First Fiction Friday: Rage

November 3, 2017

John Mavin's debut short story collection Rage (Thistledown Press) is about forms of rage, its power and presence, how it rears itself. These linked short stories see a priest facing a moral dilemma when he takes a Colombian refugee into sanctuary; a teenage homecoming in a strip club that takes a hostile turn; two children defending their home from invading crows; and others—stories that give us an insightful look at what's underneath all the rage.

 

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What:
Rage (Thistledown Press, 2017)
 

Who:
John Mavin teaches creative writing with Simon Fraser University's Southbank Writer's Program. A past nominee for both the Aurora Award and the Journey Prize, his writing has been translated, studied, and published internationally. Visit him online at www.johnmavin.com.
 

Why you need to read this now:
Rage is everywhere: from the fist pounding of indignant opinion posts on Facebook to screaming 24-hour news cycles to the darker forms of rage—violence, anger, and resentment seething across the globe. Rage is both an inevitable human trait and a product of our time.
 

Books, of course, are an ideal antidote to this. It's difficult to maintain rage in the face of considered, insightful, or beautiful prose—even if such writing is about that very thing. The short story collection, Rage by John Mavin, encapsulates that.
 
In the interlinked pieces of Rage, the consequences of such an instinct are unravelled: the longing, broken trust, deceit, betrayal. In a loosely interwoven group from the fictional town of Dolsens, Ontario, archaeologists, mountain climbers, priests, musicians, psychics, soldiers, and teens all confront the rage and sorrow of lives based on lies and abuse. Throughout the collection, these people struggle to gain their independence, their dignity, and in some cases, to take revenge.
 
Mavin offers a macro examination of the emotion in its many forms, reshaping the reader's perception of it each time. This is facing down rage as refracted in a prism, or seen at the bottom of a pool. Because rage is so much more than anger. Rage is felt by the priest who offers sanctuary to a refugee only to be faced with both practical and moral dilemmas. Rage is one of the driving forces behind a climber trying to summit Mount Everest. Rage is the question mark plaguing the protection of ancient artifacts. Rage is in crows' attacks and two children's defenses of their home. Rage is the reason a dad hits the bottle and his teenage daughter needs to usher him inside. 
 
Of the collection, Wayde Compton expressed, "Rage is a diamond with many facets: turn its pages and you will find one insight into the human soul after another, each shining through with a brilliance that catches the light of our surroundings—no matter how dark we are at the edges."
 
Mavin excels at picking at these dark edges, examining where desperation or anger resides—and the heaviness of suspense or fear that it culminates in. This close study of our darkest parts never undermines the enjoyment of exploring these characters' inner worlds, nor the potential for good in humanity.
 
 X plus Y:

To get Rage, mix the eerie, dark quality of Iain Reid's I'm Thinking of Ending Things liberally with the work of Kevin Patterson—stories set firmly in place which speak eloquently to heart and emotions.

 

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Thanks to Nicole Haldoupis at Thistledown Press for sharing Rage with us! For more debut fiction, click  here.


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