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Clicking into Place

By Carly Rosalie Vandergriendt

A review of Clicking into Place by Jordan Moffatt

Published on March 23, 2019

Clicking into Place, by writer and improviser Jordan Moffatt, is a different kind of book – it’s a Bad Book, the first fiction title from the micro-press founded by Fawn Parker and Thomas Molander in 2018. The press’s mission is to “broaden the definition of ‘CanLit,’” and Moffatt’s flash fiction collection fits the bill – it’s unlike any CanLit I’ve read in recent memory – but not in the ways I expected.

For one, it’s not an overly political book. It is, on the other hand, a humorous one. In literature, and especially Canadian literature, humour is grossly undervalued – to say nothing of the skill it takes for an author to use humour effectively in writing. Moffat mostly does this well, using absurdity, chatty prose, and uncomplicated characters to make for a breezy read.

Most of the stories in Clicking into Place operate on an offbeat premise that is spelled out in the title, as in “I Wear Plants for Hats,” “My Landlord is a Spider,” or “This Beach is Closed Due to Sand Mutants.” Where ideas are concerned, the author’s experience as an improviser feels apropos. As one of his characters learns in “I’m a Super-Intelligent Bonobo,” saying “yes” to new ideas is the first rule of improv, and Moffatt seems willing to run with almost any idea at all.

Clicking into Place
Jordan Moffatt

Bad Books
$12.00
paper
60pp
9781999530204

As in improv, some ideas land better than others. Among the better is “My Ex-Wife Has Returned as a Horde of Flies,” which strikes a hilarious note when the manager of a seaside crab shack reluctantly agrees to rekindle a relationship with a swarm of flies in the shape of his deceased former spouse, Shania. The morning after the fly swarm sleeps over, he states: “I offered to make eggs and coffee but Shania said she wasn’t hungry and by the way was there anywhere nearby where there’s lots of shit? This was a red flag.”

“Everything Around Me Keeps Turning Into Rocks” is also memorable. In it, a first-person narrator finds himself late for a date with a friend as the fixtures of his world are transformed, in phases, into numerous heaps of stones. In the same vein as Robert Coover’s surrealist “Going for a Beer,” this forward-lurching narrative is delightfully disorienting; a thing is what it is until it suddenly isn’t. When the narrator orders an espresso, for instance, and is served rocks, he tries to “complain to the barista but the barista was just a pile of rocks and the table I’d saved was also a pile of rocks and that’s when I realized I wasn’t at the café at all…” Et cetera.

Most of Moffatt’s characters have millennial sensibilities: they dream of Universal Basic Income, read about lifehacks on the internet, and have names like Dakota and Zandon. In contrast, their emotional register seems on par with that of characters out of a1950s sitcom. There is a cheery wholesomeness to the lessons they learn, such as in “My Great Idea,” where the protagonist feels down after a friend rejects his idea and finds solace in his father’s unconditional support. The story ends with father and son saying “I love you” to each other before they go to bed, and the triteness of the moment feels both deliberate and comical.

Clicking into Place is not a hefty book, neither literally – it’s just over fifty pages long – nor figuratively. Readers looking for a hard-hitting message may not find one, but that seems to be the point. In our increasingly fraught times, Moffatt’s stories offer a brief but pleasant escape. mRb

Carly Rosalie Vandergriendt is a Montreal-based writer whose work has appeared in Journey Prize Stories 30, Humber Literary Review, CVC Short Fiction Anthology, The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, and others. She is currently at work on her first novel. Visit her at carlyrosalie.com.

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