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May 2014

Once Upon a Time There was Humanity

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“My daughters talking me out of going to that light, that bright, dazzling light that I’ve seen not once but twice now. The glorious light they always speak about, and it’s true, like that first glimpse of your own children – the light equally fascinating, captivating, alluring. A light to bury your world-weary self in”

This collection of short stories centers around the thoughts, feelings, and realities that manipulate are lives as sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, strangers or all roles of humanity in general. The author has a beautiful way with words and a brave way of conveying her craft in describing reflective moments in time, and in some cases my very own time. Her ability to evoke such intensity and perspective is admirable and at times had me holding back tears (Snapshots) and recalling the horrific yet remarkable process of death (The Night Doors). If I had the guts to write my own material her style would be one to be used for inspiration.

White- tells the story of a family ice fishing get together with a host of other colourful people. Teenagers in heat, addicts, pimple faced hockey pucks(that’s a term of endearment up here in the north), recovering addicts, firestarters, proud papas, really a microcosm of society wavering towards the underbelly. Which you find is that the playful ignorance of youth out weighs the unwanted heft of the elderly, especially when you are on ice. Beautiful Morning- is a story of struggling artists who love each other immensely. While one is out draining the effects of their creative juices the other is alone painfully missing their significant other. Drowned in intoxication the search for lost love leads to peculiar places. Fourteen- is a story showcasing a harsh POV of a cynic still hopeful of love, but knowing, almost enjoying the fact that a world of hurt is coming for the youth of today. In all of their glorious exuberance they won’t know what hit him. High Ground- is a story where a critical disease renders a hopeful athlete in pain and in turn selects a path of addiction to give him pleasure and cure what ails him. A mom witnesses her sons transformation from the bright lights of a gymnasium to the dilapidated neighborhood warehouses. Where do we go from here? This is a Love Crime- On the surface this is primarily a story about a supermarket HR manager dealing with an issue that was non-existent for many people of the past, but now has become an incessant issue. The protagonists view of cultural sensitivity is sleeping with a Chilean import. Really this is a story about loneliness, passive-aggression, losing hold, and wanting. Detachment- Living in a RCMP barracks with other families of civil servitude as well as criminals leads to an interesting dynamic. When a brother and sister tandem befriend a young mischievous mutt, they terrorize the surrounding area and leave a mess in their wake. This is a story of a moment in the past lasting a lifetime and losing your grip on reality.

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Visibility- Complacency kills, constant affirmation and public displays of affection can only strengthen after being in a relationship for so long. While some dubiously wait for their partner to come around, the other is outside explicitly looking for external sources of gratification. Lead- Is a story of when a person understands their limitations and standing tall in the eyes of defeat. A diamond in the rough is eyed by a like-minded but older more experienced version. The diamond can relate but wants to shine brighter, reach their full potential and avoid the pitfalls of love that can trap you into the claws of life. I May Have Known You- Moments of conflict can bring out ones true character. At different stages of life with differing points of view giving birth to a child with developmental problems can bring out the best or the worst in us all. Through it all a love from the child-bearing mother will always remain the same. In Search of Lucinda – The precocious nature of youth can shatter the facade life can force, strip you to your purest form and bring heart back to the fore. Story of ignorance, acceptance, tolerance, and acceptance. Snapshots (In Bed) – Bedridden woman relives her daughters lives like moments in time. The love they give to you and the love they can take away is plentiful, but it’s that feeling that keeps you alive. Pioneer – Conservative town with conventional views coupled with a free-spirited young boy sounds like a recipe for disaster. Mother was once an individual now blends in with the crowd fears her sons life path and hopes he stays within the lines. Mother’s son must find his own path whatever it may be. The Night Doors 1987 – The stages of death and as much as you plan, prepare for it the emotion is so raw, so visceral. Tourist Girls – Spring Break, pasty white Canadians vs. the tight, toned and tanned bodies found in the south, I know who I’ve got my money on. 7 Ways to Sunday – Children’s replication of generational mistakes. Disintegration, oblivion, over compensation, under performance, rock bottom, redemption? The Nothing Yard – The handling of grief through laughing or crying, isolated or in company. Memories are one thing you are left with and will always have whether you like it or not.

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Although the foundation is strong I found some of the stories to be lacking in substance and at times overwhelming in prose where the message loses its meaning. Some of these stories inundated me with self-doubt as to if I could really review this book. I don’t know if I can blame it on starting this book late night in a mental fog, but when I first cracked the book and was reading the first few stories I was seriously out of whack and was unsure of what I had just read. Oddly enough I had it right all along I have never read something where I was so unsure of what I had just read, it was weird, it was strange, but that is reading. This book should come with a disclaimer “Skimming is not permitted, read at your own pace, that is if your pace is slow and calculated, otherwise give your head a shake and save me the trouble.” Typically when I have read other anthologies in the past and I happened to like the majority of the initial stories the trend would hold true. With this collection it was really hit or miss and I really didn’t know what to expect as I turned the page on to the next story. Overall a good collection and definitely recommended.

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“I want him to take the chains off, wear American Eagle jeans and Converse runners, wash the green spikes from his hair, cut the incisive ends off his barbed wire bracelet. I want him to move down the street like a man.
You don’t have to do this; I want to yell after him.
No, that’s not what I want to say, instead: Don’t do this. Don’t taunt the world, don’t fuck with fate.

Sex Pistol takes a death drag off his hand-rolled cigarette, like his life possibly? Full, dark, unfiltered- unafraid? I don’t know. But I’m afraid – for him, for me, for the colourful potential of my colourless Caleb.”

 

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