It could be said that Fireproof is about the misfits in life, except as we read further we realise that we are identifying with some of the characters, so what does that say about us? Fireproof and other Stories by the Irish-Canadian writer Celeste Auge, is a collection of sixteen short stories published by the small publishing house Doire Press - and I think they have landed a gem.
Auge is a creative writing teacher surely on the cusp of wider recognition, having won a number of minor writing prizes and a commendation from the Sean O'Faolain Short Story Competition. And some of them are short, with 'It's Happening Again' at just less than two pages- but then my favourite Raymond Carver short story, the powerful and enigmatic 'Little Things' is the same length-so never underestimate the power of the 'short' short story.
The stories have a sense of oddness balancing out the ordinary in life. In 'Fireproof' we follow the development of an odd precocious child, trying to cope with identity and language as she moves between countries and also between the nationalities of her parents and how that affects her choice of words. In 'Touching Fences' we see a woman who tries to balance fear of sinking into the ordinary by 'shocking' herself into life and 'Molly Fawn' also has a fear of getting stuck in a rut. Each story presents the ordinary life (i.e.working in a supermarket) with the not-so-ordinary characters feelings about this life. Or are these strange characters more ordinary than we like to admit? That seemed to be the question running through my head as I moved further through this book.
Auge's feelings are not unique, but the way she manages to elucidate them through her prose so that the reader can feel compassion for the character or identify with them is certainly a talent. She somehow plumbs the depths of our hidden fears and just puts them out there on the page for all to see.
Celeste Auge will be at the Dublin Book Festival on Thursday 15th November at 12.20pm-1.00pm in the launch area of Smock Alley Theatre where she will read extracts from Fireproof.