Charleswood Road: Stories, M C Joudrey, 104 pgs, At Bay Press, atbaypress.com, $22.99
I’ve periodically been trying finish my review of this short story collection for three months now. While I’m reluctant to play the asshole reviewer, there’s very little to recommend here. Apart from one moderate exception, Charleswood Road seems to have been slapped together in less time than I’ve been ripping my brain apart in search of a less unpleasant way to say that it isn’t a very good book.
The book itself is a well designed, good-looking little hardcover, and the author’s inclusion of illustrations at the beginning of each story is a nice touch, evoking classic young adult adventure novels. The title story is the longest and most accomplished piece by a wide margin. A bildungsroman in miniature, “Charleswood Road” is set during a teenaged skater’s last summer in Winnipeg, and is worth checking out.
Unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn’t demonstrate the same level of care in its execution. Awash in awkward phrasing, grammatical errors and frequently baffling narrative pace, almost every piece reads more like a half-finished writing project than a complete story. Take for example the horror story “Thing”, where a hard-boiled detective with diction like Tommy Wiseau doing an impression of Sam Spade tells the reader that a small-time criminal “was a man drowned in fear and dead from it.”Or “Night Plane”, where the terminally ill, workaholic narrator reflects on his previously unmentioned wife “[dying] with dignity like someone like her would.”
The excess of howlers like these overshadows the better aspects of this collection and results in Charleswood Road‘s ultimate failure.
(Joel Robert Ferguson)