Vital Signs: Collected Novellas

By (author): John Metcalf

A reSet original. Vital Signs brings together the collected novellas by John Metcalf, a modern master of the form, a writer who Alice Munro has said “often comes as close to the baffling comedy of human experience as a writer can get.”

Ranging from early words like “The Lady Who Sold Furniture,” about an amoral housekeeper who fences the furniture of her employers, to “Forde Abroad,” a mature piece that follows Metcalf’s alter-ego, writer Robert Forde, as he stumbles through the Iron Curtain to attend a meeting of the Literary and Cultural Association of Slovenia, the novellas serve as the perfect introduction to Metcalf’s acclaimed literary style—and as a companion piece to The Museum at the End of the World, his first full-length collection of fiction in three decades.

Elegant, wry, compassionate, and mischievous, with echoes of Kingsley Amis, Evelyn Waugh, and Muriel Spark, Vital Signs taps the funny bone, pierces the heart, and demonstrates why Metcalf has long been considered among the greatest—and most contentious—figures in Canadian literature.


John Metcalf

John Metcalf has been one of the leading editors in Canada for more than five decades, editing more than two hundred books over this time, including eighteen volumes of the Best Canadian Stories anthology. He is also the author of more than a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction, including Finding Again the World: Selected Stories, Vital Signs: Collected Novellas, An Aesthetic Underground: A Literary Memoir, and The Museum at the End of the World. Senior Fiction Editor at Biblioasis, he lives in Ottawa with his wife, Myrna.

Caroline Adderson is a Vancouver-based author of five novels and two collections of short stories. Her work has received numerous award nominations including two Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes, the Governor General’s Literary Award, and the Rogers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Her awards include three BC Book Prizes, three CBC Literary Awards, and a National Magazine Award Gold Medal for Fiction.

Kristyn Dunnion has authored six books, most recently Stoop City (Biblioasis, 2020). Her short fiction appears in Best Canadian Stories 2020, Toronto 2033, Orca, and the Tahoma Literary Review. Dunnion was raised in Essex County, the southern-most tip of Canada, and currently lives in Toronto.

Cynthia Flood’s stories have won numerous awards, including The Journey Prize and a National Magazine Award. Her novel Making A Stone Of The Heart was nominated for the City of Vancouver Book Prize, and her acclaimed short story collections include Red Girl Rat Boy (2013) which was shortlisted for the BC Book Prizes’ fiction award. She lives in Vancouver’s West End.

Shaena Lambert’s fiction has been nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and the Frank O’Connor Award for the Short Story, and have appeared in publications including Best Canadian Stories and The Journey Prize Anthology. Lambert lives in Vancouver.

Elise Levine is the author of Say This: Two Novellas, This Wicked Tongue, the novels Blue Field and Requests and Dedications, and the story collection Driving Men Mad. Originally from Toronto, she lives in Baltimore, MD, where she teaches in the MA in Writing program at Johns Hopkins University.

Kathy Page is the author of eight novels, including Dear Evelyn, winner of the 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Award for Fiction and the Butler Book Prize. Her short fiction collections, Paradise & Elsewhere (2014) and The Two of Us (2016), were both nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Born in the UK, she moved with her family to Salt Spring Island in 2001.


Praise for John Metcalf

“His talent is generous, hectoring, huge, and remarkable.”The Washington Post

“John Metcalf has written some of the very best stories ever published in this country.”—Alice Munro

“In the past few decades, Canada has won a reputation as a prolific producer of high-quality short stories. Alice Munro, Mavis Gallant and John Metcalf are among those who have proven themselves masters of the difficult form.”Maclean’s

“A master stylist confidently at work in his favoured form.”The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature: Second Edition

“… show-stopping prose.”—Caroline Adderson

“Hilarious, touching and delightful … brilliant concision and understated humor.”Los Angeles Times


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400 Pages
8.25in * 5.30in * .87in


September 20, 2016





Book Subjects:

FICTION / General



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