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Edited by David Helwig and Sandra Martin.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1983.
216pp, paper, $23.95 (cloth), $11.95 (paper).
ISBN 0-88750488-4 (cloth), 0-88750-489-2 (paper).

Reviewed by Chris Kempling.

Volume 12 Number 1
1984 January

David Helwig has returned to edit, with the assistance of Sandra Martin, this year's edition of Best Canadian Stories, a series he established in 1971. The current edition exhibits a broad cross-section of Canadian writers, some familiar because of their achievements, such as Governor-General's award winner Marian Engel, and others relatively new to the reading public. Fourteen stories are presented in this generally well-edited volume.

The selections, however, are not uniformly superb. Some blandly relate a slice of life from someone's point of view before petering out with a lame ending. The Don Valley expressway at 6:30 p.m. is part of life, but who wants to look at it? Margaret Dyment's and Joyce Marshall's stories fall into this category. Several others simply relate a story that is mildly interesting, yet lack characters or styles that would make them stand out significantly. The selections by Rona Murray, Ann Copeland, and David Watmough, though well-written, fail to evoke much admiration.

The nine other stories stand well above the rest by virtue of their originality, character development, style, or the carefully delineated exploration of one facet of human existence. Mike Mason's "All I Know About Incest," a daring and powerful examination of one man's attempt to deal honestly with one of our greatest taboos, is truly marvellous. His descriptions of "catch" have a diamond-like quality that scintillates with each turn of a phrase.

A similar quality graces Elizabeth Spencer's short, stream-of-consciousness work, interestingly titled "To The Watchers While Walking Home." Its involuted musings should make it popular with classroom analysts.

Though other stories merit mention, Gertrude Story's piece, Das Engelein Kommt," deserves special notice. This is a simple yet emotionally moving work with a point of view that works extremely well. Death, filial devotion, and betrayal intertwine thematically in a way that expands beyond Story's small print-work tapestry. Recommended.

Chris Kempling, Quesnel, BC.
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