Available May 2020
The End of Me
56 very short stories about death by the author of Kilter, finalist for the Giller Prize.
The End of Me is an astonishing set of sudden stories that explores the experience of mortality. With an ear attuned to the uncanny and the ironic, John Gould catches his characters at moments of illumination as they encounter the dark mystery of their finite being.
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A marooned astronaut bonds with a bereft cat; kids get caught pelting a funeral procession with plums; a woman’s dreams swarm with victims of the new age of extinction; a young girl ponders the brief brutality of her last life, and braces herself for the next one.
Rife with invention, with fresh ideas and arresting voices, this collection of flash fiction — funny, sad, absurd — draws from the imponderable a great compassion and vitality.
John Gould is the author of The End of Me and of two previous collections of very short stories – including Kilter, a finalist for the Giller prize and a Globe and Mail Best Book – and the novel Seven Good Reasons Not to Be Good, described by the Vancouver Sun as “a marvel of delicacy, depth and insight.” His fiction has appeared in literary periodicals across the country and abroad, and been adapted for film. He’s worked as an environmental researcher, tree planter, and carpenter.
As an arts administrator he created and coordinated writing programs for the BC Festival of the Arts and the Victoria School of Writing, and was a member of the collective that founded the Victoria Writers Festival. Gould is a freelance editor and nonfiction writer. He taught for years in the Department of Writing at the University of Victoria, where he also served on the editorial board of the Malahat Review. He lives on unceded Lekwungen territory in Victoria, BC.
“Gould brings to his questing universe a witty, cold eye, and a deep compassion for our floundering absurdities. There are big ideas in these 55 small packets – about meaning, godlessness, time. Gould’s achievement is to weave them into a collective tableau of what he calls ‘finite creatures haunted by infinite aspirations.’ Kilter, at once quiet and terribly ambitious, funny and moving, is a keeper.”
– Martin Levin, The Globe & Mail
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Finalist for the Giller Prize
Winner of the Mary Scorer Award
A Globe and Mail Best Book
What can a story do in the time it takes to listen to a pop song or a news flash? This is the question asked and answered by Kilter, a collection of 55 highly charged tales about the modern search for meaning and connection. A young woman puzzles over the identity of her lost brother; a husband cites a sixteenth-century portrait to explain his lover to his wife; a dead man laments the suicide note he failed to write…
“The title of John Gould’s collection of very short stories alerts us to the startling nature of his fictional sophistication and its disturbing power… Often hilarious, occasionally sad, and always ambiguously intimate, the enormous inventiveness of these 55 fictions offers the reader an emotional and intellectual gourmet feast.”
– Giller Prize Jury
“Words in Gould’s collection are like those boxing gloves in cartoons that are attached to springs. They pop out and give you a good whacking if you’re not careful. … Gould is a talented writer who sketches character deftly and sets up his elements of dramatic conflict and pathos with such flair that most readers will find it hard to stop reading.”
– Philip Marchand, The Toronto Star
“John Gould toys exquisitely with order, chaos and almost everything in between in our contemporary, middle-class, post-9/11 lives. … His voices are remarkably genuine, his characters richly described and lively, and the issues he explores provocative. That’s Gould’s genius.”
– Sandy Naiman, The Toronto Sun
“Through prose that is smart, insightful, and often wise, Gould tackles themes and philosophical ideas that would stymie lesser writers. Each fiction offers a multitude of pleasures, affecting both the head and the heart in a mixture of familiar subjects and offbeat twists.”
– Corey Redekop, The Winnipeg Free Press
“There’s a Raymond Carver-like concision and irony to these yarns. They are crafted with tremendous precision, each word selected for optimum power and beauty. Like a poet, Gould writes with miserly economy and utmost forethought.”
– Adrian Chamberlain, The Victoria Times Colonist
“Gould’s fictions manage to combine the compression of poetry with the narrative drive of fiction, creating whole worlds in a few deft strokes and just as deftly bringing them to sharp, often startling resolutions. These are unique pieces from a unique voice, quick and thrilling to read but staying with you long afterwards.”
– Nino Ricci, author of The Origin of Species
“John Gould’s stories are small in the way nests are small. Or globes, or hearts, or irony. He is a unique and most valuable writer.”
– Bill Gaston, author of The Good Body
“Sound bites, fast takes, these quirky stories are bewildering and beautiful. They remind me of Raymond Carver’s stories of edgy loss, except these have the added touch of both humor and panic.”
– Patrick Lane, author of Red Dog, Red Dog
“Knocking the cosmos off kilter is what John Gould does in this wonderful collection. His stories are a clear-eyed testament to all the heart-achey miracles that are our lives. Lively, funny, yearning, awe-filled, transformative – it’s all here, and in spades.”
– M.A.C. Farrant, author of Down the Road to Eternity
“As with Chekhov’s sketches, John Gould’s brief fictions contain bits of comedy and pathos, sharp characters, and poignant studies of the dreams and follies of the heart. Gould’s style—a blend of cockiness and élan—is original and thrilling. Smart, sexy, and masterful, these piercing one-acts fabulously invoke the comic-tragedy of contemporary domestic life.”
– David Biespiel, author of Wild Civility
“Shortness as Shape in John Gould’s Kilter: 55 Fictions” by Neta Gordon in The Journal of the Short Story in English
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Publisher’s page, US edition:
Seven Good Reasons Not to Be Good
“A marvel of delicacy, depth and insight. . . . This is a damn-near perfect book.”
– Robert Wiersema, Vancouver Sun.
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Seven Good Reasons Not to Be Good opens with a cryptic postcard from Matt to his oldest friend, Zane. It’s the opening move in a bid to save Zane’s life. Zane is determined to die – for “good” – and Matt’s heading home from Vancouver to Toronto to talk him out of it. Matt is also keen to make contact with his father before the old man disappears entirely into the colourful world of his own dementia. With Matt’s marriage in tatters and his career as a movie critic gone sideways, it’s clearly time for this trip, so he can save his friend, wave off his dad and maybe find something of himself he lost long ago.
In this piercingly funny and wise novel, John Gould treats mortality, morality and modernity with equal parts empathy and wit. His prose dazzles even as it reveals the story’s complex heart: the imperfect art of letting go.
“There is a complex plot at the heart of Seven Good Reasons Not To Be Good, but Gould has filled the pages with such familiar-feeling characters that the story flows along almost effortlessly. … Seven Good Reasons Not To Be Good proves that John Gould is not just a great short story writer, he is simply a great writer.”
– Colin Holt, Victoria Times Colonist
“In his debut novel, the follow-up to 2003’s Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated story collection Kilter: 55 Fictions, John Gould delivers punch after emotional punch, pulling readers into his characters’ manic and often tragic lives.”
– Chelsea Murray, Quill & Quire
“An insightful and humourous examination of human foibles, placed within a plot that always entertains and oftentimes zigs where a zag was expected. … Anyone who enjoys a good story well-told will be well-satisfied.”
– Corey Redekop, Shelf Monkey
“At once heady and humorous, this is a book contemplating what it is to be alive.”
– Amy Reiswig, Focus
“In a computer-driven age in which everyone pounds away at the keyboard, Gould’s writing is extraordinarily thoughtful and contemplative – like a monk meditating in the middle of Times Square.”
– Adrian Chamberlain, Victoria Times Colonist
The Kingdom of Heaven
“This is one of the best and most fascinating books I have read in recent years. The stories are miraculously pointed, some of them fables, some of them poems and some of them small echoing plays. The language is precise and the different points of view beautifully clear. What more can one say?”
– Robin Skelton, author of Zuk
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The Kingdom of Heaven is a book of eighty-eight short tales and fables about the ironies of modern life. These pieces are as precise and direct as haiku, yet possess as much depth and richness of thought as condensed novels. Quick and complex, mysterious, witty, sad, and bizarre, Gould’s stories explore the cryptic mysteries of modernity with startling clarity and grace.
“To open this collection at any page is to let yourself into the playfully serious, logically loony world of Gould’s imagination, a world populated with folks you know; as puzzled by life’s paradoxes as the rest of us. Like so many shards of glass, each of these eighty-eight short fictions refracts the reader’s perception in a unique way. The author’s mind is a hall of mirrors that entertains and enchants. Come on in.”
– Rhonda Batchelor, author of Weather Report
Alberta filmmaker Corey Lee of enriquePoe Moving Pictures adapted three of John’s stories (with John serving as script consultant and/or co-writer) for a series of short films entitled The Kilter Trilogy.