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Books

Little Goes A Long Way: New Fiction

Posted by Caitlin / February 1, 2012

20120201-couldbecover.jpgCould Be: New Fiction is the title of James (Jim) Little's latest... publication. It's difficult to stick a genre label to this 70 page book published by Mezzoforte, as it's a bit of a mishmash of Little's work.


The book is composed of the title story Could Be, which was shortlisted for the 2004 CBC Literary Awards, Train Ride, shortlisted for the 2011 Quebec Writing competition, River Ran North, which is part of a forthcoming historical novel and Free Jazz! A Constitution of Coulds that was published in the Hour in 1997.

As if that list alone weren't enough to pique my interest, the book concludes with a short series of Little's illustrations of 2006 federal election candidates that end up being a bit more creepy than funny in the best kind of way.

But back to the eclectic selection of fiction we find here. It always amazes me how seemingly unrelated things somehow find their common links when grouped together under one heading.

The collection's title story is about three men who open a museum of what "could have been". When one of them buys the archives of the Métis nation and they turn out to be 85 bales of shredded paper, they respond to questions about if these are really the archives of the Métis nation with "Could be".

Little ties together the story's overarching symbol with just a few simple words in such a way that the obvious poetry of the elements he has set up resonate so deeply that they become haunting.

That is not to say that his writing is devoid of humour. The slightly cheeky narrator of River Ran North is not afraid of addressing us directly as "Dear Reader," as we follow the British main character around through his difficulty of coping with the Canadian winter.

His bewilderment at the harsh climate and his desire to write a "taxonomy of snow" are such profoundly traditional, Canadian sentiments that I couldn't help but smile at its place within a collection called "Could Be: New Fiction".

With a good chunk of these stories set in 18th and 19th century Canada, there is definitely something amusing about it been qualified as "new" and having historical fiction set up as what "could be". Although some might say that I'm reading too far into the title (quite literally), I'm wary of putting any kind of pun past Jim Little.

He also puts an incredibly interesting spin on the classic Canadian tale with an opposition between the utilities of paper and bark seen through the perspective of a native character. This man fails to see the concrete utility of paper, such as the paper that the very story we are reading has been written on. Fun meta times; Meta Fun, maybe.

At $9.95 a copy, I urge any lover of local fiction to pick up this book and let its poetics and wit overtake them. They'll finally understand what all those darn nominations are about.20120201-selfportrait.jpg

Could Be: New Fiction is available at:
Argo Bookshop
Château Ramezay Boutique
Drawn & Quarterly
Librairie Bertrand
Paragraphe Bookstore
The Word

Drawings by James Little

Discussion

14 Comments

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