Christopher Evans knows how to write. Without having met, I felt a kinship to this Vancouver author. His author’s resume is solid. I felt reviewing this work, a short story collection*, would not be hard work—that it should, in fact, be enjoyable. I was right.
From Always Hungry, Always Poor, the opening story:
The wife landlord has a bit of the darkness, too. The power went out a few weeks back, and when she and I came outside from our respective suites to see what was happening, there was a hydro worker harnessed to one of the utility poles. The wife started to yell at him about what was she going to do with all these cutlets going off in the fridge? The worker said that the outage wasn’t him, that nothing he was doing had anything to do with the power grid, which just made the wife say terrible things, like how she hoped each member of his family died by choking on birthday cake. I just watched. After a few minutes of being berated, the worker climbed down and left. Later, the internet said there was an accident a few blocks away that cut electricity to the whole neighbourhood. I told the wife what I’d learned, but she just waved me off like I was talking craziness. The power was only out for forty minutes, so I’m sure the pork was fine.
Death by choking on birthday cake?! That’s innovative writing. The kind that makes me pause and smile. What I have to assume the author did as well, when he first thought it, threshed it out, and eventually settled on final phrasing. That delicious, inspiring, frustrating process—the cloudlike swirl between a notion, a visual or mood and the ultimate written word. No different than a well-crafted joke, a polished song or the last daub of acrylic on canvas.
Let’s enjoy another passage, this one is taken from You Better Run:
… and that’s when I saw the shoes under the bed. They were Reeboks. I asked her where they’d come from.
“They’re probably yours,” she said. “You look really sexy in that shirt. I’m getting in the shower.” She pulled the robe tight and left the room. I heard the lock on the bathroom door click.
The shoes weren’t mine. The laces were all knotted up, and the insides were dark and vinegary. They were size 11s, like an athlete might wear. I usually wear an 8½, so I had to pull my winter socks over my regular socks for them to fit. I reminded myself about how Julie taught me that being jealous is like making yourself drink a mayonnaise jar full of poison.
The pleasure of immediate submersion, perhaps what I enjoy most about well-written short fiction. Which author Christopher Evans presents consistently in this work. I thought a play on words would be clever here. Explaining, for example, that this collection was unenjoyable. Then follow it up with the punchline—the title—Nothing Could Be Further from the Truth. And you’d realize with delight I was being sarcastic, perhaps chuckle aloud, understanding that Christopher Evans’ book is in fact excellent. But I decided that may get confusing. So instead I’ll simply state it. Nothing Could Be Further from the Truth by Christopher Evans is a great read. Or more accurately, a series of reads. For fans of short fiction, and good writing, you’re in for a treat.
About the Author: Christopher Evans is a graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Creative Writing Program and a former Prose Editor for PRISM international. His work has appeared in Best Canadian Poetry, The New Quarterly, The Lifted Brow, EVENT, Maisonneuve, and elsewhere and has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. He currently teaches creative writing to children in Vancouver, British Columbia, on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.
- Title: Nothing Could Be Further from the Truth: Stories
- Author: Christopher Evans
- Publisher: Insomniac Press, 2020
- *Review from the publisher’s ARC
- Pages: 146 pp