I’ve recently come back from a trip out in the Rockies. Before I left, a friend of mine, rob mclennan, stopped by and gave me an extra review copy of Anna Leventhal’s Sweet Affliction. At the last second on my way out the door I threw the book into my carry-on bag in case I ran out of things I really wanted to read. It was a great decision.
I guess rob thought it was right up my alley. And what an alley it is. This collection is a dim lit alleyway where one finds a bunch of university kids dumpster diving for couches and discarded treasure, where teens wobble wonky on mushrooms on their way to play a Freddy Krueger pinball game, while the shadow of hunched young man with a dead rat in his pocket goes scurrying by; and there is Bruce, the stoned man weakened from Chemo watching it all from the rooftop above.
One of my favourite books I’ve read in the last decade was Heather O’Neill’s Lullaby for Little Criminals. If I ever see this book at a used book sale, I buy it and give it to somebody I like. Unfortunately Ms. O’Neil doesn’t have a collection of short stories (at least one that is published). Thank goodness Anna Leventhal does. Here is another smart woman bringing us more beautiful losers from the dirty streets of Montreal. I couldn’t get enough of them. I loved this little collection. Leventhal’s prose is jammed with similes and metaphors that slap you in the face like you’ve been hit with a dead rodent. I often read these gems and jealously said to myself, damn, I wish I had written that. “. . . a slice of ham blushing like a newlywed.” – isn’t that fantastic?!
Check out this description of a mother pregnant with her third child:
“A Québecoise Madonna, Frieda thought. Hips wide and soft, breast ample, an organic habitat for the young. Tiny baggies of Cheerios and crackers appeared from her pockets like so many loaves and fishes and her fingers dangled toys, pacifiers.”
The only problem with Ms. Leventhal’s work is its size. There's not enough of it. I felt like a man who was super hungry and finds himself in a tapas bar; never quite full, never fully satisfied and salivating for the next dish to quickly arrive. I wanted these stories to go on and on and often they were done before I was ready to leave the party. I can’t wait for Ms. Leventhal to produce her first novel.
Sweet Affliction. Sweet for sure.
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