About this book
The Old World and Other Stories
Stirred by a series of found photographs, critically acclaimed author Cary Fagan brilliantly imagines the lost stories behind them in this dazzling story collection.
Many years ago the photographs in this book became separated from their original owners, faces unrecognized, settings a mystery. They floated through this world, as if on a sorrowful wind… I have given them stories to replace the ones they have lost.
So begins the bewitching new collection from acclaimed author Cary Fagan, and a journey into a world that is both achingly familiar and wonderfully strange. A man hangs onto a runaway horse. A woman paints in the nude. A child sparks a revolution. These stories, each inspired by a found photograph, are by turns realistic and surreal, bloody and tender, delightful and appalling.
Here are stories that playfully vary in technique and form: monologues, dialogues, interviews, letters, transcripts, tall tales, and capsule histories form a single portrait, belonging — in the words of the author — “to one history, found in an album that might belong to any of us.” Fagan paints a portrait of re-imagined lives that is comic and tragic, profound and unforgettable. The beauty, humour, and the horror of days gone by haunt these pages and resonate in the world we find ourselves in today.
It was the first adult party I ever held, although we weren’t really adults, not quite. It was the end of high school, when everything would change and we all knew it and so I desperately wanted to mark it in some way — not by getting drunk at the lake, or racing in some boy’s car, or just with the graduation ceremony and the dance that would follow.
I wanted a party of my own, where people would act civilized and talk about interesting things and see in ourselves the women and men we were about to become.
At least that’s how I see it now, all these decades later, when I’d be surprised if a stranger could look at me and see the girl I was then. I wanted a new pretty hairstyle and shoes with heels and to greet people at the door and play records and eat finger sandwiches and say “Do you remember five years ago when we were kids?” and “I think politics is a worthwhile career” and “Don’t you agree that Nat King Cole was a better pianist than a singer?” I wanted to make a list of who I wanted to come, and who I felt obliged to ask, and revise it over and over, and spend evenings sewing my new dress with my mother nearby to help with the hard parts. I wanted to spend the afternoon of the party in the kitchen with my two best friends, Matilda and Elizabeth, cutting up celery and making dips and laughing as we spread icing on the cake that would be cut into squares. I wanted to beg my father to let us have punch, something with a little alcohol in it, and he would pretend to be scandalized (as if he didn’t know that everyone drank) but finally give in and then insist on making it himself because nobody could possibly make punch like he could.
And I wanted every moment, every second of the party, to be vivid and alive and for it to go past midnight when my friends would help me clean up and then Dad would drive them home and after I would lie in bed, absolutely unable to sleep, smiling about something I said, or somebody else said, or how that drink got spilled and people bent to clean it up and how grown up everyone acted and how full my heart was, not with being scared as it had been for weeks now but with a most wonderful, wonderful feeling.
About the Author
Cary Fagan is an award-winning author of books for children and adults. He has won the Vicky Metcalf Award for Children’s Literature, the Jewish Book Award, the IODE Jean Throop Book Award and the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, among others. His many books include the picture book A Cage Went in Search of a Bird, illustrated by Banafsheh Erfanian (“An original and thought-provoking exploration of the rhythms of friendship —Kirkus, starred review) and the short novel The Hollow Under the Tree, an Ontario Library Association Best Bet. Cary lives with his family in Toronto.
Awards and Praise
Praise for Cary Fagan and The Old World and Other Stories:
"I absolutely loved this collection of very short stories inspired by a series of wonderful found photographs. Cary Fagan has a real ear for dialogue and a way of making each perfectly formed vignette surprising, whether that’s taking a surreal turn in ‘We Have to Be Careful,’ introducing the macabre in ‘Who I’ve Come For,’ or quietly breaking my heart, in ‘Where We Are Now.’" — Claire Fuller, author of Swimming Lessons
"What a dazzlingly imaginative thing to do — Cary Fagan has taken a group of orphaned photographs from the past and turned them into a cabinet of wonders! Inventive, satisfying, and deft, The Old World gets right to the heart of the storytelling craft." — Marni Jackson, author of Don’t I Know You?
"Charming, funny, and sad." — The National Post
"This is Fagan at the top of his game." — The Canadian Jewish News
"Clever and funny." — Quill and Quire
"Inspired by a trove of found photographs, this new collection of short fiction by the Toronto author embarks on flights of fancy both marvellous and macabre." — Readers Digest Canada
"Fagan's clever and wide-ranging stories put the act of imagining front and center." — Kirkus Reviews