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Short-story collections and novellas
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Short-story collections and novellas

By richardcumyn
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Recent Canadian short-story collections and novellas deserving of a second look
Afterall

Afterall

edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
tagged : literary
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Why it's on the list ...
Imagine if the artist Laurie Anderson relocated from NYC to southern Alberta and you might get Lee Kvern, a brave, compassionate, no-bullshit and self-described “wild” (rather than “cultivated”) writer. Her novella Afterall (Brindle & Glass, 2005) examines homelessness in downtown Vancouver through the eyes of Beth, 36, and her precocious, child-of-friends, Mason, who is 9. For a first book, it’s a keenly observed gem of a story about recklessness and the limits of social activism.
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Crisp

Crisp

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Why it's on the list ...
R.W. Gray’s vivid collection, Crisp (NeWest Press, 2010), moves fluidly like a series of lucid dreams. The stories draw on the familiar but by way of sometimes ominous transmutations. One of my favourites is “Wabi Sabi,” in which a potter, Alice, goes to work reshaping her “gristle and bone” husband as though he were a lump of clay.
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Perfect World
Why it's on the list ...
Ian Colford’s Perfect World (Freehand Books, 2016) should be required reading, first as a primer in how to construct the perfect short novel and second as a close hard look at domestic abuse and its consequence. We are continually told that a damaged child will grow into a damaging adult, but until we experience it as we do in harrowing fiction like this, that fact remains academic.
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Jane and the Whales

Jane and the Whales

Short Stories
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Why it's on the list ...
I love to read fiction that teaches me something new about the natural world. Andrea Routley’s first collection, Jane and the Whales (Caitlin Press, 2013) is replete with fascinating information about the non-humans who let us share the planet with them. Animals often appear nobler than humans in these unpretentious stories that let natural wisdom bubble up through apparently naive narrative voices. Here’s evidence of a writing talent that probably can’t be taught.
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Keeping the Peace
Why it's on the list ...
Colette Maitland is a writer of note among CanLit up-and-comers. Praised by the likes of Antanas Sileika, Diane Schoemperlen and Charlotte Gill, her first collection, Keeping the Peace (Biblioasis, 2013) spills over with the busy-ness of life. If they were paintings these stories might be by Kreighoff or Bosch, hyperkinetic and full of those peculiar, precise details we tend to miss as we hurry through our days.
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Canary
Why it's on the list ...
Canary by Nancy Jo Cullen is a John Metcalf edition that should be in everyone’s permanent collection. The book’s back-cover tag line, “What has to die before you force yourself to change?” lets us know what’s at stake in these smart, funny, accomplished stories. I remember thinking after finishing the book that these characters were people I’d want to hang out with.
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Squishy
Why it's on the list ...
I got to hang out with Arjun Basu a couple of years ago when we were on an arts-granting jury together. Arjun is so in touch with the zeitgeist that I don’t even try to stay abreast. Just read his epigrammatic Twitter stories or the ones collected in Squishy (DC Books, 2008). I mean, presented with opening lines like, “The smell of deep fried seafood is one of those things that makes me doubt my atheism,” you know you’re in the hands of a master stand-up raconteur who doesn't waste a drop. Wry, delivered in snappy jabs, his sentences sparkle with wit but never sputter into silliness.
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Jewels and Other Stories
Why it's on the list ...
Dawn Promislow’s beautiful collection, Jewels and Other Stories (TSAR Publications, 2010) was deservedly long-listed for the now discontinued Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize the year it was published. Canadian by way of Johannesburg, South Africa, Promislow writes the kind of story that at first glance seems unsophisticated and mannered but which encompasses complex layers through which the reader glimpses those subtle alterations that memory can make to one’s personal history.
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