sunday special: a couple of extemporaneous book reviews

Hey folks,

This week I read Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, a weird and exciting mix of Lovecraft and Camus. A novel of exploration, tension, and transformation, it comes in at a tense 200~ pages. So gripping was the story that I finished it in a day. Our protagonist, known only as “the biologist,” is opaque and unknowable — perfectly befitting the warped world of Area X. I highly recommend the book — the recent film adaptation, not so much.

Beyond that, I also read CP Boyko’s Novelists, a collection of short stories united in its exploration of various (fictional) novelists and their peculiarities. The book is funny, biting, and sharply written — in particular I found many of his similes exceptionally apt. The book is short, also — around 200 pages — and seems to get better and better as it goes. The final story, about a ludicrous literary prize selection committee, recalls 12 Angry Men, and reveals that many of the stories in this volume take place in the same persistent universe. Great book, would recommend.

the Chipesten bridge: a story circle

Communications consultant Sara Herfstadter pulled out of the concrete parking garage and onto highway 9, with little traffic impeding her. When she came to the Chipesten Bridge, though, she found it closed. Cursing softly, she made an aggressive U-turn that caused a driver in a beige Civic to lay on the horn. Sara knew there was an alternative bridge somewhere south of the county line, a rickety wood-and-stone number that offered the only alternative over the Chipesten in a half-hour’s drive. The sun sank fast as she navigated unfamiliar, poorly-paved roads, and had just reached the tops of the trees when she spotted the old bridge. There was a line of cars ahead of her – dozens of people had had the same idea. Sara cranked the radio and sang along to twangy country music with her foot on the brake. In tiny increments she eased her way toward the bridge, which looked even more dilapidated than she had imagined. When she reached it, she crawled forward, feeling each creak of the wooden planks beneath her tires. After an agonizing few minutes, the roar of the rushing Chipesten reaching for her, Sara emerged on the other side, onto a hard-pack dirt road, only to find it backed up with traffic straight on to the black horizon.

Logan Bright

biking on bloor: a story circle

I have two acoustic guitars and neither of them has the right number of strings. I lack a particular plastic piece that will help me to change them. I ride my ratty bike the two kilometres to the fanciest music store on Bloor Street – maybe the fanciest in the city – and traipse through the three floors of music stuff to find, finally, the string winder I seek. Alas it’s $19.99, so I won’t be stopping for lunch afterward. The ride home is bumpy and I’m keenly aware that my pocket is $20+ dollars lighter, but the winder is in there, and when I get home, I change the strings on both guitars, then play until the sun sets.

Logan Bright

charioteer: a story circle

charioteer: a story circle

amber plating on the side of a gold-ringed chariot
squeaky axle gleaming
a charioteer in agony and brass plate, on foot to the armoury
an absent attendant
rummaging, the charioteer gets the grease
a gauntleted hand on his shoulder; he’s spun
sent back to the start with the grease
and a written citation

Logan Bright

exercise: N 2.11 – a bridge from two perspectives

Exercise N 2.11 – a bridge from two perspectives

The Jays must have won because the DVP is filled with honking cars. Blue and white flags ripple in the breeze as the parking lot that is the parkway slowly filters north, under the bridge at Gerrard. This isn’t the aggressive, get-out-of-my-way-type honking one normally hears at rush hour all along this stretch of valley, but instead, a signal of fraternal affection, of joy in a communal event. The honks are stuttered, start-stop. Some people pump their fists through their windows. Occasionally, someone woops.

Even the sun is in on the action, glinting that Jays blue-and-white off the Don river’s clear water. Swans and ducks bob on the gentle current, unperturbed by the festive noise going up all around them from the metal beasts on their paved trail north. Splashes of sound and colour hint at fish below the depths, many more than I can see from up here on the bridge. The water is running clean and looks so refreshing I consider for a moment jumping in, clothes and all, but I don’t want to disturb the animals, who look so placid and at peace.

The rail of the bridge is smooth and cool to the touch, a perfectly machined aluminium bar running the length of the valley. The bridge itself is of wooden planks, worn to a corky softness by thousands of feet. This material, cut from trees a half a century ago, seem to me indomitable, as though a thousand years of rain couldn’t wash this bridge away. If the Don were to rise a dozen metres it still couldn’t overtake this sturdy rail, these soft planks. They don’t even creak when I jump upon them. The honks call out from the crawling line of cars. Someone shouts “Go Jays!” and I call back to the faceless blue-and-white flow of cars. The sound floats down and settles among the swans and ducks and baseball fans, becomes part of the scenery.

The world is nothing but fog. I know I’m on the bridge at Gerrard, somewhere over the Don river, suspended by a few flimsy planks and a piece of aluminium. I know this but there’s no way to sense it. The clouds have come crashing to the ground, have spilled out over the landscape and obscured all that I knew, or thought I knew. Everything I thought I saw in my little world is effaced by a soft grey sheet that replaces sharp details with an obfuscating glow. The pitted wooden planks under my feet, worn down by thousands before me, creak as I shift my weight. Left, right, each movement seems to strain the bridge further, as though my presence were a growing burden, growing until it’s unsupportable.

No cars are moving on the parkway below. At least, I can hear none, see none. No aggressive horns come up out of the gloom. If there are drivers down there, trapped one to a box, inching forward through the fog on an endless highway that at the best of times is a steady drip-drip, there’s no way to know. Everyone out here is keeping to themselves, keeping everything hidden within.

The world is so quiet that I hear the flutter of a bird’s wings from the water’s surface below. It might be a duck, or a swan. My ears aren’t sharp enough to tell, and there’s no real difference made if they could. The birds are down there waiting out the fog just as I am. Tomorrow, maybe, the fog will lift, and the birds will forget about it, but I’ll still be waiting. Here, on this bridge, when the prickly vegetation on the banks of the river peeks out from the grey. At home, when the door stays closed when I lock it, because no one comes through it anymore, no one but me. I’ll come back to the bridge tomorrow, see if there’s anything worthwhile to see.

Logan Bright