About this book
The Old World and Other Stories
These thirty-five brief stories — and the found photographs that inspired them — are by turns realistic and surreal, bloody and tender, delightful and appalling. Award-winning author Cary Fagan has created a mesmerizing series of narrative tales, giving readers a vivid peek into lives of strangers.
A man hangs onto a runaway horse. A woman paints in the nude. A shop window advertising a sale on blankets hides much more behind it. A lone tombstone on a hill speaks of a years-long feud. The stories — capturing portraits, objects, moments in time — while dizzyingly varied, form a single image that, in the words of the author, "belong to one history, found in an album that might belong to any of us."
Deftly marrying vision and language with memory and imagination, Fagan paints an intimate portrait of forgotten lives that is profound, generous, and highly entertaining.
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 has won the Vicky Metcalf Award, the Jewish Book Award and the IODE Jean Throop Book Award, and his books have been nominated for the Rogers Trust Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, the Silver Birch Award, the Norma Fleck Award and the Rocky Mountain Book Award. He is the author of several popular short novels and picture books, including Danny, Who Fell in a Hole and A Cage Went in Search of a Bird (illustrated by Banafsheh Erfanian). The Old World, his recent collection of adult short stories, was published by Anansi in March 2017.
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