Friday, January 28, 2011

Giddy for Giller Part 4: Short Stories with Legs

I'm not much of a short story fan.  I find sometimes that you are just getting into it and then it stops.  The one exception to this is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's short story collection Strange Pilgrims.  The stories are beautifully written.  Of course, Marquez could write an instruction manual and I would probably like it.

So in my ongoing Giller reading streak, I picked up last year's shortlisted Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit, the fact that he is very cute probably played a small role in selecting this.  Cute enough to mitigate the fact that Barbara Amiel Black introduced him at the Giller Awards with a disgustingly affected British accent looking like a cougar on the loose.  But I digress.

Light Lifting is a lovely collection of short stories.  Each story has it's own character although all of them have this undercurrent of loss, tragedy, unfilled potential.  His writing is very stripped down.  A lot of critics used the word urban and "unflinching".  Overall, it was just very real and stark.  There are no Hollywood endings.

I found I was pretty "meh" on the first couple of stories.  The one that really got me hooked though was the love story "Adult Beginner 1".  For a romance, it had such a level of suspense.  I found I could not break away from it.  Even though I suspected the tragedy that might be coming, I kept reading, hoping that it would go the other way.  I don't want to give anything up so I'll stop there.

"Good Kids" touched my heart as it explores the relationship a family of four boys has with a young boy who moves into a ramshackle rental house across the street.  As a mother of boys I could see them playing road hockey and fighting much like my own.  The befriending of the odd boy across the street and his acceptance into their family structure is lovely in a way only boys can make happen.

So far, you couldn't pick two books that are more different to judge the Giller.  Although I liked Light Lifting, as I liked The Sentimentalists, both beautifully written, I don't know if either was a winner in my mind.  Although that's my own opinion and there is no way I would want to be on the judging panel trying to pick from these books.

Next up in the Giller parade:  Annabel by Kathleen Winter.