“Fiction has been maligned for centuries as being ‘false,’ ‘untrue,’ yet good fiction provides more truth about the world, about life, and even about the reader, than can be found in non-fiction.”
— Clark Zlotchew
We read essays to learn, to taste slices of history, to keep up on current events. Not so with fiction. We begin reading every story without any idea of what awaits us. Reading fiction is an act of discovery, a small journey that is never the same twice, and all that we can hope to discover along the way is something of ourselves.
Our Summer Reading Series continues this week with a selection of award-winning fiction, all (and more) available at the National Magazine Awards archive (magazine-awards.com/archive).
1. “Four Corners” by Bill Gaston, Event (2011 Gold winner in Fiction)
“I want, I don’t want.
How can one live with such a heart?”
— Margaret Atwood
The intricacies of a relationship and the confusions of love will never cease to be fodder for the writer of fiction. In this poignant tale of a breakup gone askew, Bill Gaston probes the mysteries of discovering ourselves in others and why we often only want what we can’t have.
“He should have asked her more questions about herself, not let her get away with being so private. And he should have told her more about himself. And about Shannon, about how another new layer of skin grows to protect from each mean flick of the tongue. About how never really listening to Cheryl is part of that thickened skin of his. He really needs most of all to tell her that his ears, and his heart, are full of skin.” [Read more]
2. “Shared Room on Union” by Steven Heighton, The Fiddlehead (2009 Gold winner in Fiction)
“No one remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself.”
— Thomas Mann
A young couple. A carjacker who doesn’t drive. A broke, and broken, passer-by. What happens when a chance encounter forces us to confront the things we want above all else to hide about ourselves? Or wish above all else to keep hidden in others? Does the propensity of the human heart toward self-delusion outweigh the achingly desperate need for some semblance of intimacy? Exhausting every nuance of what it means to know, Steven Heighton writes with subtle prose and an exquisite sense of irony in this critically acclaimed short story.
“Though their bodies were jammed together at many points, in this extremity he was fully alone. She must feel the same. He guessed she must feel the same… Surely, whatever happened, they would live differently now.” [Read more]
3. “Dead Man’s Wedding” by Andrew Tibbetts, The Malahat Review (2008 Gold winner in Fiction)
In this unique and touching coming-of-age story, Andrew Tibbetts chronicles the interactions of two families, one Canadian and one American, celebrating Mother’s Day at their neighbouring cottages. With sharp humour and a keen sense of the profundity of the mundane, Tibbetts explores the clash of cultures, a mother’s desperate love, and the heartbreakingly earnest desire of a young boy to find his place in the world.
“We play nonchalantly. We look casual. Content. Only Sassafras is close enough to see that our calm is pretend, to see how bored we are with Crazy Eights and Old Maid and Go Fish. Only Sassafras sees how full we are of longing for something mysterious and wild, something that has nothing to do with us, but could swerve into our world to make all the known things new and dangerous. Shine your beam of light, Sassafras, to draw them here; come, tacky Yankees, come to spoil the peace and quiet.” [Read more]
Read these articles and more at the National Magazine Awards archive: magazine-awards.com/archive
Image of Clark Zlotchew courtesy www.clarkzlotchew.com