Christopher Evans’ collection of short fiction, Nothing Could Be Further from the Truth, is a tutorial in expecting the unexpected. These are unconventional, sometimes hilarious, sometimes disturbing tales from the frayed edge of the contemporary urban experience. Evans populates his fictional landscape with loners and misfits, mostly young men and women: disaffected, delusional, or well-meaning but misguided people adrift in an unfeeling world that seems to offer no direction and little purpose.
Typical of Evans’ self-effacing male protagonists is 20-year-old Richard in “Cakewalk,” who has returned to his old school. Charged with looking after his nephew, who has a project on display in the science fair, Richard wanders the familiar corridors, gazing impassively at class photos featuring his younger self, watching himself recede “a little deeper into the crowd each year,” until, in the photo from grade twelve, “He appeared not to be there at all.” When he encounters his grade-four teacher, her half-hearted attempt at faking familiarity when she obviously doesn’t remember him is a humiliating indicator of the negligible impression he’s left behind. The doormat narrator of “You Better Run” doesn’t mind watching his girlfriend Julie engage in physical intimacies with other men and women on the dancefloor because, as he explains, they have “something that Julie needs.” But everything changes one day when he arrives home from work unexpectedly at lunchtime, surprising Julie and discovering a strange pair of men’s Reeboks under the bed. Without acknowledging Julie’s betrayal, he immediately starts wearing the shoes and finds this act of rebellion endows him with unaccustomed strength and confidence.
Other characters seem to operate at a slight distance from reality. Nora in “Nora, at the Cinema,” saunters through her entirely ordinary days as if the world is a movie set, her attitudes and behaviours driven by obsessive self-regard. The financially strapped narrator of “Soundtracker” is in for a shock after he advertises his creative services on Craigslist, offering to provide musical accompaniment for any activity, however mundane. And in “Always Hungry, Always Poor,” the narrator discovers brief respite from chronic loneliness in the company of a pack of coyotes.
Family discord is a recurring theme, and children in these stories find themselves in the uncomfortable position of reversing roles with the adults who are supposed to care for them. “Of This, We Were Certain” is narrated by one of nine siblings who become bizarrely self-sufficient after their mother runs off and their father withdraws into his shed. And in “Aunts and Uncles,” youthful Carter is forced to accompany his alcoholic Aunt Cindy on a variety of pointless errands, aware that his burden of responsibility includes keeping her from lurching off the deep end.
Absurdity blows through these pages like a refreshing breeze, and a couple of stories take it to a higher level, veering gleefully into the realm of the surreal (“I Don’t Think So,” “Over the Coffee Table and Down the Hall”). But even as he indulges his more arcane narrative impulses Evans never loses his connection with the reader’s heart. These are stories of quotidian struggle in which the author always gives us someone to root for, something to care about. Despite a bit of nuttiness and the occasional whimsical flourish, he maintains a firm grip on his material.
In his relentlessly entertaining debut collection, Christopher Evans presents a series of arch depictions of what it means to be imperfectly human and vulnerable in a troubling and troublesome modern world. And despite the title, this is an author who forges a path to life’s painful truths more often than he might care to admit.
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, New Quarterly, 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.
- Publisher : Astoria (Feb. 1 2022)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 248 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1487010338
- ISBN-13 : 978-1487010331