by Jack Bootle
On an isolated English beach a man looks back on his school days, recalling the joy and torment of a secret love affair with a boy full of strange ideas, a boy obsessed with the language of the King James Bible. Moments from their relationship return to him: the hidden meetings on the beach, the first attempts at sex, the boredom of a school assembly in summertime, the cruelty of a young English teacher. But most of all he remembers the boy’s words. They’re words that, years later, will haunt him as he tries to come to terms with the person he has become.
“Psalm 77 is the type of story that one wants to read over and over, searching for meanings previously unseen. It is laced with the hidden, the secret, the sacred. From the sand dunes and their private longings in school to the verses, the imagery, and the final paragraphs, there is so much to uncover . . ." (Read full review)
— Amanda Miller from shortsundone.ca
THAT TERM, WEDNESDAY MORNINGS were chapel. The fifth form faced the altar in stiff rows, like soldiers lined up in front of a firing squad; boys on the right side of the aisle, girls on the left, blazers buttoned regardless of the heat. You stood two rows in front of me, the back of your neck sunburnt. Your erection, like mine, was straining against the black polyester of your school trousers, or at least that’s what I hoped. Mr Harris, a decrepit art teacher playing priest, his face sagged and wrinkled like an old leather handbag, loomed before us at the lectern, spluttering through his favourite Bible passages from a battered copy of the King James Authorised. I didn’t listen. All I could think about was your neck, how I would run my fingers down it, tracing lines of white in the redness, later on the beach. I wanted to climb over the heads in front of me and kiss that sunburn.
They were never-ending, those Bible passages. Vast swathes of Genesis one week, great chunks chewed out of the Gospels the next. Then endless Psalms, Proverbs that went on forever, an entire Epistle to the Ephesians. The student body, sweating and twitching in shirts and shoes, knotted ties and regulation tights, groaned under its collective breath like a single massive organism, an exhausted coral reef, every time Mr Harris stepped up to the lectern. One week, after a ten-minute recital from the Book of Job, Claire Simmons fainted on the front row and fell forwards across the sanctuary steps, her skirt riding up so everyone could see her knickers. In a rare moment of excitement, we were dismissed early, and we burst out into the sunshine, breathing great gulps of clean air and squawking; a flock of crows released into the summer sky.
It wasn’t like that for you. You thought those Wednesday mornings were beautiful. You didn’t think about the beach, or my cock, or GCSEs, or even Claire Simmons’s knickers. Instead, you leant forwards, eager to catch every sentence of those verses and psalms, the ancient words running through your body like an electric current. It seemed to you that the words themselves were speaking, not Mr Harris, that they were speaking through Mr Harris even as he spoke them, and they set off a kind of magical reaction in you—one that started deep in your body, your gut and your bones, but reached out through your eyes and skin into the world, transmuting every particle so that it shimmered in gold.
It’s like alchemy, you once said, and I got nervous and looked away and hoped no one could hear, because people thought you were a weird kid and speaking about things like alchemy and the Bible were only going to make you seem weirder.
about the author
JACK BOOTLE lives in London, England, where he writes and works as a TV producer. Over the past few years, he’s devised and produced a reality show about hot teens stranded on a desert island, a wildlife documentary about homeless badgers, a series about adult illiteracy, and a film set inside a maximum security prison in the Philippines (way more fun than it sounds). When he’s not busy writing and making television, he runs a strange quiz night in a basement in the East End. He has four webbed toes.
from the library
In New York City, Ben smokes too much and sleeps with women as a way to deaden his insecurities. With every indiscretion, he fights off adulthood for one more day, until the return of an ex-lover leaves him unsure of everything. Ben’s best friend, Josh, struggles to find the good in his marriage to Maddie, even as he searches for a way to keep from losing her. Ben’s neighbor, Mrs. Aguilera, looks to make peace with those she has already lost. Gripping tightly to one another like the oddest of families, Ben and his friends embody the place in which they live: a city where everything combines, with a touch of perfect madness, into something more than the sum of its parts.
“I love this story because it’s just plain good. The characters are broken and unsure, but the love they have for each other and the humor that carries them along is genuine and lovely to behold. This story made me laugh even while it was hitting me in the gut, and I’d like nothing more than to sit down and drink a beer with everyone in it. Mr. Goodman, thank you for rocking my literary waffle.”
— Lish McBride, author of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
Inspired by true events, this story by Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated author Pauline Holdstock tells of the incredible bond between a mother and daughter, and with gut-wrenching poignancy reminds us of the little things that make life worth living.
“Hers is the kind of prose you get lost in.”
— National Post on The Hunter and the Wild Girl
“Holdstock’s writing manages to be both heartbreakingly poetic and densely detailed ... sad passages, ghostlike recollections, written almost from the vantage point of the present, establish the book as a great work of fiction.”
— The Globe and Mail on Into the Heart of the Country, longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize
“Holdstock, with a few deft strokes, pulls the reader into the tumultuous life of an alluring rabble of characters: painters, sculptors, patrons, fools, and slaves ... In Beyond Measure, she proves herself a master of pacing. Her lively, macabre plot trips lightly along in spite of its dark elements.”
— The Globe and Mail on Beyond Measure, finalist for the 2004 Giller Prize and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
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.
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
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
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.
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 small-time internet scammer is shaken from her somewhat safe new life when an investigator arrives with questions to do with her erstwhile "period of moral decline" — specifically, the whereabouts of a young woman whose brief, bright friendship nearly steered her from the stability she now craves.