More Alberta writers to love! That’s really how I should title every book review that I write on an Alberta-born book. People don’t typically see Alberta as the literary hot-spot that it truly is, but I’m hoping to change that by highlighting amazing books by Western writers that don’t get the attention they deserve.
Lee Kvern for instance: she’s known in the Calgary book community: that I’m sure of. And I was heartened to see that her latest collection 7 Ways to Sunday received a glorious review from Kerry Clare’s blog Pickle Me This, which I happen to know lots of Toronto book people read. So, I’m late on the draw on this one (the book came out in April 2014), but nonetheless, I wanted to share with you how much I enjoyed this short story collection.
13 stories make up this slim volume, which I burned through in a matter of days. Kvern’s writing is subtle, and left me wanting more by the end of each piece. That’s got to be a sign of a good short story; the reader wanting to know more about the characters and situations described, even after the narrative has ended.
At the beginning of the book, Kvern proudly boasts that she has not received formal writing education. This is clearly demonstrated in her writing, and I mean this in the best possible way: it’s straightforward and to the point, and not burdened by an education full of literary snobbishness. Flowery, overwrought language tends to ruin short stories for me, so I appreciated her directness. Strangely enough, I still found myself re-reading some sections because I missed some quick turns in the stories that weren’t obvious, so the book is ripe for a second reading, if one were to be interested in those sorts of things (me, I never do this, because I’m too eager to get onto the next book!).
Why is reading local important? Well, I suppose it really isn’t in the grand scheme of things, people should read what they want, by who they want. However, people seem to be averse to reading books by authors that live in the same community as them because they’re worried the books won’t be ‘exotic’ enough. Many people say “I want to learn about a different culture or place”, so reading an Alberta book (with stories that take place in Alberta) may not appeal to them. I would argue that this is the very beauty of reading local. You’re introduced to new people and places (and potentially even new cultures, especially in a place as diverse as Calgary) that you’ve never come across, even though they are just around the corner from you. And writers are able to take you by the hand, confidently into these new worlds, which is the next best thing to experiencing it yourself. Kvern does both of these things with 7 Ways to Sunday; we’re introduced to a young, artistic couple living in New York, as well as a suburban family experiencing some interesting house guest (i.e. prostitutes) for the first time. Both are great stories, and both teach us something entirely new about the world around us, regardless of their geographical settings.
Have you read a book by an Alberta author lately? You’re doing yourself a disservice if the answer is no-and 7 Ways to Sunday is a great place to start.