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  • Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    by Craig Terlson

    A collection of short stories where the humour runs dark and the slipstream bubbles up.

     

    ...imagine if Raymond Carver called up George Saunders and Joe Lansdale, and they all went drinking with Neil Gaiman.

  • Correction Line
    Correction Line
    by Craig Terlson

    “… it's clear that Terlson is way ahead of the curve in terms of crafting an engaging premise that reaches for elevated territory and reinvents enduring archetypes of action and suspense.”  J. Schoenfelder


    "Sometimes brutal, often demanding and always complex, this novel will repay the reader who likes their assumptions challenged and is happy to walk away from a book with minor questions unanswered but the big ones definitely dealt with! It’s likely to satisfy those who enjoy Hammet and/or Philip K Dick and who like their fiction very noir indeed."   Kay Sexton

     

    "I love a novel that you can't put down, and this is one of them."  L. Cihlar

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Friday
May112007

Schlockered!

saunders.jpg Beginnings - Part One
Schlockered in Saundersland

This is the first of a series of looking at some great beginnings to modern short stories.

In a lovely urban coincidence, the last two houses on our block were both occupied by widows who had lost their husbands in Easter European pogroms. Dad called them the Bohemians. He called anyone white with an accent a Bohemian. Whenever he saw one of the Bohemians, he greeted her by mispronouncing the Czech word for “door.” Neither Bohemian was Czech, but both were polite, so when Dad said “door” to them they answered cordially, as if he weren't perennially schlockered.

The above is the opening to The Bohemians by George Saunders, pubbed in the New Yorker in 2004 and appearing in his latest collection, Persuasion Nation. Immediately I am drawn into the unmistakable voice and wit here. I love the phrase "perennially schlockered" - I am guessing he means drunk, but even if I don't fully understand it, I am hooked, and know that I am in for a great ride. The next paragraph confirms it.

Mrs. Poltoi, the stouter Bohemian, had spent the war in a crawl space, splitting a daily potato with five cousins. Consequently she was bitter and claustrophobic and loved food. If you ate something while standing near her, she stared at it going into your mouth. She wore only black. She said the Catholic Church was a jewelled harlot drinking the blood of the poor. She said America was a spoiled child ignorant of grief. When our ball rolled onto her property, she seized it and waddled into her back yard and pitched it into the quarry.

Six sentences that give me backstory, character, and action all at once. The satire in lines like "a jewelled harlot drinking the blood of the poor" is just plain wicked and hilarious. I wonder though, because I so admire Saunders writing, if I see the humour because I know that's how he means it? It could also be read as a very sad portrait. When I read the blurbs on the back of books that declare the hilarious side-splitting contents, I feel ripped off in the worst way when there is barely a titter inside. Saunders is not laugh out loud funny, but he feels a lot like Twain or Vonnegut (who he is often compared to). But I think he is a superb craftsman - looking at those opening paragraphs confirms this for me.

Full text of The Bohemians

Tuesday
May082007

Cue the music, Bob

Here's something fun. The new woofreakinhoo theme... doesn't everyone need a theme?

Click over to the right there to download the mp3.

I always wanted a theme.

Monday
May072007

In the Beginning

begin.jpg

Beginnings to stories fascinate me - they are also damn hard to write (second only to endings, which take the prize for most difficult).

How to start a story? How to invite the reader into this world you have created? Pretensions aside, that's what it is - a world full of your character constructs in a setting that while having it's roots in reality, is it's own little universe. Heady stuff.

I have always liked the media res opening (Latin for - in the middle of things).
One of my faves from my story Bare-Ass Bridge:

"Don't be afraid," I whispered. "Cut the yellow wire, no the blue wire, no the –"
"Too late," Brian said in his grimmest voice.

Quickly you find out that it is two boys playing army, but I love starting with the ultimate in tension - the cutting of the wire. I planned this one, intentionally, as a tongue-in-cheek beginning.

But I have a growing appreciation of more traditionally story openings. Ones that tell the backstory right away, yet suggest the underlying conflict.
From "Why Wyoming":

It had been twenty years since Harry and Sue had taken a road trip together. Sue said it was twenty-one, but Harry was sure it was twenty because 1986 was the year he'd bought that damn Honda Accord. It spilled oil and chunks of metal across Ontario and into Quebec. They laughed about it now, how they had needed to rely on the kindness of others, Harry holding aloft a set of jumper cables and waving them at passing cars, trying to look forlorn, yet pleasant at the same time. Or in the basement of the national gallery parking lot, smoke billowing from the hood and Harry waving an empty antifreeze jug while Sue slumped lower and lower into her seat. Two decades later they could laugh but a part inside Harry still clenched when he thought of Sue sinking into that seat.

Next time I will look at a few of my fave writer's openings.

Friday
May042007

Gotta get back in time

viewmaster.jpg I went through a huge sci-fi period in my teens. I devoured every Philip K. Dick novel or story I could find - this was thanks to a wonderful grade 8 teacher, by the way, Mr. Tunbridge, if you're out there in cyber-land, I don't think I ever properly thanked you. I was especially drawn to stories about time travel, or any sort of time distortion.

Dick's Time Out of Joint was a fave, as were books by Robert Silverberg.

I didn't really get into fantasy much, not reading Tolkien's work until my 20's (at the time I wondered, how the HELL did I miss these brilliant books?). But the point I am making is I pretty much left this genre behind when I was 21. I remember the last book I read even - it was Demon, the last of a trilogy by John Varley, Titan and Wizard being the other two. I was in art school and I remember a project being due on Monday, but I was so deep into this damn book that I really could not put it down. Monday morning the book was finished, my project was not.

But I didn't quit sci-fi because it was the crac cocaine of literature for me, I just grew disinterested. Over the last 20 years I've read less than a handful, usually only when one is suggested for my book club. That's what happened this month. I finally got around to reading a book by Orson Scott Card, a writer I have heard a lot about but never actually read. Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus is an interesting read - and I lucked out, it's about time travel, or time visitation at least. People in the future can scan through the eons of time and study the past through machines that seem a cross between a computer and those old viewmasters. The writing is not bad - I am not being snobby here, just that when I have picked up a few novels in this genre I have groaned at the wooden dialogue and scantily clad space-babes being chased by alien monkeys. Not that I mind the space babes.

I digress.

I am still fascinated by time stories, in fact I have written a couple myself. Writing them and reading them makes me feel young, like I am travelling back to the past. I kind of like that.

Monday
Apr302007

Cha-ching!

680220.jpg For those of you who, like me, race Revenue Canada right to the finish line, cheers! It is April 30th and I am done those nasty taxes 10 hours early.

I love the challenge of the deadline... well, to be truthful, I just procastinate like a bugger, and I always always always pay. So there is no incentive to be early.

This year I had a pleasant surprise as I had banked a few more bucks than I needed in my tax account. I raced right down and invested that extra dough into a new pair of sneakers. They look fast. Maybe next year I'll beat the taxman by a few more hours.

I'll be doing the happy dance with them. Cha-Cha-Cha-Ching!