Today’s announcement of Megan Gail Coles winning the ReLit Award for a book of short stories makes this her 4th award win for the same book this year: The Winterset, the John & Margaret Savage First Book Award, the Writers’ Trust’s 5×5 award, and now the ReLit.
Canada’s ReLit awards honour the book of Canadian-owned independent publishers, and there’s three award categories: Best Novel, best Book of Shorts, Best Book for Poetry. This year’s poetry winner was Sina Queyras Mxt, and this year’s novel award went to Andrew Kaufman’s The Tiny Wife.
Her linked short stories in Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome nail every aspect of what a good short story is and does. Characters, for instance, are the crux of this breed of lively, unrestrained short fiction, and the cast in this book are endearing, gut-busting, and memorably real.
We’re talking about people who choose to see robbing med school students as “class readjustment” or a mother who does not like her three year old “pervert” son. “Oatmeal in his nose. Dunking my cellphone in his orange juice … I definitely don’t want another.”
Another required feature of short stories is for the language itself to shine and pop, line by line, and hers does as well as anyone’s: it’s vibrant, vivacious writing, and never afraid to be desperately, daringly, achingly human, which is the function of a short story: is it capturing something about the human experience?
Every character in the book has their problems, and that’s something this book highlights: we are all starved for more ideal human connections, and we’re all hungry for something just out of reach.
The flair of her writing makes the frailty of human kind more fun than maudlin to read: these stories are full of the snap, crackle, and pop that keeps life — and books — interesting. Coles has the consistently strong and engaging voice of a natural born writer