by Caroline Adderson
Coming out of an unhappy relationship and a stint at an artist colony, Charlotte, a writer, takes a job teaching at a private ESL college. There she befriends Renata—audacious, sexy, and as changeable as Proteus. “I have a story for you,” Renata says to her one day over lunch. She doesn’t elaborate further, but Charlotte soon discovers that she has found in Renata an unexpectedly passionate and compelling subject.
“Caroline Adderson is such a graceful and intelligent writer that the work that must surely go into creating her hilarious, prismatic stories is never betrayed in the language. There is no strain on the page, not a bead of sweat. I think of her as a writer’s writer. I envy her talent and learn from her sentences. The short story, Obscure Objects, is, I’m happy to report, Adderson at her glorious best.”
— Barbara Gowdy, author of Helpless and The White Bone
“Obscure Objects, Caroline Adderson’s fierce and affecting workplace comedy, is a deadpan gem: droll, moving, snapping-smart.”
— Meg Wolitzer, author of The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, and The Position
HOT IN SUMMER, COLD in winter—as though weather reached us in the staff room. Not so: the room was unfenestrated. What actually blew over us were the perversely inverted whims of the A/C system. Here each teacher was assigned a carrel. It felt so much like a stall that after I finally left for good I blamed it, the carrel, for the near-bovine sense of complacency that kept me working there an entire year. In the facing carrel, tête-à-tête to me, though I couldn’t see her when we were both seated, was a woman I’d known slightly in university, Janine. Janine with the memorable hair. Even her eyebrows and lashes and the fuzz on her arms were a deep bronze. Yet it was she who recognized me first. She stood up in her carrel and, from her higher vantage, looked down into mine where I was arranging my things the day I was hired. “So, Charlotte,” she said. “Is this it? The inexorable end to a degree in creative writing?”
A honey-haired head popped up over the partition to my left. This was Renata, who gave me this story. She looked at me with curiosity. Later I met Sterling, who was serving time behind the right partition, ball-and-chained there by Practical English Usage. He was the one who first described the room as unfenestrated. A half-dozen or so other colleagues also toiled there, thanklessly.
In the same small room was a metal supply cupboard with a lock, the combination a countdown: ten-nine-eight. Every time we took a pencil or a stick of chalk we had to update the inventory posted inside the door and initial it so management could keep track of who was using what. The photocopy machine churned away in the corner, a beige satanic mill. There were no class texts. We photocopied chapters, which made competition for the machine especially cutthroat the fifteen minutes before class. In fact, we might have developed some rapport as a staff despite the isolating carrels if not for the way the machine pitted us one against the other, and the continuous noise of it, its insatiable demand for toner that no one wanted the grubby job of adding, its serial jams, the blinking green light on the map on the inside panel that supposedly indicated the precise location of the jam, which was usually so deep within the hot gears and plates that no fingers dared go there, if not for the obvious disgust of the briefcased repairman who appeared every few days to minister to the overworked machine. We could tell he thought it was a shitty place to work. All this divided us, just as management wanted it. They were terrified we would unionize.
about the author
CAROLINE ADDERSON is the author of four novels (A History of Forgetting, Sitting Practice, The Sky is Falling, Ellen in Pieces), two collections of short stories (Bad Imaginings, Pleased to Meet You), and three books for young readers (Very Serious Children,I, Bruno, Bruno For Real). Her work has received numerous prize nominations including the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist, the Governor General's Literary Award, the Rogers Writer's Trust Fiction Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. A two-time Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and three-time CBC Literary Award winner, Caroline was also the recipient of the 2006 Marian Engel Award for mid-career achievement.
from the library
In the late 60s, the newest member of a group of all-female pearl divers — the ama — sees her life, and the lives of those dear to her, disrupted by an unlikely force: a James Bond film that sends American men to Japan in search of their own personal 'mermaids'.
In a suburb that is nowhere and everywhere, Jorgen deals with the feelings of alienation and frustration from his collapsing relationship by getting into his car, putting on Patti Smith, and searching for meaning and belonging anywhere he can — regardless of whether he is welcome or wanted.
A man in the throes of a breakup is selling all of his possessions on Kijiji and Craigslist. Greg’s couch, his VHS tapes, obsolete desktop computer, and cow-shaped clock – it all must go. Between pot smoking, pizza eating, and watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, he meets with would-be buyers, taking his old life apart piece by discount piece in order to figure out what went wrong.
Some time after the incomprehensible death of his son, Joan Miró has settled into his new job working the overnight shift at a Hasty Market in Toronto. He has plenty of time to think beneath the fluorescent lights of the convenience store: of ghosts and late nights, of downtown living and dying, of customer service and self-preservation, of the beauty of the night sky, and of the attempts people make to connect with one another despite seemingly insurmountable distances. These fragments of life prove as difficult to make sense of as any code—until one night, when an extraordinary series of events suddenly teases a pattern from the dark.
“In this graceful, dark, and nuanced piece, Lana Storey reveals a private man unhinged by grief. These are events—and this a narrative—that will stay in my mind for a long time. Never one to shirk from difficult truths, Lana Storey writes in the tradition of George Saunders: an original, at times disturbing, but ultimately transformative worldview.”
— Carolyn Smart, author of Hooked: Seven Poems and At the End of the Day
“Cross Yourself is Lana Storey’s gorgeous swirling image constellation, a story about a man becoming unhinged from the universe and finding redemption in a downtown Hasty Market convenience store. A vibrant, beating heart of a short fiction, Cross Yourself is a vortex worth being pulled into.”
— Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, author of the 2005 Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award finalist The Nettle Spinner
When Blanche first began singing, she was humble, eager, willing to work, willing to learn. Now she is headstrong, condescending, unprofessional, and just a tiny bit full of herself. She is also the closest to genius that Antoinette, her accompanist, may ever have a chance to work with.
If You Waited Here, You Would
See Almost Everything
by Danny Goodman
After Ray collapses on the sidewalk outside a New York coffee shop, the bittersweet vagaries of his long marriage come into focus, one heartbeat at a time. From his new vantage point, flat on his back, all their conflicts are laid out against a canvas of sky, contrasting miscommunications and infidelities against something slower, steadier, and ultimately much vaster than he ever realized.
As a boy, Timmy (Sir Timothy Brian F. the Fantabulous) tells tall, tragic tales to get attention from the adults in his life - particular his busy mother and Dr. Bass, his nerdy-cool neighbour. As a young man, his escalating lies destroy his relationships, alienate his loved ones, and land him in hot water with police; but that doesn’t stop him from crying wolf again and again.
Charlotte is on the cusp of adolescence, and her world is being turned upside down. Unable to turn to her distant mother or absent father, she searches for guidance on the streets of downtown Toronto—and discovers God (or some version of Him) in the gutter.
“The Last Judgment is a story that penetrates into the heart of childhood sadness. Charlotte is without tools to fix what is broken, except for the incredible force of her will. The connections she makes between religion, parental failure, sexuality, and love make perfect sense because they are told in her bell-clear voice. This story is warm and tragic and, at moments, grimly funny.”
— Rebecca Rosenblum, author of Once and Road Trips