Short sto­ries and es­says make ex­cel­lent lit­er­ary snacks at this dis­tractible time of year.

Toronto Star - - BOOKS - Sarah Mur­doch, smur­[email protected]

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.

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