Nine (Books of Short) Stories
Life After God by Douglas Coupland
For anyone who has ever felt lost, felt too old to be feeling lost, felt too self-conscious and ridiculous to be feeling too old to feel lost, this book is for you. Full of vivid depictions of British Columbia, from the green you can almost smell it in places, to the grey of downtown Vancouver, the book is aching for spirituality, for belonging, for a sense of purpose, and for the sense of safety, security and comfort that people enjoy when they believe in God.
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
I bought this for a friend for Christmas a few years ago, and because this is what I often do, I read it before giving it to him. I have my own copy now, and I hope he never noticed his copy is mangled where I clutched it from laughing so hard. There are a couple opf stories I only liked, but most of them I loved. The trials and tribulations of a struggling actor playing a Christmas elf at Macy’s depart store is my favourite by far. This book makes a great Christmas gift (if you buy it now, think what a headstart you’ll have on next year’s shopping!).
Skin and Other Stories by Roald Dahl
I collect Roald Dahl books. I love his writing, and his tone and voice, and his absolute relish in ghastly things. While he’s primarily known for his children’s books, the grisly ghastliness is just as present in his writing for adults, including this collection. Also, what a great cover! It’s as great to look at as to read. My favourite in the bunch is the title story, Skin, about two young men who are friends, and both quite poor. One is an artist, and in payment for a debt to his friend, offers to tattoo him for free, and does a large piece on his friend’s back. Decades later, the old man with the tattoo comes across a gallery of his now very famous artist friend’s work…
Fresh Girls and Other Stories by Evelyn Lau
Chinese-Canadian author Evelyn Lau is a writer I really like, although she writes about such dark, heartbreaking subject matter that I tend to ingest her work in manageable chunks where possible to not fall into a bleak pit of despair. That makes her perfect for a book of short fiction! Kidding aside, Fresh Girls is a collection of stories all featuring women working in the sex trade in Vancouver. Told in the women’s voices, the stories speak of yearning, shame, the struggle for self-worth, and the ways we find ourselves trapped in our lives, without ever really knowing how we got there. Lau’s writing is unapologetic, sparse and beautiful.
Swimming Lessons and Other Stories From Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry
Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance would easily be on my top ten favourite books of all things, ever, so since reading it, I’ve eagerly devoured anything else he’s written. This is another real gem. The stories are about a group of residents living in a ramshackle apartment building. They’re told with with and humour, and paint a portrait of everyday life in a middle-class Indian community.
People You’d Trust Your Life To by Brownwen Wallace
Of the authors I’ve read, Brownwen Wallace writes with an understanding of people more poignant and perfect than any other. The stories are simple and sweet, and deal with everything from day to day life, to tragedy, to the loss of a love, but the glory of them is the strength of the voices of her characters, and the recognizable pangs in the challenges they face. Wallace died before completing the final edit of this book, her only book of fiction (she mostly wrote poetry), and never lived to see its publication.
Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver
With the same wit and sensitivity that have come to characterize her highly praised and beloved novels Animal Dreams and The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver gives us a rich and emotionally resonant collection of twelve stories. Spreading her memorable characters over landscapes ranging from northern-California to the hills of eastern Kentucky and the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, Kingsolver tells stories of hope, momentary joy, and powerful endurance. In every setting, Kingsolver’s distinctive voice — at times comic, but often heartrending — rings true as she explores the twin themes of family ties and the life choices one must ultimately make alone.
Nine Stories by JD Salinger
Using skilled language and consistent tone, Salinger manages to create a cohesive feel throughout all of the stories in this collection. His characters all seem to have similar struggles in varying themes: loss of innocence, disappointment, world-weariness, and the painful inability to reconcile their desires with their realities. There is a stark contrast between the frank, open, still innocent children in the book and their lost adult counterparts. My favourite among the stories, A Perfect Day For Bananafish, never fails to leave my stomach feeling full of ice-water, even after multiple readings. The stories are wistful and sad, but so skillfully crafted and insightful they must be appreciated.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
Okay, this one’s a cheat, because I haven’t read it yet. But it was a Christmas gift from my sweetie, and I’m sure it will become one of my favourites soon. Watch this space for an upcoming review.
happy New Year, everyone!