CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Edited by David Helwig and Maggie Helwig

Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1990.192pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-818-9 (paper) $15.95, ISBN 0-88750-817-0 (cloth) $29.95. CIP

Reviewed by Doug Watling.

Volume 19 Number 2
1991 March

Oberon's 90 Best Canadian Stories is a quality collection of short fiction. Diane Schoemperlen's "Love in the Time of Cliches" stands out, but everything in this volume has merit.

The slightest efforts here are Patricia Seaman's 'The Harbour" and Debbie Hewlett's "Vermont." Neither is too shabby. "The Harbour" is a monologue from a woman dislocated by failed relationships and alcohol abuse. The story is unvarnished and a little squalid, and eventually trails off. In "Vermont," the breakdown of a couple's car and a stay at a stranger's are less than enthral­ling for one party. The narrator is female, but sounds like Richard Brautigan; the whimsy is cutting, the story not quite all there.

The other stories are just fine, thank you, although Rohinton Mistry's "The More Important Things" tries too hard to be a luminous folk-tale. The effort is just too evident. On the other hand, Leon Rooke manages a totally convinc­ing narrative in 'The Heart Must from its Breaking." Rooke handles multiple points of view and a hint of Salem with a minimum of fuss.

George Bowering's "Staircase Descending" is very self-conscious and without pretension. It's a successful send-up of experimentalism with a noticeable sag at the end. "Stardust 1954 Nevada" is an adult's view of a child's world of infidelity and uproot­ing. Nevada nuclear testing and Las Vegas are contexts surreal enough to take hold.

All told, though, "Love in the Time of Cliches" is the centrepiece. The Atwood-like narration is the tiniest bit precious, but the feelings at the core of this story are unadorned and raw. You can feel Carmen's yearnings as you wait for everything to come undone. As in a number of stories in this volume, however, the expected isn't necessarily what you get.

Doug Watling, West Credit Secondary School, Mississauga, Ont.
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