When Tania issued her Summer of the Canadian Short Story Challenge, I said that I would read Lynn Coady’s Hellgoing to participate in the challenge. I finally got around to doing this in the middle of October. This isn’t surprising, as I failed to meet my self-challenge of reading Middlemarch and Dombey and Son by September 1st (I’m still making my way through the Dickens, though). I guess that what I’m saying is that I’m terrible at these reading challenges. But I don’t care about that, because, winter , spring, summer, or fall, I got to read Coady’s short story collection, and that’s enough for me.
It’s been a while since I’ve read any short stories. I used to read a lot of them when I was a student, and later a teaching assistant, in university, but, for a while, short story collections had a reputation for being hard sells in bookstores, so, as a bookseller, I think I limited myself to novels. Now it seems that short story collections are enjoying a renaissance, due in large part, I would imagine, to offerings like Hellgoing.
I can’t say enough good things about these stories. I gave it a very rare (for me) five star rating on Goodreads. All of the stories are so perfectly crafted that not once did I feel left wanting. There wasn’t a single sour note in any of them. Coady is a master of getting inside the heads of her characters, and speaking in their voices so convincingly that you never hear the author’s voice peaking through. It’s really remarkable, and a very difficult thing to master. My favourite stories in the collection, “Take This and Eat It”, “The Natural Elements” ( a spot on critique of the direction that Edmonton is taking), and “Body Condom”, aren’t any better than the other stories. They simply resonated with me personally. I have rarely read a Giller winner that so richly deserved the prize.
Hellgoing also inspired me to take a shot at writing some short stories myself. I’ve always tried to tackle novels, and I have a tendency to stall in my progress. Maybe some attempts at the shorter format will help me to actually get something done, and challenge my skills (short stories may be briefer but they’re certainly not easier). – Kirt