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Daniel McBain

Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1991. 149pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-847-2 (cloth) $29.95, ISBN 0-88750-848-0 (paper) $15.95. CIP

Reviewed by Brenda Reed.

Volume 19 Number 5
1991 October

Art Roebuck Comes to Born with a Tooth, Daniel McBain's first novel, may appeal to those who are interested in experimental fiction. In this curious narrative, there is a blurring of the distinctions between dream and reality. The reader who is left wondering about the bizarre occurrences in this narrative may be tempted to agree with Hartland, the character who says, "Listen. I don't know what you're trying to pu-pp-pull around here with all your tricks and hocus and fu-ff-fables." For this narrative is a fable, of sorts.

There are apparently unnatural events, and satire is used to ridicule certain human follies, such as forty-five-channel twenty-four-hour television and evangelists who pronounce the end of the world as they pass around their coin-collecting tambourines. Unnatural events are suggested in the name of the Saskatchewan town, "Born with a Tooth," and in the several apocalyptic events that the narrative offers us. The farm in Born with a Tooth suffers through a flood, a dividing of the earth, an attack by large black insects, and a drought. The reader can never be certain that these events really happen, or if they are segments of the characters' dreams.

The characters do not help the reader's quest for meaning in this fable. Art Roebuck is James Cole, a man who strangled a rooster and then spent the next fourteen years mute in a rocking chair watching television until he was "cured" by a thirteen-year-old evange­list. Hartland, James' son, returns at the end of the story as Art's brother. Warren Putnam, the lover of Ida, James' wife, first tries to kill Art with an army of fifty men dressed in Confederate Army uniforms and then reappears as Art's father. Sarah, the four-year-old daughter of Warren and Ida, has several incarnations. At one point she is a beautiful, voluptuous adolescent exuding the perfume of lilac flowers. Later on Sarah is Art's mother, and apparently the mother of over twenty-two children.

Clearly McBain has a vivid imagina­tion, and this clever, sometimes funny novel will challenge the sophisticated reader to find a purpose in its dream episodes.

Brenda Reed, Bishop's College School, Lennoxville, Que.
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