Victims of Gravity

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The Porcupine's Quill, 1990 - Fiction - 159 pages
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Dayv James-French is an elegant and fastidious writer of stories which disturb yet engage and delight us. Although this is his first book he is already a master of dialogue and silences and his writing compels us to listen carefully.

Reviewing Dayv James-French's work to date in his Toronto Star column `New Voices,' Jason Sherman wrote: `The attraction is James-French's ability to perceive misery without succumbing to it. It is not just that there is humour in his work -- and there is a lot of humour -- it is that there is hope, as well.'

The first story in Victims of Gravity begins: `There's an art to this.' The last ends: `whether or not a story has a happy ending.' In between Dayv James-French reveals a complex world, defined with wit and compassion, where a happy ending is less important than the rewards of the journey to it.

`I never know what to say when I'm asked what a story is ``about''. What's life about? Any synopsis of the stories -- ``An overnight visit to a farm becomes an off-the-wall examination of two solitudes as a married woman tries to isolate the grounds of her emotional dissatisfaction while a gay man drugs himself past his own pain'' (``Cows'') -- sounds grim, as though I were leading the reader to an obvious conclusion; a neatly-tied up epiphany, if not a moral. Instead, I'm trying to convince readers of their own experience, its authenticity, and assure them that someone is paying attention.'

`Even the ``Dave'' stories aren't entirely about me. An image, a remembered scrap of conversation, a personal emotional response I have to examine because of its inappropriateness; those are starting points. I obsess for weeks before I find my way into a story. More than a few times I've had to abandon a story after ten or twelve pages because I couldn't love the characters enough. At the same time, I don't -- can't -- make them fit into my obsessions. All of these stories remained unfinished until the characters surprised me.'

Dayv James-French has a sharp little eye focused on the telling details of modern life, and an excellent ear for the nuances of conversation and silence. In his stories, the most mundane situations become illuminating; they are heightened to the level of objective correlatives. Dialogue becomes a kind of poetry of the banal. His characters are often unable to hear what is spoken to them, listening as they are to the voices of their own histories. What seems random and coincidental is carefully fitted into biographies of striking psychological accuracy. For all the very real horrors of loss and betrayal suffered by the characters, the stories shine with a hopeful optimism that might be called wisdom.

`Life is randomly cruel and unforgiving. But we are at our most hilarious when we are passionately involved in pretending it isn't. Luckily for us, the peak of emotional intensity is followed by a moment of silence and, in that moment, we can choose to be dignified instead of ridiculous. In my fiction, I try to work towards that moment. Every so often I discover that being ridiculous is the better choice. At least, it can be the more honest choice.'


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Ground Cover
The Day J Edgar Hoover Died
Swans and Rabbits
Victims of Gravity

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About the author (1990)

Dayv James-French was born on Prince Edward Island and has lived in most Canadian provinces as well as spending time in the British Isles, Europe and the Middle East. He graduated from Carleton University and studied writing at the University of Victoria. He currently resides in Ottawa.

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