• Crisp



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978-1-897126-59-2 | 2010 March | 172 Pages


Crisp confronts the unspeakable parts of memory, meditating on characters caught in isolation and struggling to make sense of grief, disappointment, and the occasional dinner party gone wrong. Along the way, these characters don't always make sound decisions: a grieving widow pursues a priest, an unhappy wife whittles her husband to bits, and a melancholic man has a one-night stand with a whale trainer. In his debut short story collection R.W. Gray uncovers human reactions to loneliness and unrest through tales about relationships, secrets, and a longing to connect.

  • Shortlisted for the 2010 Danuta Gleed Award for Short Fiction

“Gray's stories are pared to their teasing essence. Gray shuns the lyrical, yet can loft his prose assuredly to the poetic…. The longest story, 'Thirst,' [constitutes] 20 pages of the book's best: the shocks of the world experienced through the waking dreams, careless hungers and galloping imagination of a child.”
~ The Globe and Mail

“Canada [is] home to some of the best story writers: Mark Anthony Jarman, Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro. Into that fold steps R.W. Gray with his collection Crisp…. Gray has a keen eye for landscape and an incisive eye for human motivation. A fine collection from a great new writer.”
~ Craig Davidson, Here

“[There were] characterizations that continue to break my heart. 'Sweet Tooth' describes a sort of Midsummer Night's Dinner Party, in which two happy couples meet for dinner, consume wine, and exchange whimsical small talk, all the while quiet, secret longings bristle beneath the surface. The prose is as delicious as the cold avocado soup that is served.”
~ Nikole Kritikos, Edwards Magazine

“Gray’s text possesses even more of such narrative drive, an impressive achievement in a collection of short stories like Crisp. The author balances perfectly the opposing pressures of writing a short story collection, neither presenting a group of scattered, disconnected stories nor enforcing a too-weighty overarching narrative.”
~ Canadian Literature

From “Sweet Tooth”


4 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups low-fat, plain yogurt
4 large fresh basil leaves, slivered
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 large fresh basil leaves, for garnish
4 radishes, finely chopped, for garnish
Pinch of salt

They served a cold soup first, and it seemed like a perfect choice for such a warm evening in early June. The soup had almost been an afterthought, for the rice required so much attention that the soup, and most of the meal, became insignificant. Everyone had tasted the rice, a wild breed, and the general consensus was that it was not yet cooked, so more water was added and it was cooked some more, and then more water and more cooking. Wild rice is the most difficult to cook; the grain never reaches the texture one would expect. Eventually, hunger caused the guests to call the rice cooked and sit at the table, at first without the cold soup.

August’s grandmother used to tell her that on particularly hot days one should drink hot tea to cool down. That if one drinks cold liquids, the body thinks it is cold and acclimatizes itself accordingly. So it follows that although the cold soup was refreshing in the heat of an early summer evening, it may have only increased the fervour of those who consumed it. And who would have thought, passion and cold soup.