Short and Sweet: Dayle Furlong + Lake Effect
Lakes are meditative, and the characters in Dayle Furlong's Lake Effect (Cormorant Books) find themselves contemplating their existences as they live and work Great Lake-side. We talk to Dayle about the ingenuity of the short story form and read part of "Adamantine" from her collection.See more details below
May is Short Story Month, and this year All Lit Up celebrates this under-appreciated form with Short and Sweet, a little series featuring 12 short story collections and their authors, who share brief thoughts on the short form.
A (short) interview with Dayle Furlong, author of Lake Effect
All Lit Up: Describe your collection in under 100 words
Dayle Furlong: Lake Effect is set in the cities and towns around the Great Lakes and follows those on both sides of the border. Depicting whole worlds through character, landscape and a relationship to the lakes, characters from all walks of life discover meaning as they confront and contemplate their existence.
Everywhere I go people tell me their life stories – and then in a blink of an eye they are gone. I wanted to give the reader that sense of vastness, as if you could spend a minute with these characters and learn a lot about them yet know full well that an abrupt departure is inevitable, leaving you with the sense that there is more to their stories than what we’ve been given a glimpse of.
ALU: What do you love about the short story form?
DF: Versatility. From flash-fiction to longer short-fiction anything can be effective if it’s done with ingenuity or passion. I like big words, complex characters, sparse pieces, sentimentality, unsentimentally, irony, innocence, humour, tragedy, drama, minimalism, realism, surrealism, magic realism, fables and tall tales. There are so many ways to play with form, hone style, present scenes from fictitious lives and deliver quirky or contemplative dialogue in the short story. I can’t read just one style all the time. I need a lot of variety.
ALU: Who is your favourite short story author?
DF: Lisa Moore.
An excerpt from "Adamantine"
We buy your diamonds flashed in neon across the shop window. Lindsay took the diamond ring out of her purse. It was a pear-shaped stone, framed by a cluster of black diamonds. She’d found it this morning in the soap dish. Her friend Stella had removed it to wash her hands, after making a mess of herself, spooning raspberries and cream over lady fingers after the main course of last night’s dinner party.
Forgive me for what I’m about to do, Lindsay whispered. I’ll pay you back. As soon as this is over, I’ll buy your ring back. It’s a short-term loan, that’s all. I’m not stealing this from you; it’s just a temporary loan. She didn’t expect anyone to understand. She knew what she looked like. A spoiled petulant upper-middle class woman, obsessed with having the best, willing to steal from a friend to get it. But she was trying to save her family. And save them she would.
The day before the dinner party she’d spent the day painting. Finding deep solace in the unfettered joys of her studio: the scent of acrylics mixed with the fresh peonies, pert in a blue glass vase on the windowsill, the vibrant blues on her palette and the pleasure in adding a perfect, terse brushstroke to a painting of a river washing over decaying automobile parts she’d been working on. Her husband Daniel had remodeled the space for her, not long after Oliver had been born, just after Daniel was offered tenure at the University of Windsor and she thought all of the initial problems in their marriage had gone away.
And when she’d had some time to herself, like she’d had yesterday before her friends had shown up for their monthly supper club party, she’d sneak away to indulge herself. A modest space, one small east-facing window, vaulted ceiling, old, splintered, paint-splattered hardwood floors, but she treasured it. The walls displayed some of her finest unsold pieces. The one with baby Oliver naked in the backyard—he’d snuck out while she was running a bath—serviceberries squashed between toes; a twelve-year-old Oliver on the honey-pink Dunalino pony, named Cinnamon, whom he rode at the Cider Mill Riding Camp in the summer. In a white cotton shirt, black riding helmet and brown jodhpurs, his legs clamped to the pony’s flanks as it carried him over the fence effortlessly. And the portrait of Daniel, her favourite, one of the first she’d hung. He was eating an orange on the shores of Lake Erie, Port Dover it may have been, she couldn’t remember now, to his left a tree-covered expanse of land that jutted out into the lake which may have led to Turkey Point. Muted tones throughout the painting, in his ginger hair, the fruit and the setting sun in the distance. He’d looked his best in that portrait. She’d painted it the summer they fell in love.
She wasn’t sure at first if she could love him. She’d been dating a writer. A quiet, sensitive poet whose worldview seemed more aligned with hers than this man who thought only of economics. They were twenty-five, more than twenty years ago now, and he took her for dinner at one of those new Indian restaurants that had just opened in Windsor, after which they took a romantic walk on the boardwalk. The humidity was thick that summer and the wind from the Detroit River felt cool on their faces. She wanted nothing more than to jump in. She told him about a series of paintings she was working on that featured the river. He had a different perspective. For him its great glory relied on its business function — a highly-used shipping channel that kept businesses running smoothly for over a century, he’d said. He rattled off figures: the number of ships that pass through each year, the tonnage of cargo they carry, the amount of gas, and the cost that it took to fuel each ship.
“You’re boring me,” she’d said brazenly.
He stopped talking, blushed, and changed tact. He asked her about her master’s degree program. She said she’d love to go for a swim and peeled the blouse free from the sweaty skin on her back.
“I know just the place,” he’d said.
At his parents’ house he stripped bare and dove in the pool. The cool water sprayed from his orange hair when he pushed it back from his forehead. His chest was covered with soft red hair. The ginger freckles on his nose glistened with water droplets. He swam underwater and splashed the water with his arms when he surfaced. He begged her to come in. She hesitated, unsure of what to do. Would she be looked at as coming on too strong? Desire rose in her, a balloon inflating, hopeful, buoyant and light, a surge of emotion she hadn’t expected as she watched him. She felt safe. She wanted him to touch her. She slipped off her clothes and joined him in the deep end.
This excerpt is taken from the book Lake Effect, by Dayle Furlong, published by Cormorant Books Inc., Toronto. Copyright 2022 © Dayle Furlong. Used with the permission of the publisher.
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Dayle Furlong is the author of the novel Saltwater Cowboys, a 2015 Toronto Public Library Dewey Diva Pick, and a collection of poetry entitled Open Slowly. Her short-fiction has appeared in The Great Lakes Review, The Puritan and The Saturday Evening Post. Her fiction has been awarded an Award of Merit from the Summer Literary Seminars international literary competition and was a finalist for the 2018 Curt Johnson Memorial Prose Award in the USA. She is a graduate of the Humber College School for Writers and has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
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Short Story Month may be ending, but have no fear - you can catch up on our whole Short and Sweet series right at this click.
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