and relationships confused by unsettling tensions bubbling beneath the surface. A woman who plans to conceive ends up in the arms of her husband’s best friend; a man who baby-sits a ne …

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Light Lifting

Light Lifting

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian

This was the day after Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear. You remember that. It was a moment in history – not like Kennedy or the planes flying into the World Trade Centre – not up at that level. This was something much lower, more like Ben Johnson, back when his eyes were that think, yellow colour and he tested positive in Seoul after breaking the world-record in the hundred. You might not know exactly where you were standing or exactly what you were doing when you first heard ab …

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And Also Sharks

And Also Sharks

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

The forlornly funny stories in And Also Sharks celebrate the socially awkward, the insecure, the unfulfilled, and the obsessed.

 

A disgruntled follower of a self-esteem blog posts a rambling critical comment. On the hunt for the perfect coffee table, a pregnant woman and her husband stop to visit his terminally ill ex-wife. The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker. A man grieving his wife’s miscarriages follows his deluded friend on …

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This Ramshackle Tabernacle

This Ramshackle Tabernacle

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

This Ramshackle Tabernacle is a collection of short stories set in and around the fictional villages of St. Lola and St. Olga in northeastern Ontario. Whether reflecting on the broken lives of others in the community or mourning the death of a friend who drowned in a freak fishing accident, the characters in this collection face tragedy with grace, humour and perseverance. These stories deal with both the rundown and ruined aspects of our humanity but also with the redeeming and renewing love th …

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The Odious Child

The Odious Child

and Other Stories
edition:Paperback

What would you do if your child was a furry feral creature or your new love interest a potential serial killer (or worse, a fictitious cliché)? In The Odious Child, Carolyn Black invents her own blend of urban fantasy, crafting a unique storyscape that she populates with a series of mostly nameless figures who are trapped in social roles that they anxiously try to fulfill - and sometimes manage to escape. With a refreshingly clear voice and dark, offbeat sense of humour, Black tempers her incis …

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Play the Monster Blind

edition:Paperback

An exhilarating collection of short fiction, Play the Monster Blind showcases the remarkably original voice of Lynn Coady, the award-winning author of Strange Heaven. Funny, poignant and smart, full of unforgettable characters, these stories explore the violence of family, the constraints of small-town life and the elusive promise of escape.

In "Ice Cream Man," an adolescent girl struggles to come to terms with her mother's death and her father's seeming indifference while conducting a secret aff …

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Excerpt

Drinking

The father was drinking again, in celebration. John said it bothered him. He remembered being three, tooling around town in the green station wagon with fake wood on the sides, watching his father drink. He would drink and visit his friends, at their homes or at the boxing club. He would pull into the driveway, pause to smile at John, take a quick couple of swallows before reaching over to unbuckle the boy. And he would hoist his young son inside to show him off, both of them pink-cheeked. He showed her a picture of himself then, his little hands tied inside of a pair of enormous boxing gloves, his father perched behind him, holding them up to take aim at a smiling, sweaty man in trunks.

John was strapping then, and he was strapping now. One of the first things the father told her was that they used to have to pin John into three layers of diapers, he was such a big eater. It was obvious the old man and he were close. The second evening after she and John arrived, she stayed inside doing dishes with the mother, and saw the two of them sitting out in plastic chairs on the lawn, facing the shed with rums in hand. The mother said, “That should keep him happy for a while,” and the plastic chairs sagged and quivered from the weight of men. The father was built all of hard, stubborn fat, but John was just big. They sat quietly torturing their lawn chairs together.

He told her he used to be fat. He was very sensitive about it. He told her he had never told that to anyone. In high school he stopped eating and started taking handfuls of vitamins, which made him thin and absent-minded, but his mother stopped buying them and he had no choice but to go back to eating. In university he just gave in to everything and ate and drank until he ballooned. Now he was approximately in the middle, a big man with a thick beard. When he was fourteen, his father had him collecting UI for all the dishwashing he had done at the family restaurant, because the workers didn’t know any better from the size of him. She had thought, when she met John, that he looked like a lumberjack. He wore plaid shirts and work boots whenever she saw him in class, not because it was fashionable, and not fashionably, but because it was what he wore. She learned where he was from and imagined they all must dress like that, that it must be a very welcoming place, rustic and simple and safe, like John himself.

When his sister showed up, pasty and in leather pants despite the August swelter, the first thing she said to him was, “Hey, you fat shit.” Bethany knew that they had not seen each other in a couple of years. He reached over and grabbed one of the sister’s wrists. Her knees buckled at once and effortlessly he turned her around, already sinking. Then he grabbed the other wrist and held them together in one large paw while guiding her face-first to the kitchen floor, using her wrists as a sort of steering apparatus. Then he sat on her.

“Pardon?” he kept saying.

“You fat bastard.”

The father sat nearby, laughing. The mother saying, “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny,” now, as she tried to move around them to the stove. Bethany and the sister were exactly the same age. She felt she should have something to say to her.

When the brother arrived, he at once began to beat and contort the sister in the same way, as if this were some sort of family ritual. She railed at him as he pulled her feet up behind her to meet her shoulders. Whereas John just used the sheer force of his bulk and his size, Hugh, smaller and wiry, was a dabbler in the martial arts. He said he used to box, like his father, but got bored with all the rules. Now he was interested in something called “shoot fighting,” which scarcely had any rules at all. He knew all sorts of different holds and manoeuvres, some of which he demonstrated on the sister for them. When he was finished – Ann yanking herself away, red-faced and hair awry and staggering towards the kitchen for a beer – he darted at John, head down and fists up. John responded in the way she had seen him do at bars whenever drunken men, maddened by his size, ran at him. The strategy was to reach out his big hands and simply hold the opponents at bay until they got tired and embarrassed.

Bethany thought of herself as an easygoing person and tried not to be nervous, but she and John were going to get married, and she knew that the family was striving to be civil in a way they were not used to. John kept cuffing his sister in the head whenever she said “goddamn ”or “cocksucker,” and quietly stating, “Dad,” when the father did the same. Bethany and the sister tried and tried to talk to each other, bringing up woman-things like belts and shampoo. She knew that the sister worked in theatre in Halifax and lived with a man who was thirty-five, and everyone was disappointed in her, but hoped she would soon turn her life around. It was touching the way the family spoke of Ann when she was out of the room. The father, overwhelming his armchair, ponderously clinking his ice cubes and turning to John.

“What do you think, me boy?”

“Well, who knows, boy.”

“She’s getting by,” the mother would say.

“But for how long?”

“We’ll talk to her at some point,” John promised, this being what the father was waiting to hear. The father was always turning to John and waiting to hear the right thing, and John always seemed to know what it was.

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