Painting by Deborah Schnitzer
AT THE EDGE
A Collaborative Novel
Selected and edited by Marjorie Anderson and Deborah Schnitzer
At the Edge is not the world’s first collaborative novel—it follows in a tradition that started in 1931 with The Floating Admiral, continued throughout the twentieth century with Naked Came the Stranger and Caverns, and is upheld in this century with A Million Penguins, No Rest for the Dead, and Hotel Angeline. But it is surely the first in which the voices of the authors unite as one. Not a hiccup mars the flow of this sophisticated literary mystery, which could easily pass as the work of a single author.
The plot unfolds as a collection of linked stories told through the eyes of twelve characters—strangers to each other, each with a rich interior life—who pass by an unguarded open pit at a busy pedestrian crossroads on a university campus in an unnamed Canadian city. A campus groundskeeper on her riding mower; a young immigrant estranged from his ex-wife and son; a graduate student writing a dissertation on a rare Persian manuscript; a professor’s secretary; an Agatha Christie expert—all manage to skirt the danger except one, whose fate and identity finally reveal themselves in the surprise ending.
At the Edge was written by sixteen writers from their midthirties to their late eighties; it puts writers who have never been published before alongside one who has been honored with Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction and another who was a finalist for Canada’s Giller Prize. All agreed not to have their names attached to the specific chapters they wrote, a further expression of each writer’s support of the collaborative spirit at the heart of this project. Thus both freedom and constraint characterize the book’s structure, resulting in a singular work of fiction that both entertains and explores the mystery and rigors of literary form and content as well as the origins of storytelling itself.Read an Excerpt