First Fiction Friday: The Third Person
What happens when you add a third person to a pair? Emily Anglin's darkly funny collection of stories The Third Person (Book*hug) contemplates the dynamic shifts and complications from a triangle of three people. Described by Kate Cayley as a "master of evasion and inference, a connoisseur of every kind of secret," Emily Anglin is an author we want to know more about.See more details below
What: The Third Person (Book*hug, 2017)
Who: Emily Anglin writes fiction and poetry. She draws inspiration from the gothic fiction of Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier, and her work reflects a gothic interest in rooms and buildings. Emily holds an MA in Creative Writing from Concordia University. The Third Person is her debut book. She is currently writing her first novel.
Why you need to read this now:
J.D. Salinger showed us that nine is the perfect number of short stories. The nine stories in The Third Person all ponder what’s at the root of nine—three. Each story is about a triangle of three people—or perhaps more accurately, a pair of people whose dynamic is triangulated when a third person appears, changing an even relationship into something distinctly odd.
Reminiscent of the gothic atmosphere of isolation in Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms, reading The Third Person is like a walk through familiar neighbourhoods of a city that become less recognizable the closer you look. Like the sleepwalking love object Robin in Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood, these characters wander their cities like somnambulists seeking something not quite nameable.
The stories each present a quiet series of situations that appear quotidian at first—a person starting a new job at City Hall, a person going on a trip to a conference with her manager, a person answering a knock on the door from a religious caller—but each becomes strange as the details of these scenes add up to a puzzle with an elusive solution. There are mysteries at the hearts of these stories; their protagonists and the reader are pushed to read the depicted worlds cryptographically, assembling meaning from a collection of incongruous objects and interactions: a burned down school, in one story, is offered up as a new workplace; a boss reveals a secret past and a compartmentalized self to her employee when they arrive at a New York hotel; a Jehovah’s witness’s physical appearance changes kaleidoscopically under the gaze of a lonely soul who wills her to be something more than just a proselytizer. Propelled by a kind of tonal music that suggests things are not as they seem, like the Twin Peaks theme music that builds dread with four repeated notes, the meanings of these stories intertwine to form an unsettling, cinematic dreamscape.
Joanna Skibsrud commented that reading the stories of The Third Person is like watching the opening sequence of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and there is indeed something apartment-building-like about these nine stories: each contains a separate set of characters going about their separate lives, but the stories’ moods and meanings overlay and colour each other like shadows from another dimension.
x plus y:
The Third Person is like the puzzles of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels meeting the alienation and absurdity in Kafka.
Many thanks to Hazel at Book*hug for sharing The Third Person with us. For more debut fiction, click here.
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