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The trick to reading The Tablecloth Trick is to read it in one sitting. The part fiction/part factual story is short enough to do so and if one has the time and headspace, it is quite possible to grasp the disjointed storyline. The experimental novella by Rick Crilly is about an unnamed narrator’s deep love and obsession with a childhood friend, Caroline. I assume that he has had his first sexual encounter with Caroline and that leads him to become particularly attached to her. Both Caroline and the narrator grow up, and much to the narrator’s dismay, Caroline discovers other boys. She eventually goes to university and the narrator starts to work at Estella’s Pie in the Sky. Sadly, Caroline dies of breast cancer years later and the narrator must deal with her constantly haunting his thoughts. Crilly helps create the ghost of Caroline and the obsessive nature of the narrator through linguistic oddities, scraps, references and images that are placed throughout the book. At first, the reader may find the random pieces of information about peculiar subjects, such as the whereabouts of the ruby red slippers from film version of The Wizard of Oz, jolting. Yet after a few factoids, the bits and pieces of information not only become expected but welcome. In a strange way, the cut and paste presence of the random texts, scraps and images make the character Caroline stronger as they constantly refer to breasts, cancer, death, love, astronauts. They become a constant reminder of her and inadvertently force the reader into the memory-laden mind of the narrator. I don’t particularly understand how all of the text is connected. But perhaps that is the point, as I’m sure the narrator of the story does not completely understand the death of his beloved Caroline. (Erin Kobayashi)

by Rick Crilly, $16.95, 89 pgs, ECW Press, 2120 Queen St West, Toronto, ON, M4E 1E2,

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