Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Hollie Adams’ Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother (2015)

Carrie’s mother died on Tuesday. The loss has fragmented her view of the world, dulled her senses (or is that the alcohol?) and sharpened her wit.

NeWest Press, 2015

Given the circumstances, the novel’s narrative tone is a quick slap to the face, heightened colour left behind in the shape of what has struck […]

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TGIF: In the workplace, on the page (2 of 4)

A new Friday fugue, running through this month, considering the ways in which our working lives appear on the pages of novels and short stories.

Wasn’t I just talking about novels set in bookstores? Yup, in last Friday’s post (here). Gabrielle Zevin’s book fits perfectly on that shelf.

Arsenal Pulp, 2009

But if you’re […]

Susin Nielsen’s We Are All Made of Molecules (2015)

Henry K. Larsen — star of Susin Nielsen’s last novel — was a savvy young fellow: “I know I can’t change my stupid red hair or my stupid freckles. But I can lower my freak flag.”

Tundra Books, 2015

In contrast, Stewart — star of her most recent novel — flies his freak flag […]

“No Advantages” Alice Munro

McClelland & Stewart, 2006

The View from Castle Rock was not one of my favourite Alice Munro collections. Although I rushed to read it upon publication, I didn’t enjoy it as much as Runaway. On rereading, I planned a different approach.

In the past, I read the collection simply as another of Alice Munro’s […]

“The Bear Came Over the Mountain” Alice Munro

A good ways into the story, readers meet this proclamation: “You never quite knew how such things would turn out. You almost knew, but you could never be sure.”

It is perhaps as true about “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” as it is about Grant’s predictions about his relationships with women.

But this story […]

“Queenie” Alice Munro

Unsurprisingly, a story named for a main character is going to be preoccupied with names and identity.

It’s also the first thing readers observe Queenie saying to Chrissy, when she arrives in Toronto and is met at Union Station.

Her husband thinks it sounds like an animal’s name, so Chrissy is asked not to […]

“What Is Remembered” Alice Munro

It’s inescapable, this sense of “What Is Remembered” being an alternate version of “Tricks”. (If you want to avoid general spoilers, best not to click on that link, for you will intuit the sort of ending which that story has and thus the contrasting tone herein.)

Once again, our narrator is reflecting upon the events of the […]

“Post and Beam” Alice Munro

The details in “Post and Bean” matter. The specific itty-bitty matters of surprising consequence. Not necessarily what one sees at first glance, but what one uncovers, what the broader whole can be understood to mean.

Take the group of people in the church office. At first, a stranger to the office might think, “Oh, what […]

“Nettles” Alice Munro

Sometimes, when I begin reading an Alice Munro story, I am overwhelmed by a sense of “there it is”. It’s a feeling of immediate and undeniable recognition of familiar elements.

Like the beginning of “Nettles”, which begins with firmly rooting the reader in a time and place.

It is summer. It is 1979. The narrator […]

“Comfort” Alice Munro

While Nina was playing tennis, Lewis was killing himself. Readers learn this at the outset. Nina played; Lewis died.

Back and forth across the net, Nina volleyed and returned serves; Lewis plunged downward into first unconsciousness, then…

Into, what?

As a science teacher, who insisted that evolution be taught in classrooms despite creationists’ objections, Lewis […]