Grey matter

Grey by Judy MacDonald (Arsenal Pulp Press), 187 pages, $18.95 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNif you were to.


Grey by
Judy MacDonald (Arsenal Pulp Press),
187 pages, $18.95 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN

if you were to read this short story collection quickly, you’d get the idea that Judy MacDonald’s stories are wispy little things, fragments, perhaps, of larger tales.But if you sink back into the couch and let each of her sentences impress itself on your mind, you’ll become quite fascinated with the characters who populate Grey’s world.

MacDonald, editor-in-chief of the counter-cultural online news site Rabble.ca, is concerned with the way individual spirits rail against the status quo simply by existing. Her characters are the people other writers ignore — average folk like you and me who persist despite the nameless, faceless weight of the economy, a rigid social structure and sex-role stereotypes.

They’re unemployed men who fight against inevitability, old women who maintain hope despite their husbands’ deaths, little boys who still crave mother’s milk long after it’s socially acceptable to do so, defiant girls who ride their tricycles into tornados and working-class teenage girls who pause on the way to the shopping mall to watch construction workers sweat.

What unites them is determination. Michele will date Ingrid. Awkward award nominee Manjula will get into the ceremony even though she’s lost her ticket. Crusty will insert himself into the cool boys’ game regardless of their taunting.

MacDonald’s texts are sparse and powerful, leaving out the why, what happened before and what’s to come, and demanding that the reader accept the characters’ lives at this very moment. They’re glimpses of the lives of ordinary people who become extraordinary when seen through the lens of this author’s gaze.

They whet our appetite. An entire novel featuring this community of characters would satiate our hunger.Write Books at susanc@nowtoronto.com

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