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I.V. Lounge Nights is a compilation of pieces written and read by the authors who came to Toronto’s I.V. Lounge on Friday nights as part of a Canadian literary series. The book was published in honour of the series’ tenth anniversary, and contains a wide range of writing styles and subject matter, the only common denominator being that all the authors are Canadian. The word that springs to mind, in trying to generalize about the compilation, is lewd. Most of the stories are sticky, gross, self-indulgent confessions of the middle class. People trying to be something they are not. Fantasies on paper that the writers have never lived. Many of the pieces give me the same feeling as does a whimsical attraction to someone that you regret the instant you let it go too far and they’re coating your face with sloppy kisses. The book is made up of the formulaic wordplay of people who have university degrees and who work too much. If it’s not disgusting it’s boring. Suicide thoughts of those who are so bored that their thoughts turn to suicide. The characters sound like people who are desperately trying to imagine what it’s like to be desperate. Inventing escapes from lives that they don’t actually want to escape. Imagining what darkness and turmoil might be like. All is not lost, though. There are some gems. Like any multiple-artist anthology, it is impossible to generalize. Michael V. Smith’s “Wolf Lake” is a skillfully written piece about killing. It is so beautiful it evokes absolute dread. Moez Surani’s “In Times of Drought” finds hope living in a little girl, newly arrived at a refugee camp in Afghanistan. Emily Schultz’s “I Love You, Pretty Puppy” is so honest it brought me to tears. Her character’s life is shaped by ugliness, which “had become a kind of light to me. I had grown used to it, had even learned to look for it.” Ugliness is beauty, the kind you find in irregularity and familiarity, the kind you see in a sick and dying, faithful, loving dog. (Sarah Nelson)

edited by Alex Boyd and Myna Wallin, 152 pgs, Tightrope Books, 17 Greyton Crescent, Toronto, ON, M6E 2G1

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