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Geddes, Gary.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1986, 95pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-646-1 (cloth) $21.95, 0-88750-648-8 (paper) $11.95.

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Anne Locatelli

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

Born in Vancouver in 1940, Gary Geddes grew up mostly on the west coast. He holds degrees from the Universities of British Columbia and Toronto, has taught for a number of years at universities in Canada and in England, and has been writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta. His background has also been enriched by a variety of odd job experiences: he has worked in factories, fished commercially, and driven a water taxi. He has also travelled extensively. As a freelance writer, Geddes edited, among others, two major Canadian anthologies, 20th Century Poetry and Poetics (Oxford, 1973) and Skookum Wawa: Writings of the Canadian North West (Oxford, 1975). Having acquired fame as a critic, editor, and anthologist, Geddes has established himself mostly as a poet.

Through his writings he reveals a keen sense of awareness of world problems and a strong feeling for contrasts and detail, which he relates to his readers with a unique blend of compassion and anger. In his War and Other Measures (Anansi, 1976), he tells about contemporary Canadian history with its restless segments of society ready to resort to anything, even violence and destruction; in his Acid Test (Turnstone, 1981) he expands the violence to encompass the whole world, to reflect the absurd inhumanity of humankind.

The Unsettling of the West is Geddes's first published collection of short stories and takes its title from the first story in the book, which is followed by five others. Most of the stories had been previously published in various literary journals, such as Aurora and Descant. The poetic style of the author spills over very strongly into his stories, some of which find their origin in events of daily life, others in tales passed on by word of mouth, either legends or gossip. In each story, strong contrasting characters are juxtaposed; the events are vividly portrayed, in paint-like strokes, often more akin to a poetic composition. The characters are all very forcefully and humanly presented. The sense of tragedy mingles with the comic: the ability to unpredictably make the reader laugh often provides a needed light relief.

A table of contents would have been a welcome addition to this collection of short stories. The only black-and-white illustration, at the front of the book, is a replica of the illustration on the cover, by Seymour Segal. I recommend these thought-provoking short stories for senior high school students and adults.

Anne Locatelli, Elliot Lake S.S., Elliot Lake, Ont.
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