Tag Archives: Short Stories

A True Collection of Ponderings | Mention of “Best Canadian Stories 2018,” Edited by Russell Smith. (To be Released October, 2018) Biblioasis

I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book from the publisher

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Literature is important  for many of us who seek discourse and dialog about the human condition. We turn to it to gain a better understanding not only about the world but ourselves and our actions. And for those of  us who turn off our electronic gizmos at the end of the day in frustration and turn to literature to calmly and carefully reflect on the state of the world around us,  Russell Smith with the publishing team at Biblioasis has given us a brilliant collection to ponder the state of existence in with Best Canadian Stories 2018.

Noted writer and author Russell Smith has opened this book with a brilliant opening argument about fiction. It not only reflects on the collection well, but gives insight to what many of us feel today. I know I am not suppose to quote from unchecked materials but I lovet his comment and I hope the final copy of the book keeps it in:

Page 9 – Introduction

We all read, now, dozens of news stories, personal stories, arguments and anecdotes every day on our screens, and whether they be Facebook updates or essays, they all claim to be true stories. Fiction has always been good at seeming like a true story too. Often it is. These things are hard to separate.

Autobiographical fiction has always been written. Whole university courses teach “creative non-fiction” that encourage reporters to explore the novelist’s bag of tricks. “Autofiction,” a variant of memoir that takes the form of a novel and does not promise exact truth as a memoir would, has further confused our definitions.

In light of these borrowings, many enlightened people claim that further taxonomy would be useless and unproductive. It absolutely doesn’t matter if a piece is true or not: it should be judged by the same esthetic or moral standards.

. . . When an entire intellectual culture is immersed in the didactic, it loses its ability to see which is not didactic. Art has a role that polemic does not. there is a value to being removed from one’s ideological position for a moment of escape into the nearly-real.

These pieces in this collection are from a combination of new and established writers yet they document a series of emotions and situations that we all have been in one way or another yet may have not been considered or reflected on by us readers. These are not stories that should be rushed through or perused, but admired for the craft, skill and thought that were put into their creation.

So, the collection of Best Canadian Stories 2018, edited by Russell Smith, is a brilliant collection of works for those of us who quietly seek a better understanding of the world around us. It is a must-read coming out of the Fall 2018 publishing season.

 

*****

Link to Biblioasis’ website for Best Canadian Stories 2018

Link to Russell Smith’s website

 

Learning The Value of Actions | Review of “Net Worth” by Kenneth Radu (2018) DC Books

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It is consider crass to talk about money yet it is important in our society to maintain our comfort and our dignity.  So it plays an important role in the human condition where it comes into play how we attempt to gain a better financial position or loose our status in society. And those are the themes that Kenneth Radu brilliantly explores in his collection of short stories entitled Net Worth.

Pages 2-3 Lottery

Unlike the television ads about lottery winners, Annie did not leap like a drug-addled rabbit, or immediately dream of travel to first class hotels, or buying real estate in Italy or a pied-à-terre in Paris. She slumped on her chair in front of the monitor in her bedroom where she kept her desktop computer, and heard the beating of her heart. All the numbers matched. Then she rose, forcing herself to walk. Trembling as if someone had broken into her apartment, she opened the kitchen drawer where she kept the knives. To collect the money she would have to present ticket herself to the lottery commission who, according to the terms of purchase, had the right to publicize the win and publish photos of the winner.

Her picture would be in the papers, on the lottery website, possibly YouTube for all she knew; she might even have to appear on Tout le Monde en Parle, a show watched by millions, and everyone in the country would know how chance had affected her life. How could she keep herself safe? The trembling came not just from fear, somewhat easing because she knew that no malefactor had broken into the apartment, but more from anxiety about the inevitable public glare focused on her unassuming person, about journalists repeating invasive and stupid questions to a woman who rarely spoke in public, questions about how she felt and her plans for the money, and, and, and . . .

Radu is an expert in recognizing the complexities of human nature, and writing about them in a simple and enlightening fashion. And that is what he has done with this book. The emotions and thoughts around money are deep and complicated. This collection of stories explores those constructs and the actions they bring forth. And for those of us readers who are quietly curious about human nature, this book is a treat for us to ponder and reflect upon while reading it.

Page 15 Millionaire

People didn’t want to work these days the way he did. Nina, too, had worked. Hard work paid off; no one could tell him otherwise. If Nina had found him interesting enough to marry, her well-off parents just had to swallow their pride or lose their beloved daughter for good. So maybe she did have a leg up on the ladder of success, that extra push that family wealth always gave, but together they’d built what she now left him. They’d agreed on most things, as far as he could remember, aside from favouring her daughters in ways he’d disliked. Hadn’t argued about the lack of money except over how much she should give the kids as an allowance, and how much to charity, and to less fortunate members of the family. But what the hell? Look at him now, basking in prosperity on the June day, anticipating the memorial where everyone would agree that, if money were a backyard pool, he’d be swimming in it.

Radu has mixed the perfect combination of observation and intellectual thought in these stories. The language is simple, direct and even blunt at times,  yet to a thoughtful reader, the message that Radu reflects about money and finances is enlightening and thought-provoking. These stories are truly a unique read that shouldn’t be rushed through.

Page 39 Trust Fund

The woman dragged her two children on a toboggan through the graveyard. It had been in the family for years, a long wooden toboggan no longer common, and displaced by plastic substitutes and cartoon character snowboards in the stores. When she was a child, she had sped down a bumpy hill, sometimes with friends, often alone, rarely with her father. Her mother hated the winter and stayed indoors to make soup, hot chocolate, bread, cookies and all sorts of good things. She had tried making them herself to give her boy and girl a sense of what real food tasted like, especially since Marc’s death in September, six moths ago almost to the day: not that she planned on pulling Mathieu and Grace to his headstone. Both of the kids had been old enough to cry over their father’s death and look woeful at the funeral, but young enough to recover from the loss, she hoped, without growing up permanently traumatized or otherwise deranged from grief like psychotic kids in movies acting out their rage over daddy’s death. No, they were good, of that she was sure. Mathieu had wrapped his arms around his younger sister so she wouldn’t slide off the toboggan. Grace was still a wriggler.

“Mom, Mom, you’re going right by it!”

Net Worth by Kenneth Radu is certainly one of the most unique reads I have come across in the 2018 publishing season. The language is simple yet the concepts it brings forward are thought-provoking and enlightening. In short, this book is a great piece of literature.

*****

Link to DC Books’ website for Net Worth

 

A Gritty Book and a Great Piece of Literature | Review of “Debris” by Kevin Hardcastle (2015) Biblioasis

Kevin Hardcastle will be appearing at the 2017 Toronto Word on the Street festival

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There is a beauty in the way a writer can capture a series of lives that are bitter and downtrodden. To use language that is direct and frank takes not only a certain skill but also requires a writer to a have an awareness to a segment of society that isn’t pretty or polite for most of the time. Kevin Hardcastle has certainly captured a ‘gritty’ reality of a series of people with his collection of short stories called simply Debris. And it is certainly a unique read.

Pages 28-29 The Rope

She got undressed with the door open and it didn’t seem to bother her. When she had her regular clothes on she came back through the house sat at the kitchen table. She smoked there at the little table and Matthew sat across from her in his dress pants and undershirt.

“Okay, ma?” he said.

Maryanna nodded and smiled funny.

“How d’you feel now?”

“Not very good. Not very good at all.”

Matthew studied her long he felt like getting up and walking the room but he didn’t.

“You been havin’ bad thoughts?”

“Sometimes.”

“Like what kind?”

“Its the stress of it all.”

She stubbed out and sand back with her hands in her lap.

“You don’t got a plan, do you?” Matthew said.

“I’ve got a rope.”

“Where?”

“In the bedroom drawer.”

Matthew stayed still but his heart beat way up in his ears. He took heavy breaths and it was hard for him to keep them in check for he’d a bone-broken nose that let air in poorly by the one nostril.

Maryanna reached over and took his hand in the both of hers. She seemed to have woke up all of sudden and she scooted her chair in close to him.

“Don’t worry about me,” she said. “I’m not gonna do that.”

This book is one of those reads that any English teacher in high school would have cringed at if it came up as a read. The language is frank, bold, violent and vulgar. But it reflects a gritty reality that exist. Hardcastle documents lives of people who are desperate and bitter yet know no other means of escaping their existence either with the intake of substances or the use of violence. This book may not be a comfortable read with a lot of the cultural elites but it is a good piece of literature.

Pages 68-69 To Have To Wait

Matthew wouldn’t stop shaking his head. When they had long since cut through the township he still had a troubled look on his face. Paul knew his brother wasn’t  fretting that hard about the ramshackle zoo. He waited soon enough Matthew spoke up.

“How has she been without him there?” he said.

Paul held the wheel in one hand and ran the other through his hair. He wiped a palmful of sweat on his shirtsleeve.

“You know, you take for granted the kind of feelings they got for each other, forget they been through shit that would kill most folks,” Paul said. “Then you see one of them without the other . . . Shit.~

“Yeah.”

Paul bit at his nails, then put his free hand back on the wheel.

“She goes to work and she fusses around the house and gets on with it, but there’s nothing behind it. All those old routines don’t mean shit anymore. They just past the time.”

“What about when he was home?”

“Before, when  he was there between the treatments, he wasn’t really himself. They put you under and hit you with that juice and it saps the life right outta you. He came home worn out. Couldn’t remember a lot of things. It was weird. So this last time he asked just to stay in there until it was done.”

Hardcastle’s descriptions – especially on those telling about locations and emotions – are simple, direct and vivid. No excess flowery prose or over-used psychoanalytical terms are used. Just direct and to the point. And the voices he gives his characters sound like they are conversations that occur today. Again, no excess phrases or the use of ‘proper’ grammar or restraint of use of obscenities.

Pages 118-119 One We Could Stand to Lose

In the early morning Arthur heard two drunks screaming at each other through the plaster walls. One woman called another woman a cocksucker. He turned his radio on and sat on his mattress. The bed linens were clean because Arthur bought them long ago and laundered them himself. He had torn up his carpeting near the turn of the century and carted it down to the alleyway dumpster piece by piece. When Arthur got up to piss at night he walked barefoot on creaky hardwood, and he often sat in his chair barefoot and read late with his feet on the cedar planking.

He’d not slept long when someone knocked his door. By the clock it was eleven a.m. Arthur got up and went over to see by the peephole. He opened up on a frantic clerk who worked the morning shift. The man was near dancing on the hallway carpet. Eyes agog and his face gone red.

“What is it, Tim?”

“It’s goddam chaos down there. They come in through the front door and then came some more and they just started goin’ at it”

“Who did?”

“Most of `em ran. But the dude from two-six-teen is face-down in the lobby with all kinds of stuff comin’ outta him.”

Kevin Hardcastle has certainly documented elements of gritty and downtrodden lifestyles well in his collection of short-stories called Debris. Simply written yet expressive, it is a read that is a great piece of literature. And no doubt a writer who`s future writings are worth looking into.

*****

Kevin Hardcastle’s next book is entitled In The Cage. Link about it here

Ljnk to Biblioasis’s website for Debris.

Link to Kevin Hardcastle’s WordPress site

 

A True Reflection of a Unspoken Reality | Review of “A Gentle Habit” by Cherie Dimaline (2015) Kegedonce Press

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When literature explores the realms of people in gritty or unfortunate circumstances, there is a sense of something being documented that usually isn’t being discussed. Yes it is enlightening but for many of us, but it also reflects a circumstance or a reality that we are familiar with yet is rarely covered in ‘standard’ books. And that is what Cherie Dimaline has boldly done in her collection of short stories called A Gentle Habit.

Page 2 The Bead Fairy

By 1983, the year I was eight, Sault Ste. Marie was a greying place for steelworkers and their offspring, a fine town to raise a family, far from the dangerous multiculturalism of the city. I was a quiet kid with a mushroom  cut and front teeth two times the size of the baby teeth around them. I lived with my parents, my older brother, and my maternal grandmother in a bungalow in what was known as the Halfbreed Projects, the neighbourhood that crept outward from the hockey arena like a brick scab around a high sticking wound.

For the most part, my life was routine. I took the bus into school where I got good grades, played road hockey with my brother and our friends and was madly in love with a boy. But not just any boy, Hugh McIvoy.

There is a frankness in the language of this collection of stories that would have frightened a lot of teachers back in my high-school days but is refreshing to see here. Dimaline has capture elements of the human condition not often documented. She explores feelings and emotions in a few simple, direct words that are vivid to anybody’s imagination.

 Page 59 36 Holes

Mike was bored. His boredom was like a well-guarded itch on the bottom of a foot tucked into an intricately tied boot, rendered unreachable by lacings and latchings that would make a dominatrix weep with joy. It was a juvenile and sadistic boredom; a pinching, wriggling brat of a feeling that elbowed its way around. The other feelings he had – about his kids, his wife, his strained waistbands – they slide easily and in concert, like keys on a player piano, churning out the unremarkable tunes of “going to work” or ” picking up groceries.” But the boredom slammed its fists on the tinkling keys, spat in the mechanism, picked its nose and wiped the finding under the piano bench. In short, his boredom was fucking shit up.

While the writing may be direct here, it is certainly not a book to be considered a quick read. There are concepts and serious emotions at work here. Some of the stories leave a reader puzzled and asking why, and that is a good thing. Why is this protagonist upset or angry or disturbed? That empathy translates into our everyday thoughts about the people around us.

Page 112 The Memory of Bones

Mother seemed devastated by Grandma’s passing. So sudden and as undignified as it was, being found two days later on the toilet by a cleaning lady; so unlike Regina at all, who would never even admit to having a bowel movements. After receiving word, Mother spent two days in black gowns, draped on the furniture like an injured crow until the day of her transatlantic flight. She took three matched suitcases packed full of the most elegant clothes she owned.

And just like that, I was alone. My father was still there of course, bumbling about in the den and drinking beer in front of the TV Mother had stashed away in the rec room when she decided it was ‘unseemly. Mother’s sideshow troupe came by regularly to check in and take notes-Adelaide and Father Carol bringing dishes of food and Mrs. Grue and Marty eating them-but still, I was alone. For the first time, the only voice in my head was my own.

There may be gritty and harsh elements to Cherie Dimaline’s A Gentle Habit but it reflects some certain truths in our society in it. A brilliant read and a bold piece of literature.

*****

Link to Cherie Dimaline’s blogspot site

Link to Kegedonce Press’ website for A Gentle Habit

Jarred from One Scene to the Next |Review of “My White Planet” by Mark Anthony Jarman (2008) Thomas Allen Publishers

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Reading a collection of short stories vaults a reader from one scene to the next and with it one emotion to another. It can be disconcerting for a reader but that is not necessarily a bad thing. If a reader is open to emphasizing with the protagonists in the stories, then the collection can be a personal enlightenment for the reader. And My White Planet by Mark Anthony Jarman is a great collection of short stories for doing just that.

Night March in the Territory – page 1

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. A blunt message to us peons.

In this Territory there is too much light, then there is absolutely no light, then there is absolutely no light. The surgeon hides crates of brandy in his white tent. I would take a drink, some corn. We are bloodied and splayed like egrets on the oatgrass.

Where’s old Crabtree? I ask.

Stay here and you’re dead.

They shot Crabtree. They shot all of us.

Dead?

No answer from the yarb-doctor.

There is a brilliance in the way Jarman vaults us into deeply personal situations of anonymous characters in vague locations. We are pulled into each story and read on trying to found out more. But we are given more profound thoughts and deep emotions then the ending is upon us. The process is almost cleansing to read to the psyche and somewhat addictive to be wondering what more is involved in each story.

My White Planet – Page 26-27

We inhabit a line station secretly functioning after the accord, but something went dead after June 11. Our dishes and software seem without flaw, but our screens remain blank, thoughtless. No printouts. No officiant plies us with coded orders or fervent denials or demands our narrow circumspect data. Is everyone erased in a war or did a budget-conscious computer take us out in a bureaucratic oversight? We are paid puppets, but no one is pulling the strings and no cheque is in the mail.

The freezing girl is alive but unconscious, and our ungenerous God has delivered a delirious female to our ice garden where we look at each other in wonder, wondering about things, about our farm-girl concubine with drained lips, our charcoal-eyed dream girl, our homage, our stockpiled ohmage.

Peter the Preacher pulls out his blue-grey Czech pistol, says he’ll shoot us or kill her rather than let her be touched, and we know what he means, means our ugly paws on her lily-white flesh other than to save her, resurrect her, and I believe I once dreamed this part too, saw Peter the Preacher’s fine skull and fine rhetoric and his fine Czech pistol at our nostril hairs.

I was introduce to Jarman’s work via novelist William Kowalski. (Link to my Q&A with him) and read reviews of his work by Mark Sampson (Link to Sampson’s review of Jarman’s latest work Knife Party at the Hotel Europa.) One can see traits all these writers  have in common. It is almost evolutionary the way both explore the range of insecurities that their characters have and the situations they get themselves into.

Bear on a Chain– Page 57

Another bridge’s ethereal arches float to the southeast. His body fell from this bridge and passed under the exact middle of the second bridge, and when I look I feel I am looking down a gunsight. Trev came from the north side, ended up on the south side, had no lessons. And the course is pass-fail. He dropped out, they lost him on the radar.

A north-sider tells me that your lungs fill up with river water and you sink down with the new weight, lower and lower and gone.

How stunningly simple to leave our corner of the world, how fast, how easy – poof? Blink and you miss it. I demand more time, complications, pomp and circumstance, demand more pay dirt.

Walk along  the river, drive in a car over the river, see it every day for x number of years, mundane as an insurance office, an ordinary postcard, then one day you fall into the boring postcard and the boring postcard kills you.

My White Planet by Mark Anthony Jarman is an emotional yet enlightening collection of short stories. A reader that shouldn’t be rush and a read that should be pondered upon.

 

*****

Link to the University of New Brunswick’s biography page for Mark Anthony Jarman

Link to Dundurn Press’ page for My White Planet

 

 

Getting to Know Yourself through the Thoughts of Others | Review of “Daddy Lenin and Other Stories” by Guy Vanderhaeghe (2015) McClelland & Stewart

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The beauty of a good piece of literature is the ability to empathize with the plight of the characters. A good writer can make a reader relate to the people he is talking about in a few simple words. Guy Vanderhaeghe is one such writer with that skill and he brings that skill forward repeatedly in his latest collection called Daddy Lenin And Other Stories.

Tick Tock Page 14

Charley Brewster’s hands hadn’t given him a moment’s grief for nearly forty years, had behaved themselves, and then, after the young couple moved into the apartment next door, they began to torment him relentlessly.

Not to say that Vanderhaeghe’s writing is not without some lyrical quality here. The stories flow, the characters ebb with the flow of the story and the reader’s mind rides along with each story to absorbing each element into their own mind. This is a great read for a quiet moment to ponder and reflect on.

Koenig & Company Pages 56-57

The prospect of another dining experience at the Koenigs’ kept me on edge all the next afternoon. Around four o’clock I heard a knock at the door. This was surprising, my family never had visitors. I parted the curtains, looked out, and saw Sabrina Koenig on the step, visible to anyone who might be passing by, a brown paper bag clutched to her chest. I rushed to the door, wrenched it open, and barked, “What!” straight into her face.

She didn’t flinch; she grinned. “Hello, Billy Dowd, today’s your lucky day,” she said.

“Get in here.” The instant she crossed the threshold, I slammed the door, panicked somebody might see me and her together.

“Where’s the kitchen?”

I pointed. i didn’t know what else to do. She set off in her halting, wincing stride. after a few moments of bewildered indecision, I followed, found her unpacking canned goods, fresh vegetables, and a package of meat.

I asked her what she thought she was doing.

“Making a trial run.”

“Trial run of what?”

Sabrina toyed with the groceries, shifting them about on the countertop as if she were trying to arrange them in a pattern that matched the logic of her thoughts. “I thought I’d cook for you tonight. You like your supper, then we can work out a deal. Maybe.”

“What kind of deal?”

Vanderhaeghe has brought forward interesting situations in the human condition that may initially seem odd but do occur in our lives. We do often wonder what has happened to the spurned lover or that overly-teased classmate as we get older. Here, Vanderhaeghe gives us a few scenarios where a protagonist finds out what has happened to Person X who may have had a certain greyish impact on the protagonist’s life.

Anything Page 178-179

Tony opened his eyes, ran his hands over the sheets and his eyes around the room. He called “Susan?” several times, but there was no answer. She was gone. He would have liked it if she had stayed; her presence, any presence, would have been welcome after the dream he had just awoken from. In it, he and his wife were waiting to board a flight in a vast airport reminiscent of Heathrow. When Betty told him she was going to take a quick look around the duty-free shop, he merely nodded. She disappeared into the crowd of travellers, and as she did, he glanced at his watch and was astonished to see that they had lost track of the time. It was only a few minutes before their gate would close. He stood up to call her back, but before a word left his mouth he suddenly found himself in the Qu’Appelle Valley on a fiercely windy day, whitecaps breaking on the beach.

Each time the waves slapped the sand, he grew more and more uneasy, sure that there was something he had forgotten to do, something besides keeping an eye on their departure time, something of the utmost importance. but for the life of him he couldn’t think what it was. He sensed it hovering behind him, back where Betty’s beloved cottage stood. But he couldn’t bring himself to turn and face it because if he did that, he would have to acknowledge the neglected presence.

Tony eased himself out of bed and wet to his laptop. Staring at the screen, he tried out and tested various phrases in his mind. Then he tapped out an email.

Daddy Lenin and Other Stories by Guy Vanderhaeghe is a brilliant piece of literature. Here, we are given a selection of elements important to the human condition which we otherwise wouldn’t consider. A brilliant and insightful read.

Link to Penguin Random House Canada’s page for Daddy Lenin and Other Stories

Not All the Colours of a Human’s Personality are Bright | Review of “Juliet Was A Surprise” by Bill Gaston (2014) Hamish Hamiliton

We try to associate bright colours to human personalities when we first encounter them but in reality the whole colour spectrum belongs to the make up of inner thoughts and desires to an individual. We meet somebody and note their happiness brings flashes of yellow to our mind but later realize their passions push themselves to a burning red. At what would we perceive as a thoughtful person would bring images of green to our mind but later we would realize that their over-thinking of issues would bring on a dark blue of melancholia. And we all know about the shades of greys and blacks that colour our inner desires and fears that we would never admit to another soul. This is, in short, the realizations that Bill Gaston has his characters come to find in his excellent collection of short stories called Juliet Was A Surprise.

Page 10-11 House Clowns

“We can be your house clowns.” Eden put her hands to her head like antlers and swayed back and forth, big-eyed and unsmiling. Her eyes were playful but ironic and – he didn’t know why he thought of the word – literate. But still possibly dangerous. There weren’t two bedrooms, there were three. None were giant. Anybody, especially any woman, knows exactly how many bedrooms they are renting. Vacationing renters don’t hitch-hike. They just don’t.

He didn’t think sleep was in the cards, and he was right. He lay staring at the ceiling, blinking rapidly if he blinked at all. They didn’t want him phoning the McGregors. They had no food, no car to go get some. It felt portentous for someone as handsome as Adam to dress like that. Even if – even if they were just a couple of hippies looking for vacant houses to crash in, as a kind of lifestyle, well, what kind of wimp was he? Why let himself be bullied like this?

Gaston is able to describe elements of the human condition in this book that seem to exist of the periphery of our day-to-day observations yet remain unnoticed until now. His prose is simple and easy to understand. Yet the scenes he creates are both familiar and surreal which makes his stories fascinating to read.

Page 36-37 Cake’s Chicken

 . . .(B)ecause they weren’t the brightest lights, Danny and Cake. In my last year of high school, I remember being attracted to their clique of two. I was a loner, still am, and I was probably drawn by their friendship, the friendship they had for each other, ugly as it was. Danny was tall, a jock without a team, a guy who maybe could have done okay in school if he’d cared. He was wry and acidic before irony became the norm. When he smiled, his eyes didn’t, and he was had to like. As for his buddy, if Cake was smart he hid it well. He was big too but sloppier, with a gut. I assumed he was called Cake because of that, but then I learned his last name was Baker, so who knows. Cake didn’t seem to care about his nickname, or anything else. He “like to have a good time,” he said, which is maybe odd because I don’t recall once ever seeing him laugh. He looked vaguely Asian, or maybe Mexican, and even slightly retarded, which is the word we used then. Rumour said he got violent without much reason. Probably I liked them because “not giving a shit about anything” looked like a bona fide wisdom you couldn’t quite do yourself. Anyway, whatever magnetism worked then wouldn’t now. Cake’s dead and I don’t like where Danny ended up.

These aren’t  stories  that should be rush through. Consideration to every phrase and scene should be given to fully understand the situations Gaston describes. In doing so, a reader completely becomes involved with Gaston’s protagonist and becomes enlightened about human interactions more and more. This is what great literature is suppose to do.

Page 81 Tumpadabump

So she must understand him. It is funny that she does not know if he was funny. “Funny” being such a funny word. Maybe he was funny spelled w-e-i-r-d. Maybe she still does not know what funny is over here. Sometimes Bill’s small remark would make everyone laugh except her, or sometimes she was the only one to laugh. Maybe it was a French truc. In fact he often cold remind her of a Frenchman. An old, typically clear-headed yet twisted man, a philosopher in the way all old Frenchmen are, islands unto themselves and always right despite the ocean of evidence to the contrary. It is true, his irony could grate. Once he  quoted to her, “Irony is the sound of a bird in love with its cage,” an image so self-knowing it made her forgive everything. He was being ironic, of course.

Juliet Was A Surprise by Bill Gaston explores the different natures of the human condition. It may be a bit simplistic to apply colours to human psyches but that is why novels are written to help us understand their different “shades.”  

Link to Hamish Hamilton’s page for Juliet Was A Surprise