My first introduction to Elyse Friedman was a rough draft she read at a Fictitious Reading night at This Ain’t The Rosedale Library. Elyse read a vivid scene where a teenage boy by the name of Dave Burke is scrambling to find a tape recorder to record a surprise phone call from the bumbling pizza delivery boy, Billy “AWOL” Jones from the TV classic Mother Knows Better. Dave isn’t a fan so much of Murray Mortenson, the actor who plays Billy, but for what Murray symbolizes (a sidekick has-been).
We discover early on that Dave and his friend Todd have amassed a collection of kitschy ’80s memorabilia. The collection started out with T-shirts and letters from famous celebrities like William Shatner but they become more fascinated with the sidekicks: Skippy Handleman beats out Alex
P. Keaton in Family Ties, Ralph Malph is better than the Fonz. The phone call with Murray Mortenson would be the ultimate bonus for the collection. I was instantly hooked.
The reading was enough of a sample to crave the whole thing. A year and a half later Long Story Short is published. A collection of six stories, the first and longest is the one from the reading series called “Bright Tragic Thing.”
Other stories include “The Soother” about a day in the life of a wealthy marketing exec who happens to like wearing baby diapers. Another standout is “Truth,” that shares a brutally honest first date where every thought, insecurity or desire is out in the open. “Lost Kitten” is a twisted tale about two awkward tenants looking for love…or maybe something else. “Wonderful” is a modern day Scrooge story just in time for the Christmas holidays.
The last in the collection is “Virtual Story” a tale about what happens when a relationship ends and the house that love was built on goes up for sale. Found out of course through mls.ca (the Toronto Real Estate Multiple Listing Service). All the stories are refreshingly unusual and articulate. Friedman has a great sense for details and is a delight to read. The long and short of it, a great collection. (Andrea Nene)
by Elyse Friedman, $29.95, 211 pgs, Anansi Press. 110 Spadina Ave, suite 801, Toronto, ON, M5V 2K4, anansi.ca