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The Dirt Chronicles

by Kristyn Dunnion

The Dirt Chronicles follows a group of Toronto-area teens and young adults making their way in a world that has given them nothing and kicked them on the way down. Kristyn Dunnion (also known as the musician and performance artist Miss Kitty Galore) creates a voice that is more of a howl: loud, assured, unapologetically intense, and utterly her own.

The collection features a variety of first-person perspectives. The structure, however, is strange: what reads initially as linked stories comes to resemble a novel told from alternating viewpoints. Protagonists of the early stories, mainly young gay men, are all scrabbling financially, sick with desire, and encountered as their repressed sexuality hits the boiling point. These stories are contrasted by the novel-like section that comes later and features a movie-monster cop who sells street kids as sex slaves (after first sampling the wares) and frames a recovering young addict for murder. While the rage, terror, and frustration of the latter section is palpable, the shift in tone and approach makes the collection as a whole feel uneven.

Where Dunnion shines is in scenes that are personal and unexpected. Two homeless teenage hustlers watch television from the fire escape of an old woman’s abode; the woman then offers them sandwiches and nonjudgmental company. The same teens share a bath together while squatting in a john’s empty house in Cabbagetown, and the tenderness just under the surface of their determinedly tough verbal exchanges is heartbreaking. It’s desire that Dunnion does well, the telling and re-telling of the impossible longing for love and home, like running a tongue over the empty socket of a missing tooth. Music is the bright thread woven through it all, with band names repeated like prayers.

Despite some missteps, The Dirt Chronicles shows Dunnion carving out a place for a voice both confident and, at times, deeply affecting.


Reviewer: Grace O'Connell

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press


Price: $17.95

Page Count: 248 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-1-55152-426-9

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 2011-10

Categories: Fiction: Short