301 Moved Permanently

301 Moved Permanently


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People Who Disappear

Listening to the radio yesterday, I learned that each time a memory is recalled it actually becomes less distinct, ever so slightly diminished, as if the act of remembering is simultaneously a parallel act of forgetting. Alex Leslie’s collection of short stories People Who Disappear captures the sharpness and detail of early and intimate memories at the same time that it allows them to slowly, carefully, recede. Leslie’s is a beautiful collection firmly set on the West Coast, in and around and oftentimes returning to the bustle and “packed-in smoke” of Vancouver. The stories move between first and third person voices, be it the intimate confessional tone of “The Coast is a Road,” which looks closely (sometimes uncomfortably so) at the development of a growing, shifting, and traveling relationship; or the keen, yet removed, observations of adolescence and burgeoning sexuality in “The Bodies of Others.”
A standout tale in the collection is “Face,” which recounts with sparse dialogue and deft economy of language, the discovery of bones beneath a recently bulldozed house in suburban Vancouver. The story highlights Canada’s fraught history of colonialism and aboriginal relations, placing it squarely in conversation with modern concerns of immigration and ballooning real estate prices. “Birdsong drilled holes in the clawing of the bulldozers,” Leslie cleverly writes, maneuvering the tension between nature and machine with an astuteness and cheeky shiftiness that is indicative of her style throughout the collection. More hauntingly, however, than humans’ relationship to nature, is our relationships to each other; “Face” begs the question of whose deaths are worth mourning and whose histories are worth telling in contemporary capitalist society? People Who Disappear has it all, from sex to oil spills, YouTube to paper art projects, and approaches these topics with a varied and wise voice not to be forgotten. Remember that.

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