Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Random Conundrums

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At intervals, tiny random enigmas beset me. They are riddles that cannot be solved, questions that cannot be answered, incidents so inexplicable and yet so self-contained that they resist being transformed into fiction or poems. Here are a few.


I was walking up the street when a man in a dark baseball cap, loose striped black-and-white shirt, and baggy yellow trousers passed me on a red scooter, calling back in a thick Jamaican accent, “Get be-hin’ me, Sa-tan.”

Did he really think I was the Devil?


I saw a poster on a bus shelter advertising a fitness centre. It showed a picture of a small forlorn boy, captioned: Does my mom know the fitness centre has an Ikey defibrillator?

If the boy’s mom is likely to need a defibrillator, should she be going to a fitness centre?


Walking a poodle down the block, I saw far ahead on the sidewalk a short, rustic-looking man stamping his feet, flinging his arms wide, jumping up and down.

As we got closer, he yelled, “If the dog is out in the public, it should be on a rope!”

I said, “You shouldn’t be out in the public.”

I’d never seen the man before. He wasn’t a neighbour. He didn’t belong to the renovation crew at work across the street. Where did he come from?

Was he a troll?


A man phoned me up and asked whether I would like to take part in a focus group. He would pay me $60 an hour but first I had to answer some questions in order to determine whether I was suitable for inclusion.

He asked several detailed questions about what shampoo I used, and then listed a number of maladies, including diarrhea, to each of which I had to answer, “Yes” or “No.”

I answered “No” to all of them. At the end, he said he was sorry, but I couldn’t take part in the group.

What was the focus group about? Some kind of constipating shampoo?


Colin, there was no way I could get behind you in Serbia.

I was saying "Get thee behind me, Satan," the whole ten days we were in Serbia, and you never batted an eye...Enjoying your posts immensely. You're telling us things we didn't know we needed to know, and didn't know to look for.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Fraser Sutherland

At last count, Fraser Sutherland has published fifteen books: one of them short fiction, four nonfiction and ten poetry, His most recent poetry collection is The Philosophy of As If. A freelance editor, he may be the only Canadian poet who is also a lexicographer. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, he lives in Toronto.

Go to Fraser Sutherland’s Author Page