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Bradd Burningham
Fredericton (N.B.), Goose Lane, 1991. 208pp, $14.95
ISBN 0-89492-093-8. C

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up

Reviewed by Robert Lovejoy.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

This collection of eleven short stories by Bradd Burningham begins with an appropriate quotation from Adrienne Rich's "Diving into the Wreck":

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun

Burningham's reader is expected to come to his stories for the "wreck" itself, not for the myth but for the "thing." His style emphasizes the concreteness of the reality he creates. We are urged to see physical settings and events - the concrete is never far from the reader's view:

When we detoured to the basement
to view some newly purchased
and highly esoteric tools at his
work table, I was able to identify the
mucusy stuff on my straight-legged
pants: a special kind of glue,
acquired when I helped him build
the partitions some months ago.

Burningham is a librarian at Mount Allison University and not surprisingly most of his stories have some academic setting. His talent and interests are clearly those of a careful observer and analyst. He watches and reveals. The reader is often in the middle of a domestic situation or a difficult relation­ship, but Burningham's handling of these gives life to them. His humour is sly and appealingly underplayed. For Burningham, obviously, moments of insight are few but are what must be searched for in sheer living. As he summarizes near the end of the title story, “The Sad Eye," a story of a father-son relationship, "No way, no damn way, are you ever making "me" Artistic. But it didn't matter, the saying it, because ho never did."

Of the stories, the shorter and more aphoristic ones strike us as truly successful. "Four Poster," "Realemon" and "Stag" are very good indeed. The reader of these three stories will want to read them again and again, just to see how insignificant detail, that physicality of the "thing" itself, can be used to carry us through several layers of awareness and understanding into moving insights. Reading Burningham's stories is rewarding indeed.

Robert Lovejoy, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ont.
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