Carolyn Black (The Odious Child), Dennis E. Bolen (Anticipated Results), and Andrew J. Borkowski (Copernicus Avenue) celebrate the Year of the Short Story at TYPE Books.
TYPE Books is just one of those places in Toronto. Some book-loving friend will have told you about it a dozen times; or, you’re wandering Queen Street West and in between sculptural furniture browsing at Morba and the best brownies in the world (not made by my mom) and Americanos at the White Squirrel you see this quirky little bookshop. You go in. You fall in love. And no matter where in the city you live, you will be back. TYPE is a modern museum of wordsmithery, a well-curated collection of the most current heavy-hitters and the more obscure titles that you didn’t know you couldn’t live without, along with a superb collection of periodicals, journals, and odd gift items (fluffy stuffed chickens, silver skulls, etc.).
TYPE also plays host to eclectic book events, often featuring local writers. Last night was a celebration of the Year of the Short Story that brought together Carolyn Black (The Odious Child), Dennis E. Bolen (Anticipated Results), and Andrew J. Borkowski (Copernicus Avenue). I’d recently picked up The Odious Child after reading a review at bellasbookshelves.com. I’d particularly enjoyed the title story and “Wife, Mistress,” so I made my way with a friend down to Queen West. A small crowd (about 20 or 30) of us enjoyed some pre-event browsing of TYPE’s eclectic shelves (one of those stuffed chickens nearly came home with me).We gathered in the centre of the shop for the readings, and while my high-heel-encased feet would have preferred the option to sit, standing in a group of excited, like-minded readers generated its own kind of cozy intimacy. Aforementioned Americano in hand, I leaned against the magazines and listened.
Co-sponsored by Open Book Toronto and Books on the Radio, the evening featured three writers with wonderfully different styles and voices. Carolyn Black’s work, which is sometimes categorized as urban fantasy, is indeed fantastical in its exploration of very real issues. Her selection, “Hysteria,” features a body and head that physically separate after experiencing a difficult medical issue. Body and head barely tolerate each other as they work, if not against each other, then at least disparately, to find an answer. The narrator is distant, in no way embroiled in the events occurring, while the spare and sometimes comic prose elicited surprised chuckles from the audience.
Dennis E. Bolen’s work, removed by several generations from my own chronological perch, addresses the issues of those Boomers who didn’t “make” it, the ones who paint the mansions owned by the ones lingering in plush management positions (more appreciative chuckles from the mostly Gen-Yish crowd at this observation). Bolen’s voice is authentic, if at times bitter, veering off the path of darkly funny and into a somewhat uncomfortable space inhabited by disappointments and drunks who are wondering what on earth happened to them over the last few decades.
The final reader, Andrew J. Borkowski, was a show-stealer. In his selection “Twelve Versions of Lech,” the Polish-descended Canadians of Copernicus Avenue come face-to-face with a “real” Polish artist whose life and outlook is far removed from their own. Cormorant Books should commission him to do the audiobook version of Copernicus Avenue. His inflection, enthusiasm, and spot-on Polish accent brought to life Lech and the characters caught in orbit around him.
The event was comfortable and laid-back. No rows of hard plastic seats, no oft-awkward question-and-answer session. The readings were kept under ten minutes each and provided the authors a chance to display what they and their books are about. Other short story luminaries were in the audience, including Sarah Selecky (This Cake is for the Party) and Matthew J. Trafford (The Divinity Gene). After some general milling about and chatting, we departed, each with a copy of Borkowski’s Copernicus Avenue tucked under our arms.