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

“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 […]

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“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 […]

Quarterly Stories: Winter 2014

An excess of short stories in the later part of this year has led to a decision to return to the habit of more often devoting entire posts to collections rather than covering a variety in a single pass (last seen in Quarterly Stories: Autumn 2014)

Algonquin Books, 2014

Some of my favourite books […]

Diane Cook’s Man V. Nature (2014)

As readers will guess from the title, Diane Cook’s collection of stories has an archetypal reach.

HarperCollins, 2014

These are stories that one can imagine discussing at length in creative writing classes, stories that could nestle into the curricula of English courses which study contemporary American fiction.

But there is no nestling in these stories; […]

84: Best Canadian Stories (Edited by David Helwig and Sandra Martin)

These stories were chosen “to be read rather than merely admired, or even envied”, including five previously unpublished stories. Thirty years later, the list of contents conjures up echoes of the Giller Prize, Canada Reads, and even a Pulitzer.

Frances Itani’s “Grandmother” “And she has long known what the rest of us take the better […]

Quarterly Stories: Summer 2014

Coming Home: Stories from the Northwest Territories (Enfield & Wizenty, 2012)

In the foreword, Richard Van Camp writes that this collection is a “testament to the beauty of the land, the communities and the people who choose to live here” and he welcomes readers to the works. The same words might be used as plumpy jacket […]