Cities of Weather by Matthew Fox (Cormorant). Rating: NNNN
Cities of Weather is a sparkling collection of uniquely Canadian short stories (don't stop reading - I don't mean boring) with rainbow sprinkles of queer on top. Matthew Fox is a very polished writer; this is his first book, but you'd never know it. His characters are all over the map, each one uniquely in tune with or affected by the weather.
The book opens with Janey, a lonely straight-girl sculptor with a penchant for lying who becomes obsessed with capturing people's hands in clay.
In Advanced Soaring, Mark, like many young anglo Montrealers, finds himself becoming an exceptionally skilled telemarketer. He deals with his tedious job by developing a fixation on an attractive friend of undetermined sexual orientation who becomes a small-scene rock star.
This story captures perfectly the cheap-rent, high-drama Montreal so many experience, but Fox is very adept at avoiding sentimentality and nostalgia.
He has a gift for summing up real emotion and capturing the awkwardness of one-sided desire. Every story deals with the tedium of unfulfilling jobs or stagnant relationships and the staggering difference between the way you picture your future and what real life delivers.
My favourite story is the very unsettling The Dead Roommates, which, as blunt as the title suggests, is a bleak but almost humorous look at the realities of grief. Two out of four roommates die in a car crash. The remaining two engage in an unspoken, passive-aggressive fight over who will write the better eulogy
While all 11 stories connect with each other to varying degrees, they stand alone as perfectly crafted gems, like mini-novels. I found myself thinking about the characters long after I finished the book, picturing them sitting beside me on the subway or standing in front of me in the coat check line.
Cities Of Weather is a rich and thoughtful read, a perfect beach book for literary types.