Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Jokes

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The Jokes

BookThug, March 2016

From BookThug:

A war veteran has a crisis on a beach. · A woman experiences the stopping of time and is humbled and energized. · A family takes a trip through Virginia. · A college graduate gets a job as a cook on a boat. · A little girl selects a gift for her grandmother. · A little boy has a halting conversation with his parents before he leaves the house. · A woman remembers an affair. · A house is struck by lightning.

We sit, hunched over the words that appear on our smartphone screens, altogether unaware of the story of our lives that is going on around us, even as we focus on the minutiae of our social media “friends'” daily activities. These are the stories that draw our undivided attention, and these are the types of deftly observed, wholly engrossing narratives that make up Stephen Thomas’s debut flash-fiction collection, The Jokes.

Presented in the form of a series of moments in a social media–like ‘feed,’ this collection of very short stories riffs on the form of ‘the joke,’ but as this might be understood by the best culture-critical comedians of our time: Andy Kaufman, Stephen Wright, Norm McDonald, Jon Stewart, Richard Pryor. And much like those stand-up artists who sanctified the joke-form, these stories deal with sometimes-intense subjects, yet with a kind of SSRI-like placidity that allows readers to cling to each word as the narratives unfold.

Sad and funny, hopeful and determined, nostalgic and cerebral, the vignettes in The Jokes offer a very personal, yet amazingly relatable entry-point into some of the big ideas that trouble our times-religion, sexuality, life and death, and ways of being in the world-all while coloured by touches of weird otherworldliness that living in someone else’s social media feed can bring.