Astoria Imprint Logo

Act Normal

Written by Greg Hollingshead

  • 304 Pages
  • 9781770899711
  • 8" x 5.25"
  • FICTION / Humorous
  • FICTION / Literary
  • FICTION / Short Stories (single author)



Publication Date August 21, 2015

A new collection of short fiction from the Governor General’s Literary Award-winning author and Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Greg Hollingshead.

Act Normal is a collection of sharp, new comic stories about sex, art, and the daily risk of having accidents. Highly original, occasionally dark, but always endearing, these stories are filled with characters who are forced to confront strange behaviour in both themselves and others.

In “The Amazing Insult,” a blow to the head in a boating accident increases a woman’s intelligence and alters her sexual orientation. A man flees a rural meditation camp in for a highway bar in “The Retreat,” where he does his best to get to know a Haitian stripper. A depressed carpenter has to take a break from building his client’s fence in “Unbounded.” In “Night Dreams of the Wise,” a man sleeping with the wife of the British Defense Secretary learns, after a particularly wild night, to stop doing foolish things. A cleric is haunted by the revenant of a member of his diocese in “Miss Buffet.” Nominated for a National Magazine Award, “The Drug-Friendly House,” is the story of a man who attempts to befriend a woman living in a house that the neighbourhood association has labelled “drug friendly.”

Intelligent, insightful, humorous, and occasionally bizarre, Act Normal is a masterful return by Hollingshead to the short story form. Set in the treacherous terrain of the everyday, this collection is about the quest to find love and truth in a broken world.


Greg Hollingshead

Greg Hollingshead has published six books of fiction, including The Roaring GirlThe Healer, and Bedlam. He has won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and been shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Currently professor emeritus at the University of Alberta and director of the Writing Studio at the Banff Centre, in 2011–2012 he served as Chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada, and in 2012 he was awarded the Order of Canada. He lives in Toronto with his wife Rosa Spricer.


"Greg Hollingshead is a sly and nimble writer. He has great range, but even more than that he has access to great feeling, which is evident throughout this surprising and exciting new collection of stories." Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings 

"Every sentence in Act Normal is a surprise. In fact, the stories are the sentences, each one veering into the next shock, until you’re far from the expected territory. Greg Hollingshead gives us what all great short story writers do: the pleasure of breaking with pattern for the wild and strange. I found myself rereading every paragraph, amazed, not wanting to leave behind a single word." Tamas Dobozy, author of Siege 13, winner of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize

"Reading this book is like entering an apparently normal, well-built house only to find that it has left the ground and is now floating. Funny, smart, amazingly unpredictable stories by one of this country's finest writers." Gil Adamson, author of The Outlander

"The stories of Greg Hollingshead are utterly unique, utterly strange and utterly exhilarating in their offbeat, offhand brilliance. There is no writer like him in Canada." Lynn Coady, author of Hellgoing, winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize

"The master is back! And wow, what a book: nothing normal here — twelve stunning new stories by the great Greg Hollingshead that will knock you upside the heart and break your head — flush with dizzyingly brilliant insights into the contemporary dilemma, every line is cast in existential magic. Here's a fully-dilated peek into the secret lives of men and women on the brink." Lee Henderson, author of The Man Game