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 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
Marcel, a sensitive sniper, knew his life was missing something. But he didn't know what until he set his crosshairs on it: Violet Caine. A ginger-headed lover of Thai food, wanted dead simply because her brother messed with the wrong bike gang. It's a story of redemption coming too late, and the ways happenstance can turn a warm man cold. Then warm again. Whether fate wrote his troubled life, or he wrote it himself, he wants Violet Caine to be the end of it - be it figuratively or literally.
An imaginative and resonant work of speculative literature from ReLit Award-winning author Darren Greer. Twin brothers, born on an oppressive family farm, discover a miraculous way to escape the dreariness of their lives, charting a course that promises equal measures of wonder and heartbreak.
Deep in the heart of Ontario cottage country, Izza Ingram’s biological family disintegrates when her parents become trapped in a moment Izza can barely remember. Lost to their parents, she and her sister Paulie form an unlikely family unit under the guidance of their parents’ friend Doug. In this trio of their own making, Izza, Paulie, and Doug try to navigate the differences between the families we are born into versus the families we choose.
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
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.
The anarchic relationships holding together a group of teen girls - whose lines between love and hate, jealousy and loyalty, are not so much drawn as they are furiously scribbled - are put to the test at an unforgettable birthday party. This story captures all the angst and uncertainty of adolescence, with prose as sharp and jarring as a smashed kaleidoscope.
“Rarely an author comes along whose work hits you with the impact of a slap. I have had this experience with the work of Jayne Anne Phillips, with Lorrie Moore and Mary Gaitskill; most recently I have felt this on discovering the writing of Kirsty Logan. Her work is elegant, minimal, and innovative, but underlying it all is a great passion. If the world is a place where talent is recognised—in time, I believe, we may come to say her name alongside the aforementioned.”
— Ewan Morrison, author of Swung