Saturday, September 29, 2007

#61 - All In Together Girls

Let me confess, first of all, that I don't read a lot of short stories. So while I'm a huge supporter of short fiction, I don't necessarily pull it off the shelf and read it as much as I probably should. Like my friend Metro Mama always says, sometimes it's good to read short stories simply because, well, they're short.

But I also feel like it's important to buy and read the work of people you know. Not just because you know them but to show your solidarity in terms of their art. I go to plenty of indie rock shows for this reason. And after finally meeting Kate Sutherland in person at the beginning of the summer, I had been meaning to read her book for months. Well, am I ever happy that I did. Wow, is All in Together Girls ever an excellent collection. Some of the stories are linked, some not, but all feature riveting characters who transcend, in a way, their more humble circumstances.

Of the collection, I'd have to say that the majority of stories with the teenage girls were the ones that stood out for me. Not only because I was that teenage girl, because I knew the skids, the rockers, the preps, and fell in love with the boy on the lake, not necessarily across the street, who was certainly all wrong for me. But more because how can you not love a story that begins, "Saturday night started off like usual—just us girls and Mitch, drinking in the parking lot behind the Pentecostal church."

Immediately, I'm walking down Winston Churchill Blvd with Lesley, drunk on beer that Katrina bought, having left an awful house party where I felt, as always, awkward and out of place, until the cops stop us and kindly mention that isn't it about time we got going home. The tone of Sutherland's stories reminds me of Prep, but with a cooler edge, of a necessity to push the boundaries of the words to an edge that she isn't afraid to explore, even if it makes the reader feel uncomfortable.

In a way, I wish I was reading provincially as well as globally this year, and then I'd count this collection as Saskatchewan, long-winded places populated by everyday people who get out and get back in with alarming regularity. The prairie towns, like the town near my cottage, where kids wander off into the night with a sense of recklessness that feels utterly necessary at that age. What else are you going to do?

Regardless of my own emotional connection to many of the stories in the collection, I'd still highly recommend it to anyone who might ask.

PHOTO IN CONTEXT: I read the majority of Sutherland's book in transit to work this week. I snapped the picture as quickly as I could before the bus picked up speed again.

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