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Setting Fire to Water

Author: Phoebe Tsang
ISBN: 9781771872195 Categories: Fiction, Literary, Short Stories (single author) Tags: , ,
Publication Date: 30 May, 2022
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5"

COMING SOON (May 2022)

Shifting restlessly from dark to light and back again, written in lithe, precise prose, the stories in Phoebe Tsang’s debut collection illuminate the lives of those who exist inside otherness.

A young Asian woman, an artistic over-achiever turned drifter, endures a mind-bending night of reckoning as she struggles to find her way “home,” careening between flirtation and thievery, dream and memory. A reality TV star obsesses about the real stain that blemishes the set of her fake, made-for-TV life. A modern fairytale is told from the point of view of a fox having an argument with its enemy, hunger. A heart-broken accountant goes on a pilgrimage to India to get his fire back, and his attempt to attain mercy from the most holy of rivers fizzles like his former fiancée’s tepid devotion.

The seventeen stories in Setting Fire to Water unfold outside the Canadian mainstream, where longing—for home, for love, for artistic achievement, for spiritual fulfillment—is a given, and acceptance—of self, of the know- ability of others, of the limits to knowing—is always in question. Using unconventional storylines and slippages in time and space, these stories explore the mystical possibilities inherent in contemporary life.

From the book:

Last September, Imogen began work on a full-scale, three-dimensional replica of her rented bachelor apartment. The apartment was on the second floor of a seventies-style brown brick building north of campus. The replica was made entirely of corrugated cardboard from boxes Imogen lugged home from the nearby Giant Tiger and liquor store. She cut out and glued cardboard flaps and bent and stapled cardboard trusses. She painted every surface in painstaking, photographic detail with sable-hair brushes and acrylic paint: the gilded frame on a Cézanne poster, the floral print on wrinkled bedsheets, the warped reflections on the stainless-steel kettle.

Her landlord threatened to evict her if she got paint on any of the actual furnishings, though most of them looked like they had been there since the building was constructed.

Her tutor asked if she was making a postmodern comment on Dadaism.

“Umm,” said Imogen, “I’m not sure if my work is really influ- enced by anything—at least, not intentionally, anyway.”

—excerpt from the story “Model Shown Is Actual Size”

About the Author

Phoebe Tsang is a Hong Kong-born Chinese, British, and Canadian poet, author, librettist, and playwright who makes her home in Toronto. She has published a poetry collection, Contents of a Mermaid’s Purse (Tightrope Books, 2009), and her short stories have appeared in Geist, Broken Pencil Magazine, Litro Magazine, Rivet Journal, Asia Literary Review, The Bombay Review, and other places. Her writing is informed by lyricism and rhythmic sense, inherited from her background as a pro- fessional classical violinist. Setting Fire to Water is her debut collection of stories.

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