Every editor is familiar with pleasure reading vs work reading. I’m not saying I don’t love the books I edit but it is important to have some literary downtime when you become mentally exhausted from helping a writer perfect their work. Whenever I work on a novel, I choose a genre and format that is completely different from the current project and often that format is the short story.
Recently I’ve decided to explore a few Canadian authors who have been on my radar for some time and it was a twist of fate combined with a sad occasion that led me to an amazing writer who wasn’t on that list. A couple of weeks back, a good poet friend had just closed his vintage book store due to some really tough economic times in our region. Obviously, dropping in to say goodbye to one of our favourite spots in the city was solemn and sad for personal reasons. My husband and I had been married in this wonderful shop and after a few tears were shed and hugs given, I took one last walk through the literary fiction section. I can’t explain exactly why the book attracted me but i felt compelled to take it home: A Reckless Moon by Saskatchewan author Dianne Warren.
For the next week I read one story a night.. I had been starving for a good collection of short fiction and this definitely sated my appetite. There are seven modern prairie stories about average people having above average experiences. Each story is an open door inviting you to enter a brief moment in the life of a character, which is exactly what a short story should be. Every one was different but somehow connected, relatives of one another but very different and it is in their differences that the genius of this writer is apparent. Bone Garden, the third story is chilling, a critical examination of what happens to children when parents are absent. Tuxedo, the second story, is wise and clear with buried emotions resurfacing when we subconsciously manufacture experiences so that we can finally deal with them. Hawks Landing is a bittersweet statement about families that drift apart because the pretense of closeness disintegrates with geographical distance. Michelangelo is both funny and an emotional revelation for the protagonist. It takes a deft hand to create a story of awakening for both character and reader which is exactly what happens right up to the final line. I won’t mention the other four because for that you will have to buy the book! These stories are what I call re readers, fiction that you can revisit a few times and still enjoy for the subtle nuances that creep up on you gradually.
Author Dianne Warren is no literary light weight. She is an award winning playwright, novelist and short story writer of some repute. Next to Alice Monroe and J.D. Salinger, she is now one of my favourite writers of short fiction.