“The short story is an intense, passionate love affair," says Katherine Fawcett, "... the author damn well better make each fleeting moment count.”
April 03rd, 2020
Her second collection, The Swan Suit, contains a story called “East O” in which we are introduced to the last egg to hang out in East Ovary. We discover how eggs pass their time while they await their turn to go down the chute.
The Swan Suit by Katherine Fawcett (Douglas & McIntyre $22.95)
Review by Cherie Thiessen
In the title story, “The Swan Suit,” we get to know a troll, a few witches and a remarkable black cat called Thunder who communicates with the witches. Pass the time with the beautiful maiden who emerges from her swan suit for a daily dip, just don’t fall in love with her.
And while we’re on the subject of love, in “The Devil and Miss Nora” we wonder if the devil can really be so easily fooled by the coy marketing skills of an attractive woman.
In “Ham,” Fawcett also introduces us to Ham. His Chinny-Chin-Chin ‘natural foods’ enterprise has paid off. And now this porcine protagonist is about to make dumpster diving his next commercial venture.
Diverse as these characters or creatures are, all Fawcett’s stories share an affinity of liveliness, inventiveness and quirkiness. It’s not all sweetness and light.
In “Nasal Cannula,” we hang out with Carmen and her ailing father, Anton, master of the corniest jokes you ever heard. Although this story resonates with real-life dilemmas (those heart-rending decisions about what to do when ageing parents can’t live independently anymore and don’t want to recognize it), there are smiles along the way, too.
Still darker… in “Crumble,” we seemingly become acquainted with an abused wife and mother, Karina, as well as her diary entries, her friend, and her two children whom she is trying to protect. Readers may experience a chill as the story unzips to reveal another Karina.
Fawcett’s characters and plots may seem whimsical with fairy-tale characters like Rapunzel and the Three Little Pigs — but invariably there are transformations afoot. A swan becomes a maiden and then a wolf. A man steps out of his skin to become a sheep on a day when his hot shot mother is craving lamb.
These stories all are zany and fun — until they’re not.
Whereas stories such as “The Swan Suit” made me laugh out loud and “The Devil and Miss Nora” had me smiling, “Nasal Cannula” cut to the bone and “Crumble” made me shudder.
“The Pull of Old Rat Creek” appeared in Exile‘s annual short fiction anthology. “Happy?” appeared in Grain. “Maternal Instinct of Witches”, “What the Cat Coughed Up”, “Mary Wonderful’s New Grimoire” and “Fluidity” (under the title “Warm Fluids”) were published in Pique.
Katherine Fawcett describes short fiction in terms of “one-night stands.”
In a blog called ‘Why Short Stories Matter,’ she writes, “The short story is an intense, passionate love affair. Every word counts; every sentence must be perfect and purposeful. It is a narrative that won’t last — the author damn well better make each fleeting moment count.”
The title story, “The Swan Suit”, makes its first appearance here whereas some of the other stories have appeared in other publications. It’s a good story to head up the anthology because it contains elements that comprise her distinctive style: humour, disguises, fantasy, fate, irony and sudden intakes of breath.
“It was also one of the most fun to write,” Fawcett told BookWorld, “I like how The Swan Suit takes on the concept of attraction, betrayal, truth, beauty, transformation and identity. These are all concepts that are explored further in other stories.”
Born in Montreal, raised in Calgary, Fawcett now lives in Squamish and has taught music in Whistler. The University of Calgary graduate has also played violin with the Sea to Sky Orchestra. She has lived in Japan, Canmore and Yellowknife before coming to B.C.
“I like the ‘what if?’ prompt,” she says of how she begins her stories. “I like to take things to the extreme.”
Fawcett is now playing around with writing a novel based on the idea of the various ways we are held prisoner, and what it may take to become free. “But I’m constantly distracted by shiny things that I like to polish into short stories,” she says. “At this rate, a novel could take a long, long time.
“I think short fiction will always be my first love. I like the freedom, beauty, fun and intensity of a short story. A novel is a big commitment — for both reader and writer. Of course, this is a wonderful, rewarding commitment that can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. But if a book is a month, a short story is a day, a slice, and an opportunity; something to be shared around a campfire.
“There’s an intensity — hopefully a kind of breathlessness in such sharing.”
All photos by Anastasia Chormlack.