Long Story Short
Elyse Friedman brings on-the-job skills to her fiction. As a former radio writer and producer for YTV and CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera, among other things, she’s developed an amazing ear for dialogue and visual descriptions (like radio-vet Heather O’Neill, I’m sure Friedman’s stories make great readings). Long Story Short’s title fits---it’s a novella, Bright Tragic Thing and five short stories. In Bright Tragic Thing, teenagers Dave and Todd research and collect fan memorabilia from washed-up Surreal Life-bound sidekicks, one-upping each other on acquisition technique and loser status. Then Dave contacts Murray Mortenssen, who played pizza boy Billy AWOL Jones on the fictional TV show Mother Knows Best, and the game becomes real, especially when a drunken Mortenssen shows up on Dave’s doorstep. The novella teeters on gimmicky, but Friedman gives Dave enough real teenage angst and poor judgment to haul it in. But it’s her short stories that shine: “The Soother” makes an empathetic case for an overworked and underappreciated man’s trips to a dominatrix. Journey Prize-winning “Truth” is about a couple that meet in a Starbucks, have sex and say everything that pops into their minds. “Lost Kitten” pushes sexual danger even further. Friedman’s writing is brave, wise and full of gasp-out-loud surprises.
Sue Carter Flinn