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Tim Conley writes about a different kind of reality-the kind where a man can hear a conversation in the apartment three floors above him word for word, where ropes hang not down but straight up and where the square root of negative one dreams of having an affair with one.

His imagination takes us far enough to meet an interstellar character who spends her ample spare time flirting with the neighbourhood (we use this term very loosely) stars in “In the Meantime.” “Means to an end” is a touching and ironic story of a man interrupted in the act of hanging himself by a woman who wants to borrow some rope. Conley thoroughly tricked me in “Constellations” by telling a different, but linked, story in every paragraph. It flows so smoothly that it took about two pages before I realized what he was doing.

Conley is such a clever writer it can be a bit of a drag at times. His dry, almost academic language and the care with which he crafts his tales make the reader a little too conscious of the writing, which can take away from the story. At the same time, though, his high language gives the stories a dry, humorous tone, and many of his endings are brilliant and unexpected. He keeps things (more or less) realistic before crafting endings that take a headlong plunge into the surreal. (Sarah Nelson)

by Tim Conley, $21.95, 176 pgs, Insomniac Press, 192 Spadina Ave., Suite 403, Toronto, ON, M5T 2C2,

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