An audacious New Face of Fiction debut: nine riveting stories that announce a major writer in the tradition of Yann Martel and Barbara Gowdy.
Unexpected humour and tenderness intertwine with loneliness and hopefulness in this remarkable book from an already acclaimed writer. In nine richly varied stories, written in intense, clear-eyed prose, the reader is led into an exploration of the human need for connection, however tenuous or absurd, and at whatever cost. The stories operate with heartbreaking precision, drawing us past the surface of characters’ lives and into the moments of decision and recognition that shape these people irrevocably.
Here are stories striking in the range of their shifting tone and the reach of their subjects. We are introduced to a support group for people who suspect their benign nature has caused benign tumours to grow inside them. The title story zeroes in on a girl with Fred Hoyle syndrome whose age expands and contracts like the universe. A recently widowed woman talks to her husband’s ashes, which are entombed in a hollowed-out curling stone. A store detective’s valiant act to save a pair of pink calfskin gloves is entwined with the unfortunate results of an unsuccessful space mission.
Rendering grief, loneliness, hope, love and happiness with exquisite subtlety and intelligence, Neil Smith proves himself an able chronicler of the human condition. Bang Crunch constitutes a significant achievement by a powerful writer.
Montreal-based translator Smith debuts with nine stories, some of which hit the mark. In "The B9ers," a man forms a support group for people who have had benign tumors removed, and that's where the action stops: a weak subplot involving fraud by a representative of an orphanage fails to give the story much bite. In "Isolettes," a woman has a baby with the use of her friend's sperm, yet when catastrophe strikes after the birth, the general airlessness of the writing makes it hard to access her feelings. Similarly, the collection's longest story, "Jaybird," profiles an ambitious actor led into an extremely revealing performance by his agent's secretary under false pretenses, but the denouement unfolds mutedly. Smith's poise finds its best home in "Extremities," which follows a pair of gloves from one owner to another and finally through a murder, and in the title story, in which a woman ages forward too rapidly, and then backward just as rapidly.