Saturday 23 January 2010

The Middle Stories by Sheila Heti

Published by House of Anansi Press

A mermaid in a jar, a woman in a shoe, a little lost dumpling, a blind girl with clown-like hair, and a farmer with a fondness of thunderstorms (merely because he likes to see his cows get struck by lightning) are just a few of the weirdly wonderful characters to be found in this eclectic and highly original collection of stories.

I have had this book on my shelf for some time and finally decided to set it free tonight. First, I have to comment on the book itself. The version I have is the Canadian hardcover edition and sometimes, as a bibliophile, the thing I love most about a book is the feel of it in my hands. I just adore this one. For such a small book it is decidedly weighty and the book just feels so luxurious to hold and I greatly like the built in ribbon bookmark that makes life so much easier. It doesn't seem to matter how many bookmarks I have, I always end up seeking out a postcard, or the latest bill in order to mark my place.

I really liked the stories though I must admit I found myself wondering at first. The stories don't seem to have any real meaning though they are very imaginative and entertaining. Once I dropped the notion that I needed to make sense of these tales, I enjoyed them a great deal more. The writing style is fantastic and captivating while the stories are often surprising and always brilliantly crafted.

My favourites had to be Mermaid in the Jar, The Littlest Dumpling (which actually made me laugh out loud), Eleanor, and The Poet and The Novelist as Roommates. Really though, I was pretty fond of each and every story within these pages. To me, it makes an ideal read for one of those days when you just want to relax and really enjoy a book without having to think about it too much. A great addition to any collection.

To give you a small sample, here is a little of "Mermaid in a Jar":
I have a mermaid in a jar that Quilty bought me at a garage sale for twenty-five cents. The mermaid's all, "I hate you I hate you I hate you," but she's in a jar, and unless I loosen the top she's not coming out to kill me.

or the beautiful beginning to "The Girl Who Was Blind All The Time":
She lived in the hollow of her mouth and ears. She lived in the two deep hollows of her nose, and when and if someone touched her, she lived in her skin as well.

On an added note: When readers are considering buying this book, they should try and get the Canadian hardcover edition which is published by The House of Anansi Press. While there is an edition in the US, it is a somewhat limited version that had some of the content removed in the wake of 9/11. The author has previously stated in online interviews that the Canadian hardcover edition is truer to her original intention.

Author's website:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Once I dropped the notion that I needed to make sense of these tales, I enjoyed them a great deal more."

Easy for you to say -- you don't have to analyze them for school! ;) I don't even know where to begin...