Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review: Coming Attractions 08 (Oberon)

Coming Attractions 08, Oberon Press (2009)

Edited by Mark Anthony Jarman
Featuring: Rebecca Rosenblum, Daniel Griffin, Alice Petersen
Reviewed by Andrew MacDonald

Publishing early work by the likes of Rohinton Mistry and France Itani, the Coming Attractions series from Oberon Press has a barometer's knack for predicting the soon-to-be hot in Canada's literary climate. This year's edition, selected by short story mogul Mark Anthony Jarman, promises to be no different, featuring nine stories by three young writers on the up and up.

With deceptively simple prose, Rebecca Rosenblum does the impossible, crafting characters in flux who are in one way or another stuck in life's amber. From a lowly tech support jobber secretly in love with a bisexual co-worker to an improvised urban family of university students who listen to domestic abuse next door, Rosenblum's motley crew of aimless young adults teeter on the precipice of personal growth. Frustratingly, they too often refuse to take the plunge.

While Rosenblum's stories focus on missed connections and bungled opportunities, Daniel Griffin's narratives explore what happens when the bonds that bind pull at the seams. In "X," a young father-to-be's shaky personal life and the raccoon terrorizing his mother's garden are deftly twined, while "Promise" features two brothers at odds and culminates in an explosive seven word sentence that hits you straight in the gut. Griffin's at his best between the lines, in the unutterable language of his troubled men as they butt heads.

In my mind, Alice Petersen's evocative stories are the anthology's strongest. Her best, "Among the Trees," opens with the death of an artist whose passion and pansexuality enlivened and frustrated the woman who loved him most. Like all of Petersen's work, it's a sensory delight, the makeshift artist colony the couple creates so real and spongy you can taste the mossy dew. Petersen's characters wear their hearts on their sleeves, a gambit that pays off and makes for affective reading.

Like a fine martini, Coming Attractions 08 is what all good anthologies should be: a potent libation concocted from disparate parts.

[Originally published in Broken Pencil]

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