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Cameron, Barry.

Boston, Twayne Publishers, c1986. 144pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-8057-6622-7. (Twayne's World Author series. Canadian Literature). Distributed by Collier Macmillan Canada. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Alan Thomas

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

The expansionist movement of Canadian literature in the sixties offered opportunities to many new immigrants. John Metcalf, who had taught briefly in England, came to Montreal to teach high school in 1962 and was soon publishing stories here. In 1970-71, with Hugh Hood, Clark Blaise, and others, he began reading his work through the high schools, as a member of the "Montreal Storytellers" group. In 1972-73, he was writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick and the following year he received his first Canada Council Senior Arts grant.

As a writer, he is unquestionably a child of the age of institutional patronage; he has also been a sardonic critic of that literary scene, notably in Kicking Against the Pricks (ECW, 1982), a collection of personal essays in which Metcalf challenges the value of much Canadian writing of the last decade or so. The witty, biting prose of these essays has also been a characteristic feature of his relatively small body of fictional work to date. Cameron sees Metcalf as belonging to the tradition of Evelyn Waugh, Kingsley Amis, and P.G. Wodehouse, a disparate enough group of wits, but presumably united in their hostility to progressive ideas. Metcalf has made clever use of his personal experiences in Canada. His first novel, Going Down Slow (McClelland and Stewart, 1972), employs as hero-observer a high school teacher in Montreal; his second, General Ludd (ECW, 1980), features a poet-in-residence at a city university.

While they use the Canadian urban scene, neither of these novels has yet found a place in the Canadian canon. Metcalf has published short stories and novellas, but these also have not gained sufficient recognition to be in general use in Canadian literature courses. Cameron's study, therefore, could not be said to meet a pressing need in schools and colleges, though it could certainly prove a useful addition to a collection concentrating upon recent Canadian fiction.

Alan Thomas, Scarborough College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.
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