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book review:

Postcard and Other Stories

Early on in her short story collection, one of Anik See’s characters describes her relationship with a married man like this: “We’re not as interested in each other as we appear; we’re both more concerned with trying to place opinion, with presenting ourselves in a context that might be attractive to the other person.” After finishing postcard and other stories, it becomes apparent that this is the logic of all See’s characters, from the sister visiting her much older alcoholic brother, to the artist who stalks the smashed cars of an auto wrecker lot, to the protagonist obsessed with Canadian philosopher Mark Kingwell. The dreary fixation with Kingwell aside, the idea of only wanting to appear interested in someone, the appearance of appearing, is deeply explored within this collection. These stories depict the minutest of details, with narrators who describe each movement, each turn of a body part, each passing hour down to the slightest breeze. The intimacy of the narrative works as a way to grasp the so-called unimportant gestures, the moments in a day or conversation that typically go un-mentioned. And yet, in Postcard, the characters become so steeped within themselves, so overwhelmed by their own haunted metaphors and consciousness that the reader is left with the unnecessarily indulgent account of an event.

Even so, what strikes me most about this collection is See’s play with structure. In her final story “postcard,” she uses the page to separate two simultaneous stories: one narrative dominating the top of the page, the other, in what seems like a footnote, near the bottom of the page in small print. With this, the reader is given the choice as to which story to follow, establishing, or perhaps more fittingly, dissecting the relationship between the author, the narrators, and the reader. Put in the position to choose, especially with the accompaniment of the daunting white space of the page, the reader is made to feel a little more responsible for the story. In this story, See writes with italics, she underlines partial words, uses headings almost in the sense of a dictionary entry, and she purposely confuses narratives, ultimately to confound meaning and show that stories are told in more than one way, to more than one end. In many ways, postcard and other stories endeavours to disrupt the traditional linear story by transposing the reader into multiple scenes and events. (Brooke Ford)

by Anik See, $23.95, 200 pgs, Freehand Books, 412-8151st Street SW, Calgary, AB, T2P 1N3

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