Best Canadian Essays

What is it like to be at risk of drowning while ocean swimming and become nearly seduced by that moment’s “sense of perfection”? To embark on a quest to starve yourself “as a slow, incremental form of suicide”? To reside, newly single, in “the saddest building in the world”? To search for “signs of missing people along the banks of Winnipeg’s Red River”?

Please permit Joanna Streetly, Jane Edey Wood, Peter Babiak and Susan Peters to share findings, all based on their lived experiences.

Detailed answers to the probing questions raised by the excellent selection made by guest editor, memoirist Marina Nemat with series editor Christopher Doda have made for 2017’s The Best Canadian Essays confirm something we already know: existence is dizzyingly complex and irreducible and so are the humans who strive to make sense of it every day.

Whether portraying a battle with numbing depression (as in Alicia Elliott’s “A Mind Spread Out on the Ground”), grappling with an elderly relative’s dementia (which Leonarda Carranza’s “Love in Nine Chapters” depicts), or pondering (as Jane Campbell’s “Good as Dead” does) the exact meaning of the death of a Facebook “friend,” the writing is uniformly incisive and ruminative. The authors of these 16 pieces aren’t promoting causes or advocating stances so much as making careful sense of the nuances of profound topics — love, death, pain, hardship, loss, conflict — that are evidently eternal and yet ever-changing.

As well, the heartfelt answers are fascinating, provocative, sobering and painful. And careful: the product not of sound-byte commentary or off-the-cuff conversation but instead deliberation, revision and honed craft. No one writes essays like these over a few hours.

Wide-ranging, there are examinations of a chronic “hungering for danger” (in Deni Ellis Béchard’s “Mon Ami, Vice”) and “fantasies of bar fights, about smashing a jerk’s jaw, then bringing my knee up into his nose, snapping his head back” (in Russell Smith’s “Hitting”). There’s the fracturing of feminism and the “diverse world of anti-feminism” in Lauren McKeon’s “Whose Side Are You On, Anyway?” And in “On Madness Within Imagination” Matt Cahill raises concerns about the effects of simplistic representations of madness in literature and on screens.

Besides exposing readers to an abundance of artfully expressed ideas, this collection’s appeal comes in two further forms. Its essays offer an intimate form of education, and, better, help give what might seem like overwhelming complexity a reassuringly compassionate and relatable face.

Brett Josef Grubisic divides his weeks between Salt Spring Island and Vancouver. He’s currently working on his fourth novel.

Чатрукьян посмотрел на телефонный аппарат и подумал, не позвонить ли этому парню: в лаборатории действовало неписаное правило, по которому сотрудники должны прикрывать друг друга. В шифровалке они считались людьми второго сорта и не очень-то ладили с местной элитой.

Ни для кого не было секретом, что всем в этом многомиллиардном курятнике управляли шифровальщики. Сотрудников же лаборатории безопасности им приходилось терпеть, потому что те обеспечивали бесперебойную работу их игрушек.

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