The work of internationally published Canadian novelist, poet and short story writer Steven Heighton has received numerous awards including the Gerald Lampert Award (best first book of poetry); the 2010 K.M. Hunter Award (literature); four gold medals for fiction and for poetry in the National Magazine Awards; the Air Canada Award; the 2011 P.K. Page Founders’ Award for Poetry; and, in Britain, the Petra Kenney Prize.
His newest story collection, The Dead Are More Visible, will be published this spring, and has been tagged by the National Post as “One of the most anticipated books of the year.”
About his contribution to Dr. Johnson’s scrutiny, Heighton says:
“It’s a short outtake from The Dead Are More Visible, in the sense that it’s the beginning of a story that I didn’t go on with. Though rereading it just now, I found myself getting interested in the two main characters and wanting to know what might happen next (I had no plan in that regard — I never do — I let every story grow in its own direction, sentence by sentence, page by page).
She’d always hated summer—hated the way sensuous life, discreetly encased through the winter months and the raw spring, now shamelessly reaffirmed itself, exposing itself in the streets and parks and cafes and even the stores and offices, people’s features no longer drawn tight against the wind, their gait now affably sedated, faces upturned to the light, lips seeming plumper, teeth whiter.
It was all illusory, of course. Now, mid-July, the sun was already a month into its annual strategic retreat. And in fact folks here all recognized summer as a deceptive, fleeting aberration, a kind of meteorological confidence trick. They seemed happy enough to play along with it. Soon enough this seasonal Ponzi scheme would collapse, but for now they would turn a blind eye and refill their glasses with light, unserious lagers and gorgeously coral-pink rosé.
Anouk hated the bubble of summer not because she was a lonely, timid, unfulfilled figure—a wraithlike Judith Hearne living an encrypted little life, terrified of the season’s communal, hormonal upsurge. On the contrary. She was a genial, generous sensualist distinguished among her friends by her uncanadian (as she liked to put it) nature. Anouk of the North, acquaintances sometimes called her, ironically, because she seemed anything but. The name is French and she played the Provencal Frenchness to the hilt, though in fact she spoke the language—her mother’s—worse than imperfectly and, as for culture, she preferred German novelists, Italian films, and Thai food.
Anouk hated summer because it made her look less exceptional.
She was more revered than loved; friends craved her approval more than they approved of her. In fact they fundamentally distrusted her, but—for reasons their boyfriends, husbands, and other, uninvolved female friends could not fathom, or chose not to—they found it impossible to break up with her. Nobody dropped Anouk. Anouk, on the contrary, fired friends, usually after thrillingly theatrical public scenes that everyone secretly relished—even, after a period of grieving, the victim herself.
Anouk’s friend Mila felt no more capable of dropping her than did the other members of their circle. But now it seemed essential that she do it—that she submit her “I quit” before receiving her “you’re fired.”
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