Tuesday, May 24, 2011
UP UP UP: STORIES by Julie Booker (2011) House of Anansi Press, 219 pages
Lisa Moore's cover blurb for Julie Booker's debut collection promises that the "stories will transport you." And they do. You'll be transported in time and place.
In "Geology in Motion" you'll open water sea kayak alongside longtime friends Lorrie and Katie "where the glaciers calve all night like thunder;" then, take at turn at the piano bench in "Every Good Boy" (remember the mnemonic device drilled into you about the treble clef staff?) and meet the piano teacher's husband, Mr. Acker, the shoe man at Eaton's to whom "saying hello was as important as a size six pump, a size nine in black," and for whom each lady dangles "a shoe like an unlit cigarette."
Try your turn at "Breakup Fresh's" speed-dating in a "Singles' Night at the museum" and experience that "moment before possibility" with Tracy, riding the beat of her anxious heart. Prefer the rugged outdoors? Pull on your climbing gear and journey with Didi to Tibet where she lugs her backpack, called Bradley, "in and out of every truck and bus, infuriating our tour guide," filled as it is with "the Elgin Marbles of her upscale London life."
And there's more. So much more. You'll spend uncomfortable time in an eating disorder clinic, date a tree man "who abseiled from his upper loft bedroom, back down to the living room," experience a clowning workshop that "is nothing like real life," date a mod with "long eyelashes that signalled monarch migration with one flutter," steal tomatoes from an irascible neighbour, cutting them triumphantly "into slices as thick as medals," and finish your journey in Toronto's Don Valley where "the ending will surprise" you.
Each one of these stories is a workshop in how to write fiction. Whether it is two pages long or closing in on fifteen, the story has tension, narrative drive, believable diction and figurative language that will challenge the way you see your world.
Each story is a well-cut and polished gem to which you will return over and over again, breathless in admiration.