Sex is Red by Bill Gaston

Sex is Red by Bill Gaston

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Trade, 168 pages, 1998

Rating: 7/10

Reason for Reading: I saw it at the library and decided to read it to find out why the library would have two copies of a seemingly-obscure book.

Synopsis: A collection of thirteen stories, Gaston largely deals with people in small town Canada struggling with things such as death, money, and love.

Why you should read this book: Gaston does an excellent job of bringing characters to life in just a few brief pages. The characters are also thrown into intriguing situations, such as an impromptu reunion of two high school buddies years down the road after one man’s daughter has died; a boy who gambles away all of his money to save his girlfriend from her father in a rather unexpected way; and a man determined to save the world from television.

Why you should avoid this book: Gaston’s stories go on innocently enough until the last paragraph or two in a story: then they twist suddenly and you’re left with that uncomfortable high school feeling of, ‘What? Do I have to go analyze the meaning of this now?’ Gaston probably won’t win over any new fans of people who dislike short stories, but his well-drawn characters leave the impression that it would be worth looking into Gaston’s full-length novels.

Opening paragraph:

People said you could build another general store in Burkitts and as long as it had a video gambling machine in it, it would send the owner to Florida every March or April, cabin-fever season. At Lyle Green’s – the government let him have just the one machine – all day there was a line-up waiting for the chance to put a paycheque into it, or a pension into it, or last-will-and-testament money into it, whatever. As Alex’s aunt said, you could hardly see through the cigarette smoke to find yourself to the loafs of bread.

Fabulous quotes:

‘That was like, that was like a carnival in there,’ Tooley said, eating, staring off, shaking his head in wonder. ‘There was so much going on.’

‘There was.’ Marie Ann nodded and finished her wine.
‘I mean, our past. Our friendship kind of mutating on the spot. A wild, wild, new body. Our smells. My stupid, pathetic gratitude. Everything staring us right in the face.’ Tooley looked at her, smiling now but still shaking his head. ‘It was great but it was almost too much.’

‘It was.’ She remembered his wide-open eyes, and she remembered closing hers. During sex she liked darkness.
‘It’s gonna be harder,’ he added, casual as could be, still smiling and still her friend, ‘because the animal part doesn’t forget.’

I’m beginning to have a problem with the Internet. How about you? Defenders tell me it involves reading, but does it? Does it really? A prose style born of board games and want ads! The hiccupping syntax! Fragments in neon! Sexual enticements dangled like bait!

Also recommended: Empire Falls by Richard Russo; Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo.

Also by this author: Midnight Hockey: All About the Beer, the Boys, and the Real Canadian Game; Gargoyles; Sointula; Tall Lives; The Cameraman; Mount Appetite; The Good Body; Deep Cove Stories; North of Jesus’ Beans.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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