Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Excellent Stories

We all know that story collections don't get their due, except if you're Alice Munro. So many are published to relatively little fanfare and are quickly forgotten. It's arguably the most difficult literary form. With a novel you have to persist but at least, as Mordecai Richler once said, with novels there's room for error. Poems are compact and therefore manageable. Short fiction requires the author to have the plot/character sense of a novelist and the word sense of a poet. A tall order that has frankly confounded me. When they are well-executed short stories encompass entire worlds, entire histories and entire musical scores.

Some of the most memorable books I read last year were story collections. I wanted to recommend two of them which I fear are destined to slip away unnoticed. The first is Tamas Dobozy's "Last Notes and Other Stories." These are funny, witty, playful, serious stories, one of which is a comic masterpiece called "Into The Ring" about a husband and wife who settle their marital conflicts by boxing.

The second is a new collection I've just finished called "Blood Pudding" by Art Corriveau. A Montreal native, I'd never heard of Art, but he's been quietly garnering some impressive publication credits mostly in the US (where he lives) and the UK. These are beautifully crafted tales about fully-realized characters in which the author delicately maps out the emotional landscape of relationships. My favourite in the collection is "Loss of Gravity" about a woman who has lost her husband in a tragic car accident and decides to take action as a way of dealing with overwhelming grief. Both books are worth your time.

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