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A detail of one of the "Status Updates" illustrations by Cliff Eyland.

George Toles’ and Cliff Eyland’s “Status Updates” featured in Prairie Fire’s latest issue

November 14, 2014 — 

When Prairie Fire magazine launches its new fall 2014 issue this Saturday, November 15, two U of M profs will be there to help celebrate. Their 1,700-work “Status Updates” project — which the magazine calls “astonishing” — is featured in a special colour section.

Consisting of brief fictions (originally appearing on Facebook as status updates) by George Toles, Distinguished Professor, English, film and theatre, Faculty of Arts, and illustrated by Cliff Eyland, artist and professor, School of Art, the project works were displayed by Gurevich Fine Art at McNally Robinson in June and July; the collaboration continued until the end of 2013. Prairie Fire features the project as well as some new, unillustrated texts by Toles, whose texts now number over 3,000.

Snappy, startling, funny, insightful, provocative, poignant (sometimes all at once), the texts are the result of writing Toles has done daily on Facebook since 2009. With their accompanying images, these mini-fictions pack a punch, often with an intimate glimpse into a charged moment in the life of a fictive character. Eyland’s digital and multi-media images manage to be simultaneously iconic and quirky, ranging from illustrative to lyrical or surrealistic in style.

Eyland has been working in small formats for many years in similar daily fashion, and is probably best known for his 3″ X 5″ index card art and his library art, especially his striking permanent installation of over 1,000 of these paintings at Winnipeg’s Millennium Library and more recently, a 5,000 piece installation at the new Halifax Library (Eyland is originally from the East coast).

You can read more about the collaboration in the Winnipeg Free Press story about the summer exhibition of Toles’ and Eyland’s project.

At the launch of the Prairie Fire issue, Toles will read from his works and Eyland will show a video of additional “Status Updates.”

And, we’re told, there will be cake.

–Mariianne Mays Wiebe


>> Scroll down for some of the project texts and images.


[rev_slider statusupdates]


7 January

Children didn’t take to Miriam. She was reconciled to that awkward and, truth be told, painful fact. Dogs, at least, were more responsive. What did they see and sniff in her that children failed to recognize? Nevertheless, she had allowed herself to hope for something more from her young niece, Lisa, when Miriam’s sister, who had lived abroad for five years, brought her daughter for a visit. Miriam had doted on her during her first two years. But the girl proved to be remorselessly silent in her presence. Miriam was nearly undone. When mother and daughter were getting ready to leave, Miriam was afraid to make eye contact with Lisa, because she knew she was in danger of weeping. She was astonished then when Lisa touched her sleeve and presented her with a drawing of her she had made while sitting in the corner. It showed her on a throne at the bottom of the sea. She wore a crown. In crayon were the words “Aunt Miriam. Queen Neptune.” “She’s terribly shy,” her sister whispered. “Which must be obvious.” Miriam was surprised yet again when Lisa turned at the door and made a little bow in her direction, in lieu of saying goodbye. A simple gesture, but such a stirring within the small, blinking woman. Miriam felt less sealed off from love.

8 January

Being a philosopher, Samuel had a bee in his bonnet about whether his wife, Candace, existed, and how he could know for sure. Over the years he arranged a number of impromptu reality tests for her, some of which she passed, but seldom with flying colors. The fog of doubt surrounding her never entirely lifted, but there were breakthroughs of some marital consequence. One momentous night, Samuel awakened Candace from sound slumber with an electrifying revelation that had come from thinking afresh about David Hume. “I MUST be to what is mine whatever I take you to be to what is yours, and the same then would apply to you.” Henceforth, Samuel found it easier to believe that Candace had an inner life, whether she existed or not.

10 January

Paddy’s life of addictions began, innocently enough, with his weakness for semi-colons.

2 February

Once again Nikos poked his nose in where it didn’t belong. He asked if Midge were her nickname, and she replied sharply, “Yes, it’s short for Midget, if you must know.”

25 February

There were days when Judy felt like a spit-out cherry pit. But, curiously, on other days, most days, she felt she was maybe a bit more significant than anyone she had ever known.

2 March

Darren conscientiously read all the articles helpfully explaining what NOT to say to people who were artists, in grad school, single, married, broken up, ill, depressed, mentally ill, jobless, grieving, in and out of the closet, or otherwise preoccupied. He realized that all his good ideas about what to say to others were, in fact, bad ideas, and should be shunned. He reviewed the safe statements that were left over, and decided that he would henceforth only venture to say “How’s that working for you?” His sister, Deirdre, unfortunately, put the kibosh on that as well. “How’s that working for you?” was a brainless burp, she informed him, and was obviously a transparent pretense of being non-judgmental.

8 March
He came upon her in a large room that was somewhere between dark and pale. How tall he was, like the tall sleeping man she had once seen beneath the stars. The mirrors spied on their embrace.

11 March

Torrence dredged up his tritely concerned look. He felt inspired to say (for the millionth time) “The trouble with you is….” Who first came up with this preposterous expression, anyway, Judy wondered. Could he or she have possibly imagined that it would survive, generation after generation, in spite of its zero success rate? Never remotely helpful, never well-received, the phrase still exerted an irresistible attraction for the self-righteous fool lurking in all of us.

20 April

Let there be something stronger than our dark spirits — an intimation, some stirring of beauty or goodness — to lift the heart this morning.

18 May

Theresa was tired of being part of the solution. She looked back with fondness on those sunnier times when she was still, contentedly, part of the problem.

4 June

Angela’s love for her one-time close friend, Jill, hadn’t accumulated over the years, but had become shrivelled and grimy, cooped up in the time when they had their big quarrel and parted ways. Angela was not at all prepared for the unmanageable size of the grief that took hold of her when she heard of Jill’s passing, and how the anguish kept growing. Perhaps her love had simply disguised itself as grief long ago in order to survive in secret. Learning Jill was gone for good, love threw off its veil and exploded.

18 August

While it was true that he was running headlong to ruin, each day his time was improving.

6 September

Gina felt her creativity depended on her continually missing the point. The point people so often busied themselves looking for made no sense to her as a thing to be concerned about. The point was an incorrect answer to the riddle of experience. She was much more intrigued by what was beside the point, or all around it, or how the point might shift with everything that was said or left unsaid, the turning of the attention, the opening of a hand, the noise that a shoe made crunching gravel, the voice at the next table whose words one could nearly make out.


The Prairie Fire new issue launch featuring George Toles and Cliff Eyland takes place Saturday, Nov. 15, 7:00 p.m. in the Atrium of McNally Robinson Booksellers, Grant Park.


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