Thursday, September 19, 2013
Reading Journal: Coming Attractions 09, ed. Mark Anthony Jarman (2009)
Oberon Press’s annual three-by-three – three short stories from three up-and-coming writers – includes Nicholas Ruddock, who has since published the novel The Parabolist; Alex Leslie, whose collection People Who Disappear emerged from Freehand Books in April, 2012; and Jeff Park, from whom no book has come out yet but who had all three of these featured stories published in The Fiddlehead. From Ruddock, I had already read (and liked) “How Eunice Got Her Baby,” a crash-and-burn account of a woman adopting her sister’s child, in Journey Prize Stories 19, and I also quite enjoyed “Sebald,” a story that was stylistically completely different from "Eunice" and told of a bizarre, time-bending encounter. Leslie’s stories all have a theme of loss, from an environmental, sociological or anthropological standpoint, taking us from a logging road in “Ghost Stories” to a night club in “Swimmers” and a domestic scenario in “Preservation” in which the protagonist’s dreams of being an archaeologist bubble to the surface. Finally, from Park, we get two great stories – the National Magazine Award Honourable Mention (2010), “Back to Disney,” about a graduate student who gets mixed-up in a grow-op, and the surprising “A Boat in Still Water,” about a sudden-onset love triangle after a visit to a military submarine launch – and one that was, unfortunately, the least enjoyable in the collection, “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Dog,” an account of a dinner with some serious “dog people” that ends in a (seemingly unfounded, by the characters and by the elements of the story) accusation of adultery. That said, one story had to finish last; Coming Attractions's 2009 edition, and this series in general, never fails to introduce three talented and interesting voices in Canadian short fiction.