News and Interviews

The Dirty Dozen with Russell Wangersky

Wangersky_Russell_portraitCNed Pratt Photography

The characters in Russell Wangersky's short fiction collection, The Path of Most Resistance (House of Anansi Press), don't make things easy for themselves. Instead, they are consciously or unconsciously manipulative, seeking to control the people and circumstances in their worlds for reasons that range from fear to rage to loneliness. 

Observant, unique, and filled with Wangersky's trademark wit, the stories are modern parables for a me-centric culture. Quill & Quire reviewed the collection, saying "[The Path of Most Resistance] affirms [Wangersky's] position as one of the finest short-story writers currently working in this country".

We're pleased to welcome Russell to Open Book to spill twelve unexpected facts about himself as part of our Dirty Dozen series. He tells us about some ingenious corner-cutting, a fiery close call, and a very impressive annual word count. 

  1. In my memory, I thought I did well in high school: when my mother gave me a bunch of report cards during a periodic house cleanup, I found middling to low grades with teachers’ comments like, “This mark is solely the result of last-ditch effort.”
  2. I have a bachelor of arts degree (honours) in philosophy from Acadia. I had to write a thesis for the program, and chose Catalan philosopher Ramon Lull, who chose solitude for nine years as he tried to develop a logical thinking machine. I chose Lull primarily because there were only three books available on his work, simplifying my source and reading list. (Sensing a theme here?)
  3. I was a volunteer firefighter for more than six years; a training accident burned off my eyebrows, and also, the hair out of my nose.
  4. All that hair grew back.
  5. I once found a horseshoe by driving a pick through the centre of it while digging a garden near an old Newfoundland barn.
  6. I have a nearby river swimming hole isolated enough to skinny-dip in – once, diving there with a facemask, I discovered its large resident population of American eels. Food for thought, that.
  7. I have lived in four provinces, and one U.S. state.
  8. I have a collection of blacksmith’s chisels and punches. Also, railway spikes.
  9. I have the drillhead from a rock drill for setting roadwork dynamite charges for a doorstop.
  10.  Between columns, magazine pieces, editorials and writing books, I can end up writing as much as 264,000 words in a year. I counted. I also tell high school students that at career fairs – they invariably look for different jobs.
  11.  I fly fish for trout alone and deep in the country on Newfoundland rivers. If I get lonely, I start talking to myself. Out loud. In a horrible Scottish accent.
  12.  For years, I had a circular scar on the inside of my left forearm that looked like I had been shot with a small-calibre rifle. In truth, though, it was a burned from a hot kernel of popcorn that spun out of a popcorn popper and stuck, burning instantly and deeply into the skin.


Russell Wangersky is the author of five books. Most recently, his crime thriller Walt was named one of the top crime books of the year by the National Post. Wangersky has won, or been nominated, for numerous awards for his writing, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the B.C. National Award for Non-Fiction, the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction, the Thomas Head Raddall Award for Fiction, the BMO Winterset Award, and the National Newspaper Awards. He is TC Media’s Atlantic regional columnist and lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Buy the Book

The Path of Most Resistance

As entertaining as they are insightful, the stories in The Path of Most Resistance are anchored by the concept of passive aggression in our everyday lives: ordinary people who are quietly, desperately, and indirectly trying to impose their will on the uncaring world around them.

From a woman who compulsively shops for luggage in order to sublimate her desire for a divorce to a senior citizen who tries to force his family to visit by refusing to eat, the characters in this collection try to change their lives through oblique resistance. The stories also humorously show readers how passive aggression is perhaps at its most effective when carried out in smaller, more insidious ways. Uncertain about the state of his relationship, a man obsesses, but refuses to clean, a spot of mould in the bathroom.

The Path of Most Resistance is an observant and compassionate look at the feelings of powerlessness that we all share, and will have readers silently cringing and nodding in recognition of their own bad behaviour.