I love books that count for more than one reading challenge. They make me feel so productive. These two short story collections cover both Canada Also Reads and the Short Story Reading Challenge (#3 and #4).
Reading a collection of short stories, I think it’s pretty typical to enjoy some more than others. The first story in Mark Anthony Jarman’s My White Planet wowed me, but the rest of the collection didn’t live up to my heightened expectations. “Night March in the Territory” grabbed me with an iron fist and left me breathless. Harrowing and spare, Jarman writes about battle like Cormac McCarthy, only with a lot fewer words (and the same disregard for punctuation). The first few sentences set the tone: “Post-battle march, stormy sky, no light. The weary surgeon pores over our bloody wounds, pours himself another drink. We hear our orders travel down the slope: Bury the officers, but not the enlisted men.” If you’re not up to reading Blood Meridian read this instead. I also enjoyed the funny and clever “Fables of the Deconstruction,” in which an aging academic internally debates his urge to seduce his neighbour’s daughter as he drives her to the hospital to visit her injured mother. The rest of the stories weren’t to my taste, but I’m interested to hear what others think.
Leon Rooke’s The Last Shot was utterly absorbing, albeit perplexing. These magic realist stories takes us everywhere, from “How to Write a Successful Short Story,” in which a privileged young man tries to do just that with the aid of a how-to manual, to “Gator Wrestling,” in which Prissy Beatrice Thibidault encounters the colourful members of her deep south community (and a gator!) on her way to bed with her good friend Brasher Leslie Coombs. These stories are surreal and unforgettable. I can’t wait to read the essay from the book’s champion, Jacob McArthur Mooney.
And I can’t wait for live chat. Mark your calendars for March 8!