CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Bonnie, Fred

Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1987. 111pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-666-6 (cloth) $25.95, 0-88750-667-4 (paper) $12.95.

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Joanne K. A. Peters

Volume 15 Number 6
1987 November

Although the words "wide load" immediately call to mind a semi-trailer lumbering down the highway at a speed just slow enough to frustrate, but not fast enough to overtake, the six stories in Wide Load are well paced and finely tuned. Bonnie's characters and situations are simultaneously prosaic and bizarre; he takes ordinary and very believable people and gives them a voice which makes each one unique and highly memorable. He skilfully treads the fine line between the strangely intriguing and the outrightly bizarre; the result is a collection which by turns amuses, fascinates, frightens, and entertains.

The title story, "Wide Load, Where Are You?" is the tale of a neophyte truck driver, eagerly looking "forward to being able to drive anywhere" but soon frustrated by his lack of seniority. An autocratic dispatcher who relentlessly saddles him with the most thankless of runs is also a source of frustration as is the overly chatty owner of the double-wide mobile home which he must first deliver to Tulsa, if he has any hopes of returning home. The narrator of "Name the General" is a wryly humorous, jazz saxophone-playing ad man turned G.I. who soon finds himself drafted on a promotion-hungry general's personal campaign for a higher public profile. "In Another Language" is a technically unusual story: two bromeliad fanciers, both bearing the name of Stanislaw Pittstalk, alternately tell their own stories even while they maliciously speculate on the character of their namesake. The very minor idiosyncrasy of a harmonica player, who insists on checking to see if jazz musicians are performing in key, leads to major humiliation for Howard Melts in "Take a Seat, Not a Solo." The violence of "Mistrial," the tale of a farmer charged with bestiality whose conviction rests on the willingness of his son to testify, is neatly counter pointed by the gentle humour of the final story, "The Bulk Tour," in which a tour guide in a southern mansion, given to embellishing tales about the house's original owner, finally gets his comeuppance.

Singly or as a group, the stories of Wide Load make for a good read. While not avant garde or highly experimental, the collection is best utilized as supplemental reading, rather than as a teaching text. As well, the content of some of the stories leads me to recommend the book only for very mature readers; while the sexuality is by no means graphic, younger readers might have difficulty grappling with its place in some of the stories. But even aside from that consideration, the reader, like the protagonists of the stories themselves, needs to have lived a little, in order to truly appreciate the situations in which these characters find themselves.

Joanne K. A. Peters, Sisler S.S., Winnipeg, Man.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works