Telephone: 604 444-4889
Outside Vancouver: 1 888 445-4176
Fax: 604 444-4119
Reviewed by Garry Thomas Morse
“Anna on the Letter C” is the third and final installment in Larry Tremblay‘s triptych of stories Piercing, underlining in bold print distinct themes that run through all three stories, the isolation of the characters and the bizarrely desperate ways in which they seek human contact, according to their own rules or psychological makeup.
In this carefully crafted story, we join Anna, a lonely and somewhat confused typist in charge of “c” words, whose life is under continuous scrutiny by her lone male guest, who are spending a summer evening together, each in order to satisfy a need they seem neither able to fathom or examine.
In spite of the oddities and the somewhat nauseating atmosphere, what is most interesting about this story is the way in which both characters are reduced from their humanity to the processes of their former and current jobs.
In spite of her genuine charm and beauty on a pleasant evening, the man is only able to be a voyeur, even given the prospect of physical contact, fetishizing Anna the more he observes her, reducing her to a series of tropes he has witnessed from the projection booth of the porn theatre where he used to work:
He walks back and forth frantically. Anna sinks the rusty blade of the can opener into the can. The jerky motion of cutting the tin makes her hips sway. The man can imagine, under her skirt, her buttocks tensed with the effort. Anna removes the round lid. The smell of meat fills the air.
Just as the man layers the atmosphere between them with the quease-inducing trappings of his life, Anna can only retreat from the experiential to objective data from her own form of employment, drawing trance-like comparisons between what is happening in reality and the language that passes through her hands every day, the only thing she can maintain the illusion of control over.
Anna is working, typing, recording, is not the thing pressed against the belly of a man. There are so many words in a dictionary. Her breasts are red, she can feel it. The man is massaging them roughly. As if he wanted to squeeze something out of them. A case containing any explosive charge, as for blasting. Anna goes on working. She no longer sees the shells in front of her, nor the wall or the shelf. Anna can only see the words she is typing.
The only question that remains is what in blazes do these two people want from one another? And this question is part of the mystery and magic that permeates Larry Tremblay‘s stories in Piercing, tenuously connecting all of the characters, not by event or coincidence, but through their often pathetic attempts to do something, anything, in order to rouse themselves from a sense of failure, monotony, and numbness.
I enjoyed this story a great deal, and also found opportunity to read the original in French. I was impressed by how Linda Gaboriau‘s translation captured the terse substantive rhythms of the original text, which strictly maintain the aloof impersonality of the story, beguiling the reader to experience the same awkward positioning of the voyeur.