Next up in our Spring 2022 Preview series is Mike Steeves’s Bystander, a bold new work of intense psychological realism, and a much anticipated follow up to his critically acclaimed debut novel Giving Up.
“I have never been faced with a moral crisis, let alone a matter of life or death.”
Peter Simons doesn’t spend much time at home in his apartment. Thanks to his job at a multinational company, he is often flying around the world, enjoying a life of luxurious solitude in five-star hotels. So when he returns after being away for nine months and notices a strange smell coming from his neighbour’s apartment, he initially tries not to get involved, but when a body is discovered, Peter’s carefully cultivated detachment begins to crumble. And when new people move into the vacant apartment, he gets caught up in a petty dispute that will bring him to the brink of moral ruin.
“Steeves writes like a modern Dostoyevsky—or a literary Larry David—offering a searing indictment of white male mediocrity. Bystander is a howl and a rebuke, asking into the (smoke-filled) air, ‘why are we like this???’” writes Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author Sean Michaels. “Mike Steeves is a brilliant, singular voice in Can Lit: funny and fresh and fast!” adds the inimitable Miriam Toews.
We’re delighted to share an introductory video and reading from Mike Steeves. Enjoy!
And check out the excerpt below for a brief encounter with Steeves’s socially bankrupt anti-hero as he revels in anonymity and obscures himself from those who pass through his days. Bystander will be released on April 19, 2022, and is available now for pre-order now from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore.
Whatever talent I had for small talk in my professional life didn’t translate when it came to my personal life. The fluency that so many people in this city exhibit as they chat confidently with drivers as they get in and out of cabs, or the obliviousness with which they ask a question outside the metro station, this inborn confidence and competency is something that I’m only able to summon with tremendous effort. Every time I order takeout, or nod hello to a neighbour, the moment I have to pick up a package at the post office, or purchase a pack of cigarettes at the store, I always feel as if I am communicating in a language I don’t understand, even though I’ve been speaking it my entire life and it is the only one I have. The brief chats I had with the Super were no exception. There were moments of course when I felt a patronizing warmth for her, the sort I imagine a teacher feels for their students, or a parent for their child, and, on a few occasions, instead of avoiding her, as I did with every- one else in the neighbourhood, I would wave and stop at her walkway for some harmless small talk. It wasn’t until I had to complain about the smell coming from the neighbour’s apartment that I realized that on account of the infrequent small talk conversations we had gone from being strangers to some- thing more like acquaintances.
Mike Steeves was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and lives in Montreal, Quebec. His first novel, Giving Up, was published by Book*hug Press in 2015 and was a finalist for the Concordia University First Book Award. His work has appeared in The Globe & Mail, Matrix Magazine, The Shore and others.