Has anyone ever heard of YOSS? Well it stands for Year of the Short Story, and it happened a couple years ago, but I’m still trying to keep the momentum alive by highlighting how important short fiction is. Listen in for my (somewhat) convincing arguments!
Well dear readers and listeners, you get a taste of not only my book recommendations for the week, but a glimpse into my ‘exciting’ life as well. Aside from the fact that people believe I’m now a 65-year-old spinster who talks only to her cats, I’d say it was one of my best segments yet.
As a follow-up to a recent CBC segment, I’m happy to write that I’m following through on my oft-muttered promise that I hope to review lots of Alberta authors on this site. So far, I haven’t really done that vow justice, so I’m really quite excited to write about the short story collection I Know Who You Remind Me Of by Naomi K. Lewis. This book was brought to my attention the year it came out (2012) but I had the pleasure of reading it only a few weeks ago, so although not recently published, it’s new to my bookshelf this summer.
Unlike some the other books I’ve reviewed lately, the appeal of this book lies in the writing, not the plots. For me, the perspectives of the characters really ‘made’ each story for me, and that’s why I found this book so unique. Part of that comes from the fact that because each story is short, the writer is forced to draw readers in through voice, rather than plot, because they have such little room to develop a timeline, explain back story, etc. But Lewis demonstrates incredible range in the characters she writes, particularly the male characters, as both their inner and external dialogue seem very natural and realistic.
Lewis’s sense of humour is another aspect of this book that appealed to me, and left me thinking “That was a good book” after having read it. It’s definitely quirky, and some may not enjoy it as much as I did, but it’s clever and subtle, which is why I liked it. For instance, the novella at the end of the book is about a young woman who is desperate to win a contest that would prepare and pay for her to sky-dive from space. The company that is launching the contest and facilitating the dive is a soda-pop company, however one that extolls it’s health benefits at every turn. Is this beginning to sound familiar to anyone? Well it should, based on the Red Bull sky-dive from last year, which I’m assuming Lewis used as a basis for this story. Aside from the somewhat absurd but widely accepted fact that a sugar-filled beverage like Red Bull promotes active living through their promotion of extreme sports, Lewis makes this story memorable through the format; it’s a written letter from the diver-to-be to the company’s female CEO, explaining why she should be chosen. It’s a great way to draw the reader in, and works perfectly to exemplify the fact that the applicant is a bit crazy.
One of the best parts of this book? It’s a beautiful hard-cover (and short stories are almost never hard-covers!), and it comes with it’s own bookmark that’s sewn into the spine, like those old copies of War and Peace that your Dad has on your fireplace mantle at home (is that just me? Well alrighty then).
Well I almost put my foot in my mouth here, but I stayed strong and kept the secret of the WordFest line-up! Although I no longer have to do that because you can visit the website yourself to see who’s coming in October. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I worked at WordFest for 5 years and enjoyed every minute of it, so I may be a bit biased when I spend an entire show talking about it. Lisa Moore, Colin McAdam and Sahar Delijani are just a few writers who are coming that I’m excited about, so who wants to join me to take in some events this Fall?
I’m going to go ahead and say this was my favourite segment to date. Why? Because the wonderful Chris dela Torre made me feel so comfortable in front of that mic, and I got to talk about some of the fabulous people that I’ve had the chance to work with over the past few years, including Glenn Dixon, Naomi K. Lewis and Samantha Warwick. I also got to expound on one of my personal beliefs and missions-read local!!!