Today, we follow the tracks of award-winning poet Jen Currin’s first work of fiction, the short story collection Hider/Seeker (Anvil Press). These stories take us over hill and dale, and what’s left to seek is human struggle and existence, rendered beautifully through Currin’s poetic turns of phrase.
What:Hider/Seeker (Anvil Press, 2018)Who:Jen Currin is an award-winning poet (Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry, Finalist for the 2015 Dorothy Livesay, Pat Lowther, and ReLit Awards). Hider/Seeker is her first collection of short fiction. She lives on the unceded territories of the Qayqayt Nation (New Westminster, BC, a suburb of Vancouver), and teaches creative writing and English at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.Why you need to read this now:In the Pacific Northwest, or on the West Coast, the border between Canada and the US can sometimes seem like a mere formality, or at least it used to. The stories in Hider/Seekerget at, with surprising detail, some of the differences in place and culture between North and South, East and West. The subtle difference between Vancouver and Portland, or even within the same city the neighbourhoods and subgroups that can seem worlds apart. Currin’s poetic abilities shine in her descriptions of the minute, but all these tiny specifics add up to the even more compelling and universal hiding and seeking that is common to us all.Each of Currin’s stories is like a mini-meditation on the modern condition of existence. Spanning from the mythical to the fabulist, from the mundane to the magic, a collection like this lets you dip in and out of worlds with the flip of a page. The first story opens on Commercial Drive at a bar called The Charlatan, with characters you’ll recognize from your local hipster dive, the reader is confronted with the idea that looks can be deceiving, “They looked like any other East Van Hipsters, looked like they’d have fairly decent politics.” In the next story we’re transported up the mountain and into the world of monks, monasteries and meditation: a common seeker story with an unexpected twist (you will have to wait until the last story of the collection to be rewarded… patience as a virtue codified in form?).That’s the thing about this collection, you’ll probably recognize the characters, you might know them intimately, or embarrassingly recognize something of yourself in them, because, as a reader, you are probably also a seeker, and as a human, you are probably tempted at times to hide parts of yourself, and all of this can be funny and sad and heartwarming and heartbreaking. Currin embraces these moments full on, leading you into the spaces in between: the ignorant brother who is also struggling with an addiction, the pain of heartbreak (each and every time: “love turns us all into teenagers”), couples and singles fighting and longing and loving, girls and women and also that time before and after: amidst. Currin’s stories are modern fables: mythical creatures dressed up in human clothing, parallel narratives in the margins of self-help books: new age seeking and age-old hiding.X plus Y:Hider/Seeker is that quirky new show on Netflix where each episode is about different characters but their stories somehow intersect, mixed with the Zen sensibility and writerly know-how of Natalie Goldberg.
* * *Thanks a million to Cara at Anvil for this impassioned take on Hider/Seeker. For more debut fiction, click here.