my tragic right hip

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January 11th, 2013

Book Review #3 – And Also Sharks

Spending time at home over the holidays, I was mainly reading short stories, simply because they’re easy for my brain to process when I’m tired. Luckily, I have more than a few collections on my shelves, so I picked up,  read, and enjoyed Jessica Westhead’s delightful, quirky And Also Sharks over the last few weeks. The people that populate the pages of these stories are hard to place–their ages, their locations–they seem mysteriously suspended in small towns, in small places that contain their lives, marriages that aren’t necessarily working, jobs that are filled with reports and decidedly odd co-workers and “plant ladies.” Westhead’s writing reminds me of Rebecca Rosenblum’s–they share that enviable talent of finding an exploitable quirk in human nature and brilliantly surfacing it throughout a story. The results are razor-sharp, humane without being twee, and riotously vivid.

I was in a meeting yesterday where one of our editors here at work was talking about how Canadian writing, in particular, elevates the short story, and it’s true–we have our own Chekov, as he described, in Alice Munro. Michael Christie, Sarah Selecky, Alexander MacLeod, Andrew Pyper–and Jessica Westhead can easily be listed alongside those writers whose ability to convey the emotional depth of a novel within far fewer paragraphs than a full-length work (I’d also add to this list Lydia Peele’s excellent Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, but she’s American…). Not every one of Westhead’s stories obviously goes one-to-one with Munro, but we have a long tradition of appreciating the form here in Canada, and I’m pleased that we take publishing, reading, reviewing, and writing short stories so seriously. I enjoyed this book immensely, highly recommended.

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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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