Russell Wangersky does it all, and has won considerable award recognition for his novels, non-fiction, journalism, and short stories.
His latest literary release is a book of short stories that collectively tackle “the concept of passive aggression in our everyday lives: ordinary people who are quietly, desperately, and indirectly trying to impose their will on the uncaring world around them.” It’s called The Path of Most Resistance.
The opening story, titled “Rage,” explores how the monotonous routine of a job can make your life feel anchored. Some of us feel our job gets in the way of living; Ian in the story feels quite the opposite: his work kept him too busy to know what he was missing out on in life. Until a bit of news rocks that boat and crashes him into confronting a disappointment.
“Armenia” is the story of a man’s intoxicating relationship with a mysterious woman and the mouldy home they share whose fungal spores might be physically suffocating them as much as their relationship is figuratively suffocating them. The story addresses how little we know of the secret mental worlds of our partners.
Stand-out story “Bide Awhile” has a foreboding start, tension, taut writing, pace, and a sense of impending doom – everything a reader needs to be hooked. The story also demonstrates how quickly things might go wrong if we – just once – forget to do one of our menial daily tasks. In this case, lock the door, so your daughter with a penchant for getting lost can’t get out.
Other stories include tales of the lone overnight reporter at a media outlet, who’s embittered he doesn’t get the more exciting daily reporter gigs. The man is relaying to us why he’s a better person than his colleagues, while creepily breaking into their desks at night. It’s a piece that taps into the way professional dissatisfaction can mar our lives. Love what you do, because you don’t wanna be one of Wangersky’s people.
The neighbour who brings you unsolicited double-doubles: what’s his true intention? That’s the basis of “Snow.” What does it say about the narrator to be skeptical? Why are these two men in silent competition about being the first to have their driveway snowblowed after a storm?
It’s a good read, but there is an occasional hint of under-development in some stories, which feels surprising from such a masterful writer. They don’t feel like deficits in his obvious talents, but imply Wangersky might be rushing his writing these days. These minor criticisms are moot though, given that an occasionally glitched Wangersky short is still better than what most writers can muster. And the book will certainly make you ponder and check your own deep-rooted disappointments.
All the stories in the book unearth the things hidden just barely under the surface of our daily lives, the things we batten down within us to get by, the kinds of things often hinted at in passive aggressive comments to a lover, or on the tips of bitten tongues between colleagues. Whether it’s for better or worse that we rarely unearth these things isn’t for the book to say. It’s merely the un-talked-about fodder Wangersky stirs up for his readers to mull over.