As the cover of Daniel Perry's new short story collection, Hamburger, suggests, the workaday life can be a grind. In this list, Perry finds several other characters who are part of that grind and who stand in solidarity with the disgruntled employees of CanLit that appear in his own book.
Maybe it has to do with being a writer who nine-to-fives to survive, but most characters in my stories build at least part of their identities around their jobs... or more precisely, how much they don't like their jobs. Below are some of their CanLit kindreds.
The Big Dream, by Rebecca Rosenblum
The opening story, "Dream Big," tells us about the company where the stories' characters work: Clint's probationary contract has expired, he's still going to work, but no one's told him whether he's been hired full-time or not... and he's got a toothache for the ages that the company benefits plan would really help fix.
Also in this collection: "How to Keep Your Day Job," a darkly funny and thoroughly uninspiring instruction manual that was adapted into this short film.
Stripmalling, by Jon Paul Fiorentino
"I always had trouble with jocks and ex-jocks like [my manager, Mr.] Stubler. They treated everyone the way their coaches treated them. It was a kind of 'eyes on the prize'/'in it to win it' mentality. And since there was no prize in the life of a gas jockey, it was very hard to buy in."
Barney’s Version, by Mordecai Richler
As a producer at the CBC, Barney Panofsky utterly reviles the Canadian content he's stuck working on, and he's never one to hold back: "I took a call from Serge Lacroix, that Cahiers du Cinéma aficionado who was directing a McIver of the RCMP episode for me. Serge's notion of art was to cross-cut from our bare-chested male lead sinking to a polar bear rug with his lady love... I was so ill-tempered that only exacerbated the problems. Our soi-disant male lead did not take kindly to my telling him in front of the crew, which was unforgivable, that unless he stopped camping on camera he would be replaced. Then I told that no-talent bimbo who was our female lead that there was more to acting, even in such a piece of shit, than jiggling her tits, and she fled the set in tears."
The Miracles of Ordinary Men, by Amanda Leduc
Sam and Lilah are suffering in a lot of different ways, but this is a novel in which you feel the daily grind, the having to get up the next day and do it all again. Sam is a disenchanted high school teacher, while Lilah's boss is a Grade-A creep. Their parallel disenchantments can't help but intersect.
Waiting for the Man, by Arjun Basu
The protagonist, Joe, just walks away one day. Adventure ensues. All us working stiffs get fascinated and jealous.
Stanley Park, by Timothy Taylor
Jeremy has had enough of the Vancouver restaurant scene: he wants to not just defeat his competitors and critics, but humiliate them. And teaming up with an unscrupulous Canadian Tire cash manager sends the plan into overdrive…
Hamburger, by Daniel Perry
A museum security guard who would rather be a cop; a nomadic bartender unsure what she's looking for; a banker who's getting ahead but may be losing himself; a landscaper for the only doctor in a small town; a writer who can't make a living without having to teach writing; an exploited nanny; disgruntled, aimless office drones; a bricklayer whose father is dying. These are the people you meet in Hamburger.
Daniel Perry is the author of the short fiction collections Hamburger and Nobody Looks That Young Here. His stories have appeared in The Dalhousie Review, Exile: The Literary Quarterly, The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, SubTerrain, Riddle Fence, Little Fiction, and other magazines, as well as the anthologies Hearing Voices,The Lion and the Aardvark and CVC Book Two. Originally from small-town Southwestern Ontario, Dan obtained a Master of Arts degree from the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto, and has lived in that city since 2006.