Crisp By R.W. GrayNeWest Press / 171 pp / $17.95
More luscious than lyrical, and served up with a minimum of filler, these stories go down well and linger. If you’re looking for fresh, crisp, and engaging short fiction, this one is a pleasant surprise. The title, Crisp, is taken from the title story “Crisp,” a story in which two brothers watch their father get burnt to a crisp in a car, and the younger brother takes up hurling rocks at the firemen who subsequently “service” their mother afterwards. It’s a fantastic, odd, and unforgettable story. Crisp would also be the right adjective to describe Gray’s luminous writing in these stories that “confront the unspeakable parts of memory, meditating on characters caught in isolation and struggling to make sense of grief, disappointment, and the occasional dinner party gone all wrong.”
Quite simply put, R.W. Gray is a great and engaging writer, and this book ties with Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting as the best book of short fiction by an Atlantic Canadian in the last year. It certainly shuffles Gray into the fold of the country’s most exciting short story writers. There’s something both visceral and ethereal that emerges from Gray’s diction and tonality and handle on what makes people tick and tock and tumble and fall down, and stand back up. Chiefly, in most of Gray’s stories, this is lust, longing, and desire, be it from a grieving widow attracted to her priest, or a straight man momentarily attracted to his wife’s ex.
Chad Pelley is a multi-award-winning author from St. John’s.