“You Haven’t Changed A Bit”: Astrid Blodgett’s Superlative Meditation on Relationships

 

Cover -- You Haven't Changed v.2

Astrid Blodgett’s recently published first collection of short stories, You Haven’t Changed A Bit  (Univ. of Alberta Press 2013), is stunningly well written.  As I finished the book for the second time, I reflected how these stories brought to mind Rainer Maria Rilke’s observation about how each of us cannot help but be a mysterious solitude in relation to one another and, most especially and paradoxically, to our closest loved ones.

Almost all the thirteen stories in this wonderful volume explore fissures in relationships — whether between spouses, partners, siblings, parent-child or friends — and the unspoken mental landscape that inexorably shapes those relationships.  Notably, most of these tales are told from the perspective of a female character, who mainly endure the emotional pain that accompanies varying degrees of psychic distance from a loved one.

A small sampling:  In “Don’t Do a Headstand” a visit by her husband’s pregnant teen niece highlights the growing and likely irreparable gap between the spouses.  “Zero Recall” explores the toxicity of a husband’s mistrust and the wife’s ensuing bitterness at being treated unfairly, both of which threaten the couple’s bond following an unfortunate mix-up at a blood donation center.  The realization by young adult friends that divergent life paths will impact their ties in “Let’s Go Straight to the Lake” is skillfully elicited by the piece’s authentic, slightly awkward dialogue and scene-setting. Several of Blodgett’s stories are especially poignant, particularly “Ice Break,” about fragile parent-child relationships and the weight of guilt from choices that can’t be undone.  This latter story is one that I’ve written about previously and compelled me to seek out more of Blodgett’s captivating writing.

In an effort to stick with my preference for conciseness, I’ll conclude by simply noting that each of the stories in You Haven’t Changed A Bit is a pitch-perfect gem, characterized by truly graceful and insightful writing by a talented writer who is worth every bit of your attention.

Astrid Blodgett

Astrid Blodgett

More information about Astrid Blodgett and her writings can be found at the author’s website here.

Laurence Hyde’s Southern Cross

Southern Cross -- Block 29

Southern Cross — Block 29

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In 2007 Ontario’s Firefly Books published Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels, which features four  exceptional examples of the early graphic novel form and the beautiful artistry of its practitioners.   Among these is Canadian Laurence Hyde’s masterful Southern Cross from 1951.  Through a series of 120 striking wood engravings Hyde shares a story that reflects on the impact of nuclear testing on the simple way of life that then existed on Bikini Atoll in 1946.

Southern Cross -- Block 23

Southern Cross — Block 23

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Southern Cross -- Block 27

Southern Cross — Block 27

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Southern Cross -- Block 107

Southern Cross — Block 107

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Graphic Witness Cover

Douglas & McIntyre: An Exceptional Indy Publisher

Although several volumes produced by the Vancouver-based Douglas & McIntyre have sat upon my shelves for quite awhile,   I had not focused on this independent publishing powerhouse until I recently posted some thoughts about art in the Pacific Northwest and pondered the coincidence that two art books (Shore, Forest and Beyond and Mythic Beings) mentioned then were from D&M.  I also count Inuksuit (noted in O’Canada Blog on January 31, 2011) and Arctic Eden  among my books from D&M that contain beautiful images of special aspects of the Canadian physical and cultural landscape.

Exploring their catalog of titles, what strikes me are the diverse range and high quality — there are many award wimmers here — of Douglas & McIntyre’s art-themed volumes and its literary fiction and non-fiction.   Its affiliated imprint, Greystone Books, is also quite good.  I’ve added several to my wish list.   Some of the titles that stood out from my browsing include those below.

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