books

Multiple Universes Now

WhereDidYouSleepLastNightLynnCrosbie

The existence of multiple universes, places where every question that begins with what if play themselves out, is a tantalizing possibility to imagine. Lynn Crosbie’s new novel Where Did You Sleep Last Night imagines a universe based on a creative possibility: that Kurt Cobain is alive again.

My review of Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Lynn Crosbie is up today at The Rover.

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The Pull of Julie Paul

ThePullOfTheMoonJuliePaulIn The Pull of the Moon, Julie Paul’s short stories take place in the contemporary world, her characters derived from the everyday; mothers, fathers, boyfriends, neighbours, librarians. This seemingly conventional framework is, however, but a brilliant deception. There is an edge to Paul’s writing that steadily reveals itself in each story. Humour, sensuality, and a healthy measure of darkness are also important components of Paul’s entertaining and thoughtful stories.

Read the rest of my review of The Pull of the Moon by Julie Paul at The Rover.

Humour, heart, and a jam sandwich

She tackles loftier themes, but I love the way Rebecca Rosenblum writes about food. Her stories’ cupboards and refrigerators are filled with Lunchables, Snackwiches, and seemingly every other pre-packaged, processed food product in existence, foods that we don’t often give a lot of thought to in daily life. In Rosenblum’s writing we can’t help but notice, we can’t help but laugh, and we also can’t help but think about what it means to live in an era when something called Crackerz’n’cheze exists. Plus anyway a character who reflects upon the comparative quality of a real Jos Louis and a generic brand Jos Louis is the kind of character I’ll follow for pages and pages and pages. This, however, is probably not a terribly surprising statement coming from someone with stories with titles like “Hot Dogs on Everything” and “Casual Sex Bookended by Two Gratuitous Hot Dog Pizza Scenes” in his repertoire.

Rosenblum’s second collection is The Big Dream and I reviewed it this past weekend on The Rover.

Among the many charms that made Once, Rebecca Rosenblum’s 2008 debut, such an outstanding book, was the way the author wrote about jobs. From a fruit factory to a hotel laundry, from an IT department to a bookstore, Once was filled with genuine, vivid observations of the world of work, capturing both the loathing and the grudging affection for the things we do to pay the rent.

But whereas Once featured a grab-bag of jobs, the focus of Rosenblum’s second collection,The Big Dream, is on office work. These thirteen stories are linked by a single employer: Dream, Inc., a lifestyle magazine publisher. Besides the hallways and cubicles and cluttered lunchroom refrigerators, the characters in The Big Dream are also connected by the pursuit of balance; balance between work and family, work and lovers, ex-lovers, health, and everything else that makes up a life.

Full review here.

True Gloom

Along with Montreal Expos pyjamas and king size versions of chocolate bars, nothing grabs my attention like a horse head on a human body. The latter, in the form of a beautiful photograph by Gabrielle de Montmollin, can be found in all its creepy glory on the cover of Cathy Stonehouse’s debut short story collection Something About the Animal (Biblioasis, 2011). My review, free of superficial cover art observations, recently appeared on The Rover.

The stories in Cathy Stonehouse’s debut collection depict life as a series of sad, violent, and sometimes insane acts. Fittingly, they are populated by sad, violent, and sometimes insane characters. This is not uplifting, syrupy beach reading. Something About the Animal is a dark, often unsettling book that remains true to its own gloomy fictional universe.

Full review here.

Out of Nowhere

Montreal writer Teri Vlassopoulos’s debut story collection Bats or Swallows was shortlisted last week for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. This is an awesome book, and I say so in a much wordier manner in my review in The Rover from the weekend:

“I learned early on that things don’t come out of nowhere,” says the narrator in “Baby Teeth,” one of eleven stories in Teri Vlassopoulos’s Bats or Swallows. “There is always a buildup.”

With such an exceptional debut collection, Vlassopoulos may herself appear to have come out of nowhere. Her own buildup, however, can be found in over a decade of zine writing, a training ground that has served her well.

There’s a mesmeric quality to Vlassopoulos’s storytelling. Her writing is warm, uncomplicated, and beguilingly intimate. She produces crisp sentences that are economical in words and generous in personality. 

Full review here.

Delight, then Bite

Up Up Up, the debut collection by 2009 Writers’ Union of Canada Prose Competition winner Julie Booker, comes out next month. It’s a very funny book, but there’s a lot more to it than laughter alone.  I review it today in The Rover:

From soups to cocktails to Chicken McNugget sauce, sweet and sour is one of the world’s most popular and enduring flavours. I have a theory about why this is so. The key to sweet and sour’s success is in its ability to deceive. The first thing my palate detects is the sweet. In a flash, expectations and associations of a sugary sort – lollipops, cotton candy, birthday cake – form in my mind. In another flash, however, the sour kicks in. Suddenly, I’m tasting something much more complicated, much more adult. A similar happy deception occurs repeatedly in Julie Booker’s debut short story collection, Up Up Up.

Full review here.