I’m ba-ack! Summer of the Great Canadian Short Story Completed

SCSS3It’s Tania and I have been a bad blogger this summer. This summer involved travel, festival coordination and a move (moving is always back-breakingly hard on the book lover). I’ve missed the book blogging verse! I’m happy to be back in the bloggle …tried to come up with some clever amalgamation of saddle and blog, that was the best I could come up with. I’ve been away for awhile, don’t be too hard on me, I’m out out of blogtice (see what I did there?)

I issued the Summer of the Canadian Short Story at the beginning of the summer to challenge people to read one book of Canadian short stories during the summer months. As it is the first day of fall, I guess today is the perfect day to end the challenge for this 2014. I was pleased (and a little shocked) to see how many people joined the band wagon! Some posted this summer, and others didn’t, please feel free to post this week and I’ll put up a linky-link.  I fell short of my own challenge to read 3 short story collections, but still read 2 so I passed the challenge in general.

SCSS ’14 posts: 
Consumed by Ink read Astray by Emma Donaghue
Consumed by Ink also read Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood
Buried in Print read more than a few. Check out her blog!

I read two Canadian heavy-hitters: Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence. And what did I think? Laurence’s A Bird in the House was a masterpiece of awesome, a collection of vignettes that showed us the coming of age story of a Manitoba girl and the characters surrounding her and her parents. It has been a couple of months since I read this book, and I’m still remembering the portrayal of her stern and morally high-grounded grandfather, and the odd story of the house her mother lived in while going to college. Munro’s Friend of My Youth was, and I can’t believe I’m about to write this, not my favourite. But, I think the fault lies in the Canadian summer and not in Munro’s writing. For some reason, I was picking up an undercurrent of darkness in these stories that I just didn’t feel in the mood for with the sun shining outside. With our summer’s being so short, I think I wanted to be reading something that would highlight the sunshine rather than diminish it. Laurence’s stories aren’t exactly peppy and uplifting, but they felt somehow lighter and I just love Laurence’s writing to such an extent that I don’t think it matters when I pick up a book of hers, I will love it.

I would like to entice you to read both of these novels, as I saw the greatness in both of them, even if I only really enjoyed one. To accomplish that enticement, I’ll take a page from Consumed by Ink and put some quotes up.

I used to dream about my mother, and though the details in the dream varied, the surprise in it was always the same. The dream stopped, I suppose because it was too transparent in its hopefulness, too easy in its forgiveness.
                                                                         – p. 3 from Friend of My Youth by Alice Munro

This is the opening paragraph Munro gives us and it floored me.  It gives us enough answers to engage us in the story, and leaves so many questions that it drives us to read forward. What happened with her mother? Whose forgiveness is too easy, the protagonist’s or the mother’s? I think whose forgiveness we assume occurs says a lot about the reader, too 🙂

The following is the opening paragraph of Laurence’s “The Mask of the Bear”, the short story where we are more fully introduced to the grandfather in A Bird in the House. It’s a long one, but I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did. The way she describes a family, and one man in particular, in one paragraph about a coat made me pause and take a moment to enjoy.

In winter my Grandfather Connor used to wear an enormous coat made of the pelt of a bear. So shaggy and coarse-furred was this coat, so unevenly coloured in patches ranging from amber to near-black, and so vile-smelling when it had become wet with snow, that it seemed to have belonged when it was alive to some lonely and giant Kodiak crankily roaming a high frozen plateau, or an ancient grizzly scarred with battles in the sinister forests of the north. In actuality, it had been an ordinary brown bear and it come, sad to say, from no more fabled a place than Galloping Mountain, only a hundred miles from Manawaka,. The skin had one been given to my grandfather as payment, in the days when he was a blacksmith, before her come a hardware merchant and developed the policy of cash only. He had had it cobbled into a coat by the local shoemaker, and Grandmother Connor had managed to sew in the lining. How long ago that was, no one could say for sure, but my mother, the eldest of his family , said she could not remember a time when he had not worn it. To me, at the age of ten and a half, this meant it must be about a century old. The coat was so heavy that I could not even lift it by myself. I never used to wonder how he could carry that phenomenal weight on himself, or why he would choose to, because it was obvious that although he was old he was still an extraordinarily strong man, built to shoulder weights.
-p.60 of A Bird in the House by Margaret Laurence.

So, I declare the first SCSS a success in that I read 2 more short story books than I would have ordinarily read and convinced a couple of other people to do the same! I look forward to doing it again next year!! Thanks again to all who participated! Let me know if I missed linking you in the post!

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2 Responses to I’m ba-ack! Summer of the Great Canadian Short Story Completed

  1. Naomi says:

    Welcome back, Tania! I am so glad you hosted this challenge. Otherwise, I might not have read any short stories at all this summer, and I loved all the ones I read. I also read We So Seldom Look on Love by Barbara Gowdy (on your recommendation). I think I put my review of that one up in early September. Somewhere along the way, I found a copy of A Bird in the House, and now I’m looking forward to reading it, too! But maybe I will save it for next summer. I hope you do this again!

  2. lauratfrey says:

    Man I really missed out! Remind me next year, k?

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