Cosmo (Coach House Books, 2012/2013)

Cosmo is Spencer Gordon’s debut collection of short stories. It was released in the fall of 2012 in Canada, and in the spring of 2013 in the US, by Coach House Books.


Cosmo by Spencer Gordon

Buy Cosmo


Coach House Books      Barnes & Noble
Chapters/Indigo            Goodreads
Amazon                         Recorded Books (audio)


If reading most short story collections is like canoeing gently down a tranquil and picturesque river, then reading Spencer Gordon's Cosmo is like riding a jetski over Niagara Falls with Leonard Cohen whispering in your ear. You'll join Matthew McConaughey as he drives naked across the desert in a surreal dark night of the soul. You'll meet a young wrestling fan half-nelsoned by circumstances and a sister's best intentions. You'll hear a Miley Cyrus admirer defend his passion in a 3,000-word sentence. You'll watch an aging porn star don a grotesque dinosaur costume to film the sex scene of his life. Through ten incendiary and mercurial stories, Cosmo will take you on a wild ride over the churning waters of pop culture and the malaise of our solitary existence.


Praise for Cosmo



‘Try any first page here, and, if you are not mouth agape with voyeuristic thrill, then this writer is not Spencer Gordon, one of the most daring writers I’ve ever come across. These stories read like collaborations between Stephen King and TMZ with Borges and Nabokov on the edits. Each short story sounds with the thunder of a novel. Enthralling, dark, gut-busting stuff!'
Jeff Parker, author of Where Bears Roam the Streets: A Russian Journal and Ovenman


‘Sprung from Spencer Gordon’s media-saturated world and fuelled by his immense talent, Cosmo is a giddy ride of cultural riffs and intoxicating language. And in the midst of this sensual swirl of words, the reader encounters a van-load of profound and mournful truths.’
Trevor Cole, author of Practical Jean and The Fearsome Particles


‘Demonstrates a refreshing willingness to test the plasticity of language and structure ... The 10 stories in Cosmo are an investigation into the nature of authenticity in an age that seems ever more mediated and synthetic. How is it possible to live a meaningful life in the world that lionizes surfaces and shallowness? Gordon provides no comfortable, simplistic answers, but his approach to asking the questions is startling and invigorating.’
Steven W. Beattie, Quill and Quire, Starred Review


‘Stylistically, Gordon plays both with the detached language of the professional bio and the dry data presentation of an internet wiki. But he is also playing with our assumptions about what culture counts as Culture and why. By treating the lives of now moribund teen celebrities—surely one of the most derided and pathetic by-products of pop culture’s tireless grind—with a sense of dignity, he invites a reckoning with the vacuity of most human accomplishment and with mortality itself. Gordon ends the sequence by breaking the pattern and giving us a bio of Helen Keller, which feels both ridiculous and absolutely perfect; when we get to the emotionally devastating last paragraph, it feels inevitable and totally surprising. It’s a clever and provocative piece of writing, and I find myself returning to it over and over again to remind myself of how it works and why … Thinking about it now, it makes me excited to see what this generation will accomplish when it hits its stride.’
André ForgetThe Walrus


‘Not only a collection of fiction but also a work of cultural criticism ... It succeeds not only as a well-wrought and keenly written collection of narratives, but also as a work of analysis ... Cosmo is a rare book in that it is brave enough to explore the ways in which being loved in private has a very real counterpoint in public, in the form of fame, public identity and cultural cache. In doing so, Gordon dissects the very idea of the authentic in an increasingly public world in which the self is ever more constructed.’
Natalie Zina Walschots, National Post


Some fiction writers eschew the present-day in hopes of attaining some kind of timeless reverence, as if others write about YouTube and Matthew McConaughey. For fans of the latter, Gordon’s short story collection Cosmo has earned the writer comparisons with David Foster Wallace and Bret Easton Ellis for his emphasis on form, sentences, and waxing philosophic on pop culture phenomena.
– Lauren OylerDazed Magazine


‘The cheek and irony serve as mechanisms for a throat-punchingly intimate portrayal of doubt and self-loss ... Cosmo presents its stakes loudly and clearly, tinged as much in neon as in sepia—or maybe a heartbreakingly tacky sepia-toned filter. These are arresting stories, and as voyeurs and disciples and melancholics, we are all made implicit in this grotesquification.’


‘Disarming, technically accomplished ... deserves a wide readership ... Gordon finds what matters in his exploration of one of the widest varieties of psyches you are likely to come across in short fiction.’
Victor Enns, Winnipeg Free Press


‘In his first collection of fiction, Cosmo, Spencer Gordon shows us his Mariah Carey-esque range. With expert wordsmithery, Gordon moves from affecting familial realism to absurd vision quests in celebrity to experimental palate cleansers ... Brave, poignant, and hilarious.’
Caitlynn Cummings, This Magazine


‘His stories are fun, intoxicating, and the language is drunk on a high-energy style more lively than a dancefloor ... His work is other-worldly, and his imagination rocket-launches CanLit to brave new heights, soaring past the black hole of sameness and familiarity of story that most of CanLit gets sucked into ... You haven’t read a voice like this before, and you won’t forget it either.’
Chad Pelley, Telegraph-Journal (Saint John)


Cosmo is impossible to tear away from without gushing embarrassing mawkishness ... Gordon has the rare ability, startling when revealed, when flexed, to make one laugh (this is a wildly funny book), then, and within such tight proximity, perhaps even feel a choke.’
Karl Fenske, Lemon Hound


‘Both heartwarming and heartbreaking ... an intriguing and insightful cultural artifact.’
Keith Cadieux, The Winnipeg Review


‘Spencer Gordon goes places I didn’t know a writer outside of TMZ could go.’
Alessandra Ferreri, Book Stylist


‘Not your average collection of short stories ... A dark collection, filled with murder and fear ... [with] a faint undercurrent of hope ... A fast and interesting read that may leave you breathless.’
Merry Hakin, Scene (London)


‘I salute it. It is difficult and a riddle; it is art ... Bravo.’
Michael Bryson, Underground Book Club


‘His prose has this wonderfully hallucinatory surreal quality. He isn’t afraid of long sentences and lush exuberant poetic language. Even the comic sections have this underlying throbbing intensity that never lets up.’
Barry Webster, CBC Canada Writes


‘Spencer’s highly-lauded collection of short stories, Cosmo, is like reading Brief Interviews with Hideous Men scrawled into the margins of People magazine. His technical ability is never in question while you read through the tales, and there’s a palpable delight evident on the page as he cuts to the unlikely emotional hearts of situations and characters you may never have considered in the same way.’
Katie Fewster-Yan & Kris Bone, Ruckus Reading Series


Cosmo contains multitudes.’
Domenica MartinelloThe Town Crier


‘Gordon has complete command over his weirdness and can make a reader feel right at home ... I don’t know how he does it, but I felt as deeply involved and related to those characters as I do in any kitchen-sink realism—and this was a lot funnier too.’
Rebecca Rosenblum, CBC Canada Writes


Spencer Gordon’s Cosmo is an incredible read, filled with pop cultural ephemera mercilessly skewered on every sentence. Line after line, his collection remains hilarious and slightly menacing.
Andrew F. SullivanLittle Fiction Q&A


Spencer Gordon’s book is playful and fun, but still gazes deeply into the lonely centre within us.
Jess Taylor, 49th Shelf


Cosmo by Spencer Gordon