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Edited by Gary Fagan and Robert MacDonald

Toronto, Yonge and Bloor, 1990. 224pp,paper, $14.95
ISBN 1-895204-02-X. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by David H. Elias.

Volume 19 Number 2
1991 March

"People were going around saying ‘I ... I... I...'" So laments Norman Levine's character in "Because of the War," one of the dozen or so stories in this collection. The words summarize much of the writing in this book, not because so many of the stories are written in the first person (including the one just mentioned), but because so many of the narrators seem to take for granted that their stories will be of interest to us.

All writers believe that they are the most important people in the world. It has to be that way, but the same rule does not apply to their narrators. They shouldn't bore people with themselves, as in Shirley Faessler's "Maybe Later it Will Come back to My Mind" or Rohinton Mistry's "Swimming Les­sons."

If, because of the title, you expect to read about life on the streets of Toronto, you won't find a great deal. Jay Scott's "Designer Death" or Gary Pagan's "Figuring Her Commission" are about as close as it gets.

If you're looking for people with "an attitude" you won't find many charac­ters with that much of an edge. The ones that do, tend to be political, like the narrator in Dionne Brand's confusing "At the Lisbon Plate" or the audacious aunt in Cynthia Flood's "Beatrice."

One trend I found interesting was the dropping of fashionable brand names to describe items such as clothing and furniture. It left me with the impression that the stories were written by people far removed from the streets, living pretty comfortably, trying to think of a time when things weren't quite so dull. Maybe that's why there are so many pages about rooming houses and run­down neighbourhoods and low-rent apartments.

There are some characters that stay with you, like Minna, in Timothy Fmdley's "A Gift of Mercy" (if the stories in this collection were the skyline of the city, then "A Gift of Mercy" would be the CN Tower) or Ivy, in Katherine Govier's "Brunswick Av­enue."

There are places, too, like the humid living room in Neil Bissoondath's "Christmas Lunch" or the immigrant neighbourhood in Irena Friedman Karafilly's "The Nielson Chocolate Factory."

We are assured that, by means of these stories, "the city's complex personality emerges, takes shape, and, for a moment, makes sense." I must have missed the moment. In spite of some good writing, there isn't enough here for such a metaphysical marvel to materialize. There's too much reminisc­ing, and not enough story-telling.

David H. Elias, Winnipeg, Man.
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