I should be slopping together the 4,000-word draft that’s due tomorrow for Advanced Novel Writing Workshop, but I’ve decided that this review is more important. And rightly so: all the books in my currently reading list have been aching for completion for far longer than that nearly week-old assignment.
Ironically, a few months ago Ray Bradbury told me to quit messing around with novel writing and focus on the art of the short story. He cited several of his favorite authors, and while I was selecting a few for myself I found that China had a collection.
The general advice from Ray was to read a short story and an essay every night and in turn try to write either once a week, with the logic being that at the end of a year you’d have fifty pieces of writing with a good chance that at least one of them would be publishable. I threw Looking for Jake in rotation with John Collier’s Fancies and Goodnights, a collection of Warhammer 40,000 shorts, and Best Canadian Essays 2021. It was easy enough to stick to the regimen at first, and then China chose to close his book with a near-novella of a tale called The Tain. This derailed the shorts/essays reading practice for a while, but I had novels to read for school, so it wasn’t like I was at a loss for material to stuff into my head.
I finally returned to Jake this week and polished it off in a handful of sittings. All the stories are shining examples of China’s mastery of the weird, though I’m starting to doubt that his prose will ever again enthrall me like my first reading of The Scar. Still, this book is a worthwhile read with the caveat that not all the stories qualify as “short”.