In 2011, Lynn Coady’s novel The Antagonist was shortlisted for the Giller Prize (my thoughts here), and it was one of my favorites of that year. Looking back on my post, I see I almost had it in my first-place spot. I was excited, then, to see that she made the shortlist again this year with a collection of short stories, Hellgoing (2013). This is my second book of this year’s shortlist, and though I liked it, there’s something vague in my response. I’m hoping it isn’t in my top spot for this year’s prize.
Hellgoing is comprised of nine energetic stories. I say energetic because Coady employs a kind of hip, sardonic voice in most of the stories that really makes them hum along. The characters rarely want to take things seriously — even serious things.
For example, in the title story, Theresa, a forty-four-year-old mother is visiting friends, telling them about how her father had recently said she was fat. Theresa sees this — and Coady makes this explicit — as the punchline to a joke:
“She didn’t tell her friends about anything else — the climax of the story had been told: Put on a few pounds, didn’t ya? Ba dum bump. Punchline!”
She’s venting to her friends but telling them in such a way that it comes off as slightly humorous. Of course, she’s deeply offended by what her father said. Of course, it’s easier to make him look ridiculous rather than deal with her dire relationship with the man.
This tone works well in “Hellgoing,” where Theresa is also trying to deal with her brother, a brother who always used to be a kind of slacker enemy but who now seems to have everything together and under complete control. Her brother has even managed to tame their father in some ways. Theresa doesn’t tell her friends about her brother, nor does she get into what’s really bothering her: the fact that her own life feels so out of control.
Trevor reviews Hellgoing, by Lynn Coadyby KevinfromCanada
here):While we did not plan the scheduling, Trevor has checked in with his review of Lynn Coady’s story collection, Hellgoing, the day after I posted mine — and I would say we had similar impressions. Keep scrolling down to find my thoughts — here are the opening paragraphs from Trevor’s review (you can find the full version at his site