You might remember that I’ve been sampling books from Indie presses that have been shortlisted for this year’s ReLit Awards. Not just novels, but short stories, even poetry (which is adventurous for me). For a month of Sundays (at least), I’m Buried in ReLit Print.

One Bloody Thing After Another,Joey Comeau (ECW)

Sample: First 42 pages (Nobody’s asked yet: “Why 42?” Guess you all know.)

Opening Sentence: “Ann’s mother isn’t feeling so good today.”

Normally I don’t pay a lot of attention to blurbs.

And, normally — being spoiler-phobic — I try to avoid reading back covers.

But it wasn’t a normal day when I picked up my copy of Joey Comeau’s novel.

So I knew it was a horror novel, but a “different sort…from the ones you’re used to”.

And I knew that Kate Beaton said it “scared me the same way my favorite stories did when I was a kid” and that Ryan North said it was “funny, scary and surprisingly charming”.

And then I did what I normally do and I dismissed those things.

(Except for the horror part; the cat convinced me.)

But you know? I sat down and read this sample yesterday afternoon, and all of that is true.

The dynamic between the two young sisters in the opening scene is believable, and the short vivid exchange in the wake of the job interview is startlingly evocative.

Those who are looking for creepy reading for this season should definitely keep an eye out for this one; those who don’t understand the concept of restricting the reading of such stories seasonally should skip the exploring stage and order direct from the publisher (and the next book too).

[Edited to add: I finished this. It’s spell-binding. And great fun. If horror’s fun for you.]

Ravenna Gets,Tony Burgess (Anvil)

Sample: Main Street, Pine Street (to house #28)

Opening Sentence: “Captain Crunch is sitting at the Golden Orchard.”

If One Bloody Thing after Another is creepy and charming and unsettling?

Revenna Gets is downright lip-curlingly dark and disturbing.

The opening passage evokes Main Street in some of the ways you would expect: small-town diner, video store, church, retirement condos, used computer store, antique stores, chocolatier, and pizzeria.

And because it’s a Canadian small town, and it’s winter, you expect the snow too.

But what you don’t expect is the final line. “The blower is shredding the alley.”

And what you really don’t expect is that this seems to be one of the milder endings of this collection’s stories.

Be they a single page long, or a few pages long, these tales could be confused easily with stories of everyday life if you read only their beginnings.

A mother home with her under-the-weather son, a neighbour approached because his yard is out-of-control messy, a squabbling couple. All very ordinary, right?

And then the unthinkable happens. Something horribly violent.

And somebody (or more than one somebody) is no longer alive. And there is another sentence or two…and then it’s done.

And there is another ordinary story. And then it ends horribly. And lives are over.

This is not what readers expect to find on Main Street or Pine Street, and I think that’s the point.

Tony Burgess has slit the throat of the traditional Canlit short story.

(By the way, you also don’t expect the illustrations, which suit the tale perfectly. And, anyway, why aren’t more collections illustrated. It’s the way it should be.)

[Edited to add that I finished this, too. It only gets more disturbing. It’s meant to.]

Every Day in the Morning (Slow),Adam Seelig (New Star)

Sample: 42 pages

Opening Sentence:
is what
happens in the morning of course many things
happen                                  to                many              people
in the morning                                                             but
is what

You may have noticed that my site’s template has a habit of messing with my spacing. It does what it likes with my sentences’ commas and apostrophes which are either randomly squished or prominently displayed with gaps alongside, as though I’ve never given standardization a thought.

Adam Seelig has given space and form and standardization a lot of thought. And he has come up with something that will take you by surprise.

(Yes, this is a trend for this ReLit reading weekend: the unexpected. This will sound contrived, but I really didn’t plan that. It was, yes, that’s right…unexpected.)

Every Day in the Morning (Slow) forces you to question the way that you think and feel about your own life, as you sort through Sam’s thoughts and doubts. About the way those thoughts and feelings are ordered (and disordered) in your mind and your gut and your heart.

What’s Sam thinking about? He’s a musician. He isn’t earning any money. He’s questioning whether what he does can even be considered work. He doesn’t want his wife’s unconditional support, but he also doesn’t want to believe that he’s unworthy of it. That kind of thing.

But he’s not thinking about it in sentences. And it’s true, at points of crisis, you don’t think about those things, worry about them, in sentences. A chaotic sense of “uh oh” results in clouds and bursts of near-thoughts.

I think that’s why, on the page, Adam Seelig’s narrative is spaced and arranged in the way that you might picture the thoughts and feelings that you have when you wake at 3 a.m. being recorded, if someone were to put them into text and take a snapshot of them.

It’s disorienting, and, yet, there is enough of Sam to pull the reader through the gaps.

Previous weekends’ samples?

(You can check them out hereand here, and here.)

Provocative title story in There is No OtherJonathan Papernick (Exile).
Darryl Joel Berger’s story  “Big Head” in Punishing Ugly Children (Killick).
Ten sharp and sassy poems from Dani Couture‘s Sweet (Pedlar).

Opening of Kathy Page‘s novel, The Find (McArthur&C0).
First section of poems, Ian Williams‘ You Know Who You Are (Wolsak&Wynn).
Title story of Anne Perdue’s I’m a Registered Nurse Not a Whore (Insomniac).

First 42 pages of  Daniel Allen Cox’s novel, Krakow Melt (Arsenal Pulp).
Novel Blood Relatives  “Losers of the World” by Craig Francis Power (Pedlar).
Eleven poems from Marimba Forever by Jim Christy (Guernica).

Please let me know what you’ve been sampling this weekend?