What Can You Do

Short stories aren’t my favourite format. They always seem like a snack when I’m super hungry. I know I’m probably wrong about this. I’ve been told so in a writing classes where all the teacher let us study were short stories. I was bored. Not going to lie.

But it’s good to try new things. And I’m being forced to try a lot of new things by reading all the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival books.

The first short story collection I’ve consumed while trying new things is What Can You Do, by Cynthia Flood, a Vancouver writer. So that’s fun. The first story, aptly called ‘What Can You Do’, is about a couple that revisits an favourite campground they haven’t visited in years. It’s not like they remember at all. It’s seedier, dirtier and sadder than it is in their happy memories of being there with their kids. I like this idea: that we overly shine up our pasts and then find ourselves romanticizing them. And anyway, camping with kids is terrible. We see that in another story. And maybe the character’s memories of how it used to be aren’t correct anyway, and their judgement about their current experience comes from their faulty memories.

‘Apology’ was another favourite. I loved seeing how we apologize, why we apologize, and how we treat and view apologizers and their missteps summarized so succinctly. Also, people should stop expecting apologies for non-offenses. And stop over apologizing. It’s annoying.

‘Wing Nut’ is a creepy story and will likely raise the neck hairs of anyone with children.

The thing these three stories have in common is a strong sense of beginning, middle, end and a little less of a snippet/slice of life/rumination style. Maybe I’m a plot/novel snob?

Cynthia Flood was at Events 54 (How This Story Began) and 92 (The Afternoon Tea) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival


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