In this odd combination of short prose and snippets of poetry, Kalynchuck unites unusual images-fish and violins, turnips and spelling tests-creating strange juxtapositions that give her writing zest. Her more poetic pieces are sometimes both murky and less than mellifluous. The best pieces are thoughtful and slightly mundane with a splash of the fantastic. While this collection often feels random and lacking in cohesion, the connections do exist, buried in dark humour, self-doubt and circuitous thoughts about where the artificial ends and the real begins.
Many of the early pieces convey mixed feelings about family and growing up and are recounted with the lack of explanation or context peculiar to children. As the narrator grows older, the vignettes become more like standard reminiscences, and sometimes lack the vitality of the earlier stories. The narrator expresses her personal discomfort and insecurities but also explores her role as a performer. Because much of the writing conveys impressions, it’s almost a shock when some uncomplicated storytelling creeps in. I particularly liked a short story about Uncle Milty, who encourages the narrator to stand up for herself and learn to take chances while betting at the track and talking about reincarnation.
The beautiful front cover of Beauty is a Liar shows a ballerina’s legs poised beside a pastel-coloured birthday cake. The back cover shows a smush of cake, icing and pink ballet shoes. This commentary on appearances versus the mess of reality is what Beauty is a Liar is really all about. (Kris Rothstein)
by Valerie Joy Kalynchuck, $14.95, 126 pgs, Conundrum Press, PO Box 55003, CSP Fairmount, Montreal, QC, H2T 3E2, conundrumpress.com