I had signed up for the Book Mine Set's 2nd Canadian Book Challenge last July 1 with the intention of reading a book from every province and territory, thirteen in all. But, with two territories left to go I realized I just wouldn't be able to do it. So instead I am counting these two short story collections as the final entries into my Canadian Book Challenge tally. They were certainly worthwhile Canadian reads!
Erin, ON: Porcupine's Quill Press, c2004.
This collection of 23 short stories has the same oddball edge as Grant's recent novel, Come, Thou Tortoise (which I loved). The title of the collection is not one of the story titles -- rather, each of the stories is in its own way a wink at fate, an aside, a way to deal with what life hands the characters. I found many of them charming, amusing and original. The first story in the collection is "My Husband's Jump", which won Grant the 2003 Journey Prize (and which is reflected in the cover design). It carries a sense of the mysterious; a woman's husband makes a ski jump at the Olympics, but never lands. Over the course of six short pages, she struggles to come up with meaning, with understanding. It highlights Grant's eye for the absurd and her concomitant compassion for those afflicted by absurdity. I liked all of the pieces collected here, but was particularly fond of one near the end, entitled "Taxation", in which two roofers look down on the world, and the dynamic of their friendship changes as one espies a woman down below. It's a wonderful tale, with a sense of hope and a sense of humour -- which could describe many of the stories collected herein.
Ottawa: Oberon Press, c2008.
This annual collection from Oberon Press always has something of interest in it. This year I was particularly desirous of reading it, as one of the contributors is Rebecca Rosenblum, who I've been hearing much about as of late; her first collection, Once, has been released very recently. Her three stories open the book, and they are all intriguing, with youngish people negotiating their way through urban life. I found the second, "The House on Elsbeth" particularly memorable, with its triad of students reacting to and witnessing (causing?) the results of domestic violence. Very creepy in its way.
There are two other contributors, Daniel Griffin and Alice Petersen, neither of whom I've read before. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed all three of Griffin's stories; they are 'manly' -- about men, from a male viewpoint, something I don't always connect to (sounds terrible but it is true). His second story "Promise" was excellent, its last line shocking even while I should have seen it coming. The main character is distant from his disturbed brother, but has tried to make a connection at their mother's request; she is worried about him, rightly as it turns out. That crooked relationship pulls you through the story and packs an emotional punch. The last three stories in the collection are Petersen's, and I thought they were fine stories, well written, but they didn't really catch me like the others did. They are about art, about the process of creation and the toll on a person's life when they strive to be something different than what is around them. Interesting and thought provoking. This collection is one more in a series that is always worth picking up.
The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge ends on Wednesday, July 1, but don't despair. July 1 also marks the beginning of the 3rd Canadian Book Challenge! Go on over to the Book Mine Set and join us for another year of great Canadian books!