WEST OF FICTION
Edited by Leah Plater, Aritha van Herk, and Rudy Wiebe.
Volume 11 Number 6.
Aha, I thought, picking up West of Fiction, another easy-to-review Canadian anthology. Just count the thirty stories and note a few well-known representative names like Margaret Laurence, W.O. Mitchell, Parley Mowat, Alice Munro. Add a few names that are becoming representative, like Jane Rule, Ann Cameron, W.P. Kinsella. Comment on the attractive photograph above a brief paragraph on birthplace, present place, writings, and awards that precedes each author's story. Many of the writers are of course poets and novelists as well. Tack on a quick recommendation that this is a great way for the younger generation to get acquainted with thirty Canadian fiction writers, and the thing is done. Take a quick check to be sure that the stories are indeed western Canadian, except for the placeless fantasies (and one set in Africa). No need to read the whole book; I've read some of these stories elsewhere already.
It did not turn out to be so. Finely crafted short stories do not permit skimming; to begin with, every detail and nuance is essential. And I read every story—too rapidly for real appreciation; these are stories to re-read and re-appreciate. But not too rapidly for a cumulative effect. There is no obvious arrangement; the stories are not alphabetical or chronological, indeed they are not dated, although most are quite recent. The patterns are more subtle: the dark hungry winters, the Depression that more than the wars seems like a wall-marking off my contemporaries from those who came before and after. I did not enjoy the reading; the evocations are too achingly familiar, the detail too sharp and cutting to be pleasant. I did not need to read the stories, I was/ am there. I do not wish to be reminded. This is western Canada as I lived it, not even as comfortingly remote as the eastern woodlands. The unity of the book is place; the stories hammer their "western-ness" not directly with their geographical setting but with an insistent atmosphere. This is the way it was/is. Take us or leave us.
Grace Funk, Harwood E. S., Vemon, BC.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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