A Smattering of Evans

Me reading TNQ issue 147

I was thrilled to receive my contributor copies of Issue 147 of The New Quarterly this week. My short story, “On Sulphur Mountain,” is one of eight stories featured in this issue. I’ve had a chance to read them all, and they’re wonderful — so well-written and engrossing. I’m proud to have my work alongside them, set amidst a bounty of poetry and some great essays.

I couldn’t help but notice that the main character in another story, “Dome” by John Van Rys, is named Evan.

Evan in John Van Rys’s “Dome”

That’s the name of the main character’s son in my story.

Evan in my “Sulphur Mountain”

Two Evans in just eight stories. What are the chances?

I looked that up, but I still don’t know. It’s actually not easy to find out the chances of two characters sharing a first name. (At least not with a minimum of effort and foggy math skills.) Google is full of questions and answers about the probability of two people sharing a name AND a birthday, but not just a first name. I guess it’s so common, there’s no need to google it.

Really, 8 stories, with an average of 3 or 4 named characters each, add up to a typical class size. And there’s always two of some name in any class. (I recall two Warrens in my grade 5 class, two Kevins in grade 8. And Catherines? An abundance of us back then.)

When I published my first book in 2009 with Orca Book Publishers, their fall catalogue featured just two new full-length middle-grade novels — mine, Walking Backward, and Kate Jaimet’s Dunces Anonymous— and in both novels, the main character’s name was Josh. What are the chances? I thought.

Pretty good, actually: Joshua was #6 in the top 100 list of (North American) baby names in 2009. (It has since dropped to #54.)

Lots of Evans in the USA. (Not many without last names.)

There are over 72,000 Evans in the USA today. I don’t know how many in Canada because, again, my search methods are a tad modest. But Evan was #40 in popularity for Canadian boy baby names in 2016, so there must be quite a few. (Liam was #1. I have never written a story with a character named Liam.) Fortieth is just right for fiction: not unfamiliar, but not everywhere you go. So it’s no wonder there are two Evans in TNQ‘s latest class of fictional characters.

If there were a third story in Issue 147 about an Evan, that might be a freaky coincidence. But no. I read about Ediths and Adams and Archies (actually just one of each), and Murthy and Mahmoud and Juan Carlos, but no more Evans. (Although there is a “Chef Dawson” in Gavin Tomson’s essay, “Washing Dishes,” with a first name “blocked from memory,” who might be an Evan. But he doesn’t seem like an Evan.)

So just the two Evans. And both sweet characters. Completely likeable. It’s hard to think of a bitter Evan. (Now, Liam could go either way.)

You should subscribe to The New Quarterly and read the stories of these two Evans. And all the other stories, essays, and poems in the latest issue.

TNQ Issue 147 back cover contributor list

Anyway, I clearly ran out of things to say before I started here. I’m just getting my toes wet with blogging again, and I should sign off for now. With pride, for seeing my story in such a gorgeous magazine alongside such moving work.

TNQ Issue 147 cover, featuring Brian Douglas’s photography.

And that’s all for this Friday. 🙂


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