Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1968, Andrew Gray has lived in Canada since the age of eight, arriving in Canada in 1976. He is the founder and director of UBC's Booming Ground, an annual writing program of literary workshops at UBC, and has also coordinated on-line writing projects for UBC's Creative Writing Department. His stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications, including Prairie Fire, Event, Grain, Fiddlehead and Chatelaine. He was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Fiction in 2000 and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize in 2002. Gray was also shortlisted for the IPPY Award for Fiction in 2003, twice shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards, and a finalist for the 2000 Journey Prize for his short story "Heart of the Land".
Andrew Gray’s first collection of fiction, Small Accidents (Raincoast $19.95), runs the gamut of injuries. Narrated in a variety of voices, these 12 tales feature morbid deaths and common accidents that symbolize broken relationships and soured lives. Through loss and injury, however, Gray’s characters gain a new understanding of themselves and their loved ones.
In Gray’s short story Outside, suburbia has extinguished a marriage’s spark. “We’ve got a mortgage, two cars, a lawn,” reflects Fraser. “We haven’t talked about kids for a while, but I cut the lawn every week, wash the cars a couple of Sundays a month, shovel the driveway when it snows. I cook now, vacuum the rug.” In a desperate attempt to shake things up, Sarah crashes the car on their way home from a party. “It wasn’t the rain,” she confesses. “It was me. We just started heading toward the shoulder and I didn’t do anything to stop it.” The couple’s broken bones and bruises result from the car crash, but on a deeper level, their injuries are manifestations of their dying spirits. Instead of being emotionally shaken by the accident, an alienated Fraser lives in a world reminiscent of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, in which he’s more affected by physical surroundings than by his feelings. “The bottles are cold and solid in my hand,” he reflects. “The paper is full of words I have to read over and over to understand.” Sarah has chosen to sleep in a tent while she recovers. The tent symbolizes the last time they had fun, the last time their relationship was alive. “…We used the tent three or four years ago, canoeing in Algonquin,” recalls Fraser. “Four days of clean air and campfires. We zipped the sleeping bags together and made love every night. I imagine pine needles scattered under her pillow, the smell of the forest still filling the tent.” Fraser’s recollection leads to his confession. “We always planned to go again, to make it a yearly trip, but I haven’t been able to get the time off or find the energy.” However, even the crash and Sarah’s subsequent tent-protest don’t spurn him to action. “I open one of the single malts we keep in the bar to impress guests,” he admits instead, “and sit in the kitchen drinking slowly while the dishwasher sloshes behind me.” There is, however, a light at the end of this tunnel. “The tent is dark when I walk back outside,” he says, about to enter for the first time. “…I take off my shoes, open the zipper slowly and crawl inside. Sarah’s eyes are open. I lie down beside her and she turns to face me… She puts her hand lightly on my chest and leaves it there.” They are camping again.
Small Accidents (Raincoast, 2001) 1-55192-508-7
[Jeremy Twigg / BCBW 2001]