In a dance craze called “Doing The Occupation” that got big among my friends when I was in university, you performed silent moves from various jobs: Construction Worker (stomping a shovel and scooping up invisible dirt), Chef (sautéing with a wok), Truck Driver (steering, pulling the horn, pissing into a bottle and chucking it out the window).
Théodora Armstrong’s debut collection, Clear Skies, No Wind, 100% Visibility (Astoria/House of Anansi), reminds me a lot of that dance. It reminds me of short stories in general—the good ones, anyway, that don’t perform any sensational, bombastic moves, but home in on the everyday aspects of being a social animal. As with the silent dance moves of The Occupation, readers of Armstrong’s stories will easily recognize her characters from their own surroundings: Chef, Server, Day Trader, Wedding Planner, Air Traffic Controller—each one more imperfect than the last.
But the appeal of this book doesn’t come from the occupational roles. It comes from the roles we all play in our own lives—sister, father, friend—roles that I dare anyone to try to perform on a dance floor.