Putting together a collection of fresh and unique literary short stories is not so common a publishing venture in our genre-dominated times. Talon Books, based in Vancouver (Canada), are credited with the publication of some of the choicest literary works in recent years. Talon’s short fiction anthology And Other Stories (2001), edited by George Bowering, comes as one such work of Canadian talent in story-weaving. In form and content, it is both fresh and thoughtful.
And Other Stories includes 23 short stories, by different Canadian writers, that are truly unconventional and experimental in their form as well as characterization. Attempting at specifying a single theme and mode of story-telling, and ‘showing’, that connects such a diverse collection always runs the risk of oversimplification and generalization. Nevertheless, the entries in And Other Stories broadly treat the subject of life’s experience as a form of travel – not only in the physical sense of the term but by daring to undertake the act of stepping out of oneself.
The leading characters in these stories show pliancy toward the unknown, the uncertain, and the paranormal, mainly because the fear of staying in place is way too unbearable than that of losing one’s ‘self’ in the hope of a better moment. And Other Stories puts forth a case for letting oneself leave the ‘self’.
The conscious or half-conscious experience of reaching out to a new mode of existence is not detached from the general sense of existence as a human individual. As George Bowering’s own story Little Me presents the case of a character, which loses his mind by finding his own identity with other figures, a new mode of consciousness comes through dissolving the consciousness of one’s identity into the general; the collective, dynamic identity. This is how the subjectivity of reality (Brian Fawcett’s The World Machines) can be reconciled with the common inkling of a fantastic travel to the ‘edges of the world’ (Audrey Thomas’s The Man with Calm Eyes).
Most of the pieces in Bowering’s book do not follow a single style of story-writing; rather each piece seems to be experimenting with the way the story is told, ranging from informally witty (M.A.C. Farrant’s Studies Show/Experts Say) to analytically critical (Hiromi Goto’s Homestay) and highly vagrant (Suzette Mayr’s Nipple Gospel). The truly ‘complete’ story of the book, however, is Diane Schoemperlen’s Railroading, a pretty balanced treatment of modern day travel and life, seen through the eyes of a young woman. As it reads in one of the protagonist’s travels, ‘There is no way of knowing how far from, how far to. No way, on train time, of locating yourself accurately inside the continuum. You just have to keep on moving forward and forward and forward, or back, trusting that wherever you are heading is still out there somewhere’.
And Other Stories is for the serious reader who reads not for enjoyment only but with the purpose of understanding the representation of core life issues in a snapshot.
Buy And Other Stories now.
Talon Books are online at http://www.talonbooks.com/