Conceptually, I’m pretty on the fence about The Old World and Other Stories.
Author Cary Fagan has produced a book of 35 short stories that are based on old, found photographs. The images are on the edge of historical, if the ‘50s are indeed historical. Let’s say the images are nostalgic. His writing too. In ‘Greenless’ (the photo is of a headstone with just that word on it), a man’s business partner, the aforementioned Greenless, steals his product idea, and gets rich while he flounders. The first man vows revenge, releases his own product and eventually runs Greenless out of business. It is weirdly reminiscent of It’s a Wonderful Life, but everyone come off badly.
There are other popular themes found in short stories: the boy who runs away with his guitar; the bachelor who gets married but only loves his dog; the scientist with the hair brained idea that the centre of the earth is hollow. I’ve seen these before. It is possible that Fagan has totally outsmarted me and is purposefully playing to the nostalgia and familiarity the photos to create a sense of: I’ve heard this before, and to make us realize our own biases based on an impression in a photo. But.
Conceptually, the idea of finding a photo and then writing a false story about it seems like a high-school creative writing project, mandated by a teacher who needs a break from his students and an excuse to send them to the library.
Cary Fagan was at Events 5 (A Feast of Fun), 21 (A Series of Adventures), 72 (The Interviews) and 77 (Fact AND Fiction) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.