For me, stop number three of the Giller shortlist is the second collection of short stories, This Cake Is for the Party (2010), Sarah Selecky’s debut. As I said when reviewing Alexander MacLeod’s debut, Light Lifting, debut short story collections are tricky things. The short story, as a form, is quite different from a novel, but many young authors seem to write short stories as primers for novels. They become apprentice pieces, a way to experiment without commitment, a way to rid oneself of some self-indulgent autobiographical drivel. Often they feel formulaic. Unfortunately, This Cake Is for the Party felt this way to me, though I know others out there feel differently
This collection contains ten short stories, and, though I’m not saying each is autobiographical, each has that generic MFA feel. Most of the characters are women in their late twenties or early thirties, they are involved in writing projects or the academy, they like to cook Italian food, they are involved in relationships that are leading to more serious commitments than they are used to, they are thinking about children. Now, all of these have made for great stories and novels in the past, and to be sure these stories are not poor; they are just familiar.
You can find my thoughts on both this book and Light Lifting here.