The Third Per­son by Emily Anglin

Room Magazine - - CONTENTS - JES­SICA ROSE

The nine short sto­ries in Emily Anglin’s de­but col­lec­tion, The Third Per­son, are tense. Each be­gins slowly, at a care­ful, un­hur­ried pace un­til abruptly the charac-

ters—en­gaged in a pro­fes­sional or friendly ex­change—are dis­rupted by a third per­son, of­ten in an un­nerv­ing way. Anglin, a Toronto-based writer, ex­cels in cre­at­ing pro­saic “mi­croworlds” that emit fa­mil­iar­ity. Whether her char­ac­ters dwell inside a dimly lit two-storey apart­ment or work on a univer­sity cam­pus, read­ers will feel as though they’ve been there be­fore. These char­ac­ters ex­ude nor­malcy, work­ing dull, some­times pre­car­i­ous, jobs. Among them is a com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sional, a tran­scriber, and a pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment re­sources co­or­di­na­tor. Mir­ror­ing ev­ery­day life, The Third Per­son ex­plores the un­com­fort­able and of­ten un­wel­come ways in which worlds can be in­ter­rupted swiftly, with both mi­nor and ma­jor con­se­quences. For ex­am­ple, in Anglin’s story “Inside City Hall,” a fre­quent anony­mous caller in­serts her­self into a hu­man re­source pro­fes­sional’s life. How­ever, this in­ter­rup­tion isn’t limited to each phone call. The em­ployee’s daily thoughts and rou­tines be­come un­teth­ered. In an­other story, also called “The Third Per­son,” a tran­scriber feels dis­tracted be­cause of “the seem­ingly im­mi­nent ap­pear­ance of a third per­son in the room,” as she drinks wine with a neigh­bour who talks al­most ob­ses­sively of her son. What is most mem­o­rable about The Third Per­son is Anglin’s sim­ple, un­var­nished lan­guage. Her sen­tences are stripped bare, never bur­dened by un­nec­es­sary de­tails. Her mat­ter-of-fact tone in sen­tences such as, “Up­stairs in my own apart­ment I fell into bed and was asleep within min­utes,” con­trib­ute to the book’s over­all sense of un­ease. In each un­pre­dictable, finely crafted story, read­ers know that the plot is about to un­ravel, but they will rarely know when or how. Lit­tle is pris­tine in The Third Per­son. Un­re­li­able nar­ra­tors and un­tidy end­ings prove that the sto­ries in this re­mark­able col­lec­tion are more nu­anced than Anglin’s un­clut­tered prose sug­gests. Read­ers can’t help but feel em­pa­thy for char­ac­ters who are, on the sur­face, un­in­ter­est­ing, but sub­tly com­plex. Rooted in a sort of un­com­fort­able re­al­ism, The Third Per­son ex­plores small, seem­ingly in­con­se­quen­tial in­ter­ac­tions that can quickly ag­i­tate or ob­struct one’s

daily life. Anglin mas­ter­fully draws on the fa­mil­iar, cre­at­ing worlds that read­ers will quickly iden­tify, un­til these worlds be­gin to fall apart. Anglin’s con­trolled yet nu­anced voice is re­fresh­ing, and a wel­come ad­di­tion to the short story genre. Jes­sica Rose

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