Underground, Unseen, Unknown: Negotiating Toronto in Maggie Helwig’s Girls Fall Down


Girls Fall Down proposes that an awareness of how to one’s position in relation to the situation of others and other things—that is, the very ability to clearly map one’s place in relation to other, shifting people and things—also demands a self-understanding that a control over one’s environment (including how one presents oneself in it) is merely a fantasy. A person’s inability to always map out with certainty the city as it is encountered suggests, in Helwig’s book, a crisis of legibility that is inherent in the urban landscapes themselves. Helwig’s various networks—from assorted means of transportation to interpersonal human relationships—are fragile and fraught, to the extent that what we easily label as “the city,” despite its seemingly solid material forms (both alive and inert), is best understood as provisional: the confluence and convergence of its actors underscore both a place and a landscape that is constantly re-envisioned and is always makeshift.

This article “Underground, Unseen, Unknown: Negotiating Toronto in Maggie Helwig’s Girls Fall Down” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 216 (Spring 2013): 101-16.

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