Short stories and essays make excellent literary snacks at this distractible time of year.
Best Canadian Stories 2018, edited by Russell Smith, Biblioasis
Russell Smith is among Canada’s best short-story writers, so he’s a fitting choice as the first guest editor of Best
Canadian Stories since longtime editor John Metcalf took his leave last year. There are 16 stories drawn from some 20 litmags and Canadian writing communities. I defy you to read Smith’s introduction and not proceed to the stories.
The Colours of Birds, Rebecca Higgins, Tightrope
Rebecca Higgins writes short short stories, which is how she manages to contain 23 in this volume of 143 pages. In the title story, Higgins imagines herself into the world of Maud Lewis, the Nova Scotia folk artist. Higgins came in second in the Star’s short-story contest in 2013 for “The White Stain,” which is included in this debut collection.
Waiting: An Anthology of Essays, editors, Rona Altrows & Julie Sedivy, University of Alberta Press
Rona Altrows hit upon the idea for this collection while waiting for a train. She teamed up with fellow writer Julie Sedivy. The two of them set forth and solicited these 32 essays from Canadian writers, who address the universal experience of waiting. Some are well known, others less so.
The Children’s War, C.P. Boyko, Biblioasis
C.P. Boyko has said he often finds novels too long and short stories too short. His Goldilocks solution is evident in his ambitious fourth collection, with stories ranging from 7,000 to 40,000 words. The theme binding these five stories is power relationships. The first, “The Purpose of the Music Club,” concerns Matt Roades, who loved high school so much he became a teacher, only to discover that kids like rules and they would never regard him as one of them. A quirky collection — in terms of story length, the omission of a table of contents, and a blank titleless page preceding each of the stories, perhaps to encourage readers to think of the work as a continuous narrative.
Lava Falls, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, University of Wisconsin Press
Here’s just a taste of the diverse worlds enclosed within this riveting new collection. A woman returns after 35 years to her survivalist childhood on a remote river in the eastern Arctic. A gay couple sees an abandoned infant on a bus bench in Rawlins, Wyoming, and take it home with them to Manhattan. Fifty-something sisters, one heartbroken, the other in the grips of existential angst, go on an Antarctic cruise. Fully realized characters; stories that stick to your ribs.