The stories in this collection represent the coming of age of a young writer. His earliest published work is here along with his later more sophisticated literary efforts. Perry’s fiction explores contemporary life mostly in urban centres like Toronto, though they are not bound by this parameter with stories also set in places such as Venice and Nicaragua. The pieces range from dark satirical perspectives to situational ironies and explore a wide variety of themes such as poverty, family life, travel, urban fear, dating and disenfranchisement. The stories fit well into the urban fiction motif and although they frequently carry images of struggle, fatigue, and loss, they move the characters who populate them into decisions that offer tense moments of hope and beauty. Not always plot specific, the stories frequently set in motion a paradox or unresolved event with which the reader is left to grapple.
"The incisive, finely crafted stories in Daniel Perry’s Hamburger reveal themselves like icebergs; sometimes beautiful, sometimes imposing, sometimes portending danger and tragedy, but always with much more weight and mass hiding just beneath the surface. While devouring Hamburger, the thinking, feeling reader will find much to savour and digest." — Richard Scarsbrook, author of The Indifference League
"Whether Daniel Perry is sketching out the chance encounter between strangers on a streetcar or the intimate connections between family members, the stories in Hamburger expose the complexities and tensions in human relationships. Hamburger is absorbing and insightful." — Patricia Westerhof, author of The Dove in Bathurst Station
"The characters in Daniel Perry’s Hamburger are a motley crew — addicts, adulterers, liars and the faithful, all of them searching for something they can’t find. Perry captures entire worlds in these deft yet swooping stories — in sketches snappy and precise, he shows us the magic in the downtrodden, and gifts us images that linger long after the last page is turned." — Amanda Leduc, author of The Miracles of Ordinary Men
My three-year old, Ethan, stood up on my lap, pressed his feet into my thighs and — green sippy cup falling from his hand — he pushed off like a gymnast toward the boat’s yellow railing. I flung an arm between the American torsos and caught his wrist, but this lady, this fat cow, she slapped me and yelled nasally, “Polizia!” I lost my grip for just a second, and when I clasped again my fingers found only my palm. Fatso’s face blanched and I heard a few screams. I shouldered her and stepped onto the railing. I dove over the side. The sludgy water filled my shoes and I sank — eyes open, stinging — as I looked for his blond curls, his Osh Kosh. I thought I saw him rising and followed him up, but I surfaced alone in the waterbus’s wash. The hot sun beat down and I tasted the murk. Already, a blue and white police craft was motoring up, its mustached pilot scribbling a fifty-euro swimming ticket.
“Inglese!” I called. “My son! Mio” — I searched for the word — “figlio!” I pivoted in every direction, looking for Ethan. I yelled at the cop again and this time, he took a radio from his belt clip and machine-gunned Italian into the mouthpiece. He gestured to the canal bank. Outboards pull-started and colleagues scrambled into wetsuits; the filth still chilled in April, a cold that only hit me once treading had exhausted me. My mouth and nose filled with stench my numb toes stirred up. The cop pulled me over the gunwale, and another draped a blanket over my shoulders. From the small deck I watched the divers flop into the brown and green, the stink and muck and shit — actual shit — plunging again and again to the canal’s choleric bottom.
Michelle and I had wanted to go to Italy for years, and had spent three months meticulously planning, an hour or two most nights once Ethan was in bed. But before we left: Lyndsay. Lyndsay with no business scrawling her name, never mind enrolling in a Creative Writing program. Then again, BFA: Bachelor of Fuck All. I never got one, I just wrote short stories — two small-press manifestoes two years apart, barely notable enough to get me in on a young Toronto university’s new cash-grab. Given ten years, I became the longest-tenured instructor. I didn’t get a say in Lyndsay’s admission, but I’m told she had a recommendation from Cheryl Chabert, that perfectly bilingual, three-time Giller Prize-winning blurbosaur who apparently says nothing but world-opening, full of splendour, magnifique. The lines are never true but they sell books anyway. Take a few such superlatives and add an autograph for the English Department archive. Of course Lyndsay got in.
Did you ever see a grown woman actually bat her eyelashes? Blonde and not overly tall, Lyndsay’s hips and breasts curved just enough to make her soft, and inviting. And then there were the eyelashes: coquettish, in a word, though I can’t say like that one. She was the perfect little fool Daisy Buchanan dreamed of. And while Never judge a book by its cover is a wise saying, I prefer Sleeping with your students isn’t worth it, because afterward you’ll have to read their short stories. In the afternoon workshop, the one that I didn’t teach, Lyndsay went right for my misogynist throat, (her word, not mine), presenting a piece about a disappointing night “Laura” spent with her writing teacher. My other students said it was god-awful work, but it connected with the guest instructor that day, who was fresh off the success of her Italian-set, 600-page, Governor-General’s Award-nominated Love in the Time of Cholera rip-off, and who happened to be my wife, at the time.