What The Word On The Street is Reading

Does Toronto have a town crier? The kind who rings a bell, wears a tricorne hat, and announces city proclamations? I sure hope we do. I was pleased to read this recent proclamation from the Mayor announcing June 2 – 8, 2013 as “Canadian Magazine Week” in the City of Toronto. Even if we don’t have a crier reading the announcement out in dramatic fashion, it’s pretty great that the city is celebrating all the thriving, entertaining, and informative magazines we have in Canada.

ImageOne Canadian magazine I love is The Walrus, and one of my favourite issues is their annual Summer Reading edition. This week, I was happy to delve into one of the short stories featured in the July/August 2013 issue, When We Went Against The Universe,” by Mona Awad.

This story centres on two teenage girls, Mel and Heather, as they attempt to entertain themselves one afternoon. Mel and Heather are so very bored, bored in that impossibly intense way that is probably only experienced by teenagers.  The girls have “exhausted every topic of conversation,” and have done everything they can do in “Misery Saga, which is what you’re allowed to call Mississauga if you live there.”

Mel and Heather try to alleviate their boredom by playing a game called Fate Papers while hanging out in McDonald’s. With one piece of paper reading no, and the other reading yes, the girls turn to the universe for guidance, Magic-8-Ball-style. The questions start out rather benignly, and the girls don’t hesitate to ignore their first results until they get the advice they really want to follow. But once Mel starts fantasizing about sexually propositioning a group of older men in the McDonald’s, the idea of fate and how the girls can potentially shape their futures becomes more serious.

I particularly enjoyed the narrator Heather’s matter-of-fact perspective throughout the piece. She assesses her physical ‘assets’ in a disconnected way, fully aware that this current version of herself isn’t the person she will always be. “Later on, […] I’m going to grow into that nose and develop an eating disorder. I’ll be hungry and angry all of my life, but I’ll also have a hell of a time.”

Mona Awad captures the complexities and contradictions of teenagers, during that odd ‘in between’ time before fate or our own choices shape the rest of our lives. “When We Went Against The Universe” is an engrossing read that gave me a lot to think about. I’m looking forward to reading more from Awad, and the rest of this issue’s offerings!

– Cailin

What are your favourite Canadian magazines? Feel free to share them in the comments!

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