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
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.
Health care workers on a night out unwind, allowing the anxieties and passions they've had to suppress on the job finally uncoil, like tendrils creeping out into the world - and into each other. Written with empathy and panache, this story is a portrait of briefly flaring humanity - of people granted a temporary reprieve from professionalism, and not quite knowing what to do with it.
“At the Bar is Rosenblum at her best - exploring the complicated nature of work and relationships with her trademark perceptiveness, humour, and compassion, and creating characters that will stay with you long after the story is over.”
— Amy Jones, author of What Boys Like and Other Stories
People grow in dimensions other than those we perceive. The teenage narrator of award-winning author Daniel Karasik’s latest story must deal with the fact that his older sister is now a grown woman, and Lucy, his crush-next-door, has become a mystery, with depths beyond his comprehension. Has he been coasting all this time, school and television his life’s only sources of momentum?
Decades ago, when bands like the Everly Brothers rode the airwaves and vacancy signs shone like beacons in the night, a young man gets his first taste of love, loss, and the ethereal satisfaction that comes with knowing that the world is turning and life is being lived.
Steve has his own comic book store, a limitless supply of comic books, and all the time in the world to collect them. That should be enough. But eventually, everyone - even Steve - gets lonely. And when his time comes, he too has to learn that (eternal) life isn’t about what you spend it on - it’s about who you spend it with.
“Every time I read something by Kirsty, I think, ‘Damn her, I wish I’d written that.’ She is the kind of writer that you can’t help but read with teeth-crunching envy, broken-hearted admiration, and a realization that your own work is not half as good as you’d hoped it might be. Be forewarned writers and readers: you will never be the same.”
— Shanna Germain, finalist for the 2010 John Preston Short Fiction Award and nominee for the 2008 Pushcart Prize
In this unexpectedly dark character study, Jessica Westhead puts you in the shoes of an apprentice forced to listen to a seasoned wedding DJ as he lectures on the tricks of the trade. Emboldened by the captivity of his audience, the DJ's 'humorous' observations and grievances claw deeper and deeper, betraying ugliness at the core.
“In the still-frothing wake of And Also Sharks, here’s another sadly hilarious and hilariously sad Jessica Westhead story with bite. The self-deluding wedding DJ in The Lesson is a perfect addition to Westhead’s bent gallery of sympathetic sad sacks blustering their way through work and love ever after.”
— Zsuzsi Gartner, author of All the Anxious Girls on Earth and the 2011 Giller Prize–shortlisted Better Living Through Plastic Explosives
Romance is candlelight on cheekbones, blurring gazes and the press of heels on strange sheets. But what happens a year later? You’re sharing bath towels and bickering over who forgot to buy a light bulb. There is beauty in a familiar hand on the nape of your neck. There is love in waking up under a shared blanket. This story is about the romance of domesticity.
“Kirsty is one of the best and brightest . . . when I read her stuff I feel like I could taste it, chew it, roll it around on my tongue, the language is so delicious and sturdy and musical. She also has a knack for getting relationships exactly right in her writing, whether between parent and child or lovers or friends.”
— Amber Sparks, Fiction Editor at Emprise Review