Thursday, November 26, 2009

Staff Picks - Short Stories in Coming Attractions 08

Coming Attractions 08 is an annual collection of short stories published by Oberon Press. A well constructed short story can be as satisfying a read as any full length novel. The author can relate and reflect on a single incident which could be a pivotal moment in a person's life or the catalyst for sudden and intense clarity. The narrative tends to be crisp with each word carefully chosen.

Rebecca Rosenblum's characters are young urban
types who have not quite found their place in the world. They are independent of, or estranged from their families and rely on their circle of friends and co-workers for their communities. In The House on Elsbeth, a young woman is assaulted by her stepfather and sets up an almost random community with fellow students from an anthropology class. They are seemingly fused, physically and emotionally, by Toronto's heat. Their lethargy is contrasted by the violence of couple next door. (photo Jane High)

Of Daniel Griffin's three stories, The Promise, has stayed with me the longest. Two brothers, different in temperament, maintain a relationship due to their connection with their mother. Both have failed marriages. One has moved on in a comparatively mature way and the other is causing concern all around. The Promise ends with an intense jolt that, for me, is the hallmark of a great short story.

The final three stories are by Alice Peterson. In Among the Trees and After Summer there is a sense of relationships ending and families disintegrating. Two boys are raised by their widowed father. One brother did not seem to sense the lack of cohesiveness in his family until he had reached adulthood. The other brother broke ties and established his own life. The younger brother is left with an uncertain sense of the future.

Coming Attractions (1980-2009) has been a forum for Canada's best new young fiction writers. Past editions have been peopled by no less than: Rohinton Mistry, Frances Itani, Peter Behrens, Lisa Moore, Dennis Bock, Neil Smith, Diane Schoemperlen, Timothy Taylor, Bonnie Burnard, Sharon Butala, Steven Heighton, Mary Swan, Caroline Adderson, and Gayla Reid.

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