ON THE LINE: READINGS IN THE SHORT FICTION OF CLARKE BLAISE, JOHN METCALF AND HUGH HOOD
Volume 10 Number 4.
In this critical work, Robert Lecker places Clark Blaise, John Metcalf, and Hugh Hood as the "most accomplished short story writers in Canada today." He alludes to their association as founding members of the Montreal Storytellers. He brushes over the major critical evaluations of their work, then considers each writer intensively in isolation.
The section on Blaise is the most orthodox. The reader is taken through the stories of A North American Education and Tribal Justice in the order in which they appear in the texts. We note that Blaise is primarily concerned with an ironic view of the pained and troubled individual's confrontation with raw experience. Links between stories are made clear, and plot summaries are complete enough to keep the reader at ease with the context. Lecker's habit of quoting liberally from the original texts conveys an impression that Blaise is close at hand.
The essay on Metcalf is similar in approach, though the stories are scattered more randomly through the source texts. Lecker imposes an order by focusing on central characters and dividing them into three types: adolescents, artists developed from a third-person standpoint, and sensitive, intelligent first-person narrators capable of discovering themselves through aesthetic, formal, involved stories. Lecker works best when Metcalf is as serious as his critic, but seems humourless in contrast when Metcalf's spirit is more ribald than intellectual, as in most of Private Parts.
The most interesting section of On the Line is the subjective response to Hood's "Looking Down From Above." In this case, the entire text of the story is included alongside Lecker's commentary. The reader has an opportunity to enjoy both the story and a close-up focus on a critic at work.
Lecker is an associate professor at McGill University. His approach is academic and demanding. Scholars hoping to conscientiously digest the entire volume will need considerable initiative and luck to track down five primary sources. But students hoping for some insight into a particular study for a term paper will not be frustrated. And the inclusion of the complete Hood story presents no difficulty in this regard.
On the Line is recommended for academic libraries at the post-secondary level.
Tony Cosier, Confederation H. S., Nepean, ON.
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