This Cake is for the Party: Stories

This Cake Is for the Party: Stories - Sarah Selecky A lot of readers think of short stories like the crumbs on the cover image of Sarah Selecky’s stories: short stories are what’s left behind when a writer couldn’t make something whole out of an idea, couldn’t serve it properly on a plate. For these readers, short stories are failed novels, forever in a wanna-be state. And these readers will be disappointed in Sarah Selecky’s stories. (But I doubt they would have picked up the collection anyhow, despite its Giller-nomination.)

Readers who recognize the short story form on its own terms? Readers who seek out stories by Alice Munro, Colm Tóibín, and Lorrie Moore? Readers who identify a storytelling arc even when the action is primarily internal? These readers will appreciate the ten stories in this debut collection.

Will they enjoy them? Well, that’s something else entirely. Many of the characters in this collection are damaged. Some of them are actually broken, like the shattered plate on the collection’s cover. And several inhabit the margins of chaos that somebody close to them is experiencing.

The stories’ structures are uncomplicated (with the occasional “here we are now, but here’s what you’ve missed” framework, and with one epistolary story). And the prose is straightforward. But the the emotional territory that the collection covers is fraught, pervasive and extreme.

Still, This Cake is for the Party is an accomplished and impressive collection. The prose is finely-tuned and exacting. I would ask for another helping of these “crumbs” and find them as satisfying as many a meal.

My longer review appears here, with some discussion of individual stories, if you're keen to read more.