From Oberon this season are two solid short-story collections that are full of grittiness and Canadian place names. In The Modern World by Cassie Beecham we get bad relationships (or worse, bad relationships in winter), women making fools of themselves over men, sex, suicide, mental illness, date rape, bedbugs and angst, and places like Nelson, Castlegar, Mississauga and Cabbagetown. To lighten things up a bit, Beecham includes hippie parents, fencing in Dublin and the classic CBC radio show, Finkleman’s 45s. In The Secret Life of Fission by Paul Carlucci we get more winter and more sex, plus Deep River, Ottawa, Montreal, Parkdale, a deviant girl who becomes a bored and drunken housewife, nuclear fission, a dead dog, an escape from Goose Bay, dingy beer parlours and a cutthroat political struggle for the directorship of the ice arena in Port aux Basques, lightened up with hipsters having bad relationships and drinking microbrew. The writing in both collections is sparse and concise, with a minimum of description, and the stories are strong enough to carry the reader through the occasional rocky bits (although thanks to an unfortunate font choice, I had to look on the copyright page to figure out one author’s name). If you’ve had it up to here with the Vinyl Cafe, it’s time to take a refreshing dip into the dark depths of our Canada.