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Letters in Canada 1979 This year 'Letters in Canada' welcomes a new reviewer to its 'Poetry' section, Sandra Djwa ofSimon Fraser University. With this appointment our regular chroniclers span Canada from sea to sea. The editors wish to thank most warmly our long-time contributor, Michael Hornyansky, for his witty and often controversial reviews of poetry in Canada. We also wish to express our appreciation to the contributors to 'Publications in Other Languages: Natalia Aponiuk, Yvonne Grabowski, and Eugene Orenstein. Henceforth, reviews ofbooks in languages other than English and French will be incorporated into our 'Humanities' section. (B.-Z.S.) Fiction 11 SAM SOLECKI It is generally true that first novels tend to be formally cqnventional and thematically unadventuresome; a stunningly original work like Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum is the proverbial exception to a rule that holds true for novelists as different as Balzac and Faulkner. It is also a rule that holds true for almost all of the first Canadian novels of 1979 - Jack MacLeod's Zinger and Me is the witty and exuberant exception. Betty Lambert's Crossings (Pulp Press, 284, $5.95 paper) is another variant on the woman-writer-as-woman-writer novel. Written in a sparel unpretentious prose, it offers a few insights into the counter-culture of the 1960s but fails, on the whole, because of a basically unsympathetic central character. Britt Hagarty's Prisoner of Desire (Talonbooks, 290, $7.95 paper) is a first-person, slice-of-life account of Sean Gallagher's love for a beautiful woman named Erin, his addiction to heroin, and his stay in prison: all three are desires of a sort, and he's a prisoner to each. The subject matter has an inherent interest but the colloquial style, one part Kerouac and one part Celine, becomes tiresome in much the same way that dialect becomes tedious after a few sentences. One could describe Shirley Faessler as a lesser Alice Munro were Munro to concern herself with the lives of Jewish girls and women in Toronto. Faessler's Everything in the Window (McClelland and Stewart, 331, $13.95) is a realistic UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME XLIX, NUMBER 4 , SUMMER 1980 0042-°247/80/0800-°320 $00.00/0 © UN IVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS 1980 FICTION / 1 321 novel about the married life of a young girl named Sophie Glicksman. If there were a category called Laodicean fiction - it bloweth neither hot nor cold - Everything in the Window could be placed there. It is competently written, has several very sensitively drawn minor characters, and has a fine sense of place. But once again the novelist's inability to create a convincing and engaging central figure and to give her life a certain emotional depth prevents the novel from being more than occasionally satisfying. In addition, one has a sense of trop deja vu with many of the scenes dealing with lower-class Jewish life. Of the works to be discussed in some detail - Stan Dragland's Peckertracks , Katherine Gouvier's Random Descent, Jack MacLeod's Zinger and Me, and Andrew Brycht's Zoom - the first two were chosen because they show a great deal of promise, the last two because their level of achievement is rare not only among first novelists but in established writers as well. Peckertracks (Coach House Press, 144, $5.95 paper) is the slightest of the four yet it is arguably the most enjoyable. It consists of almost a hundred brief, chronologically arranged anecdotes, told by a thirdperson narrator, about the late adolescence of Percy B. Lewis of Depot, Alberta. Not a particularly ambitious work, nor even an especially original one, Peckertracks nevertheless engages one's interest by the sheer linguistic energy with which some of the episodes and characters are described. Dragland's narrator makes almost no evaluations of the events; his primary function is to recreate, with an almost Hemingwaylike Simplicity, the various events and stages of Percy's life, and the slang and speech rhythms of the dialogues of Percy and his friends. The style and narrative mode are effective as long as the subject-matter of the anecdote is interesting in itself, but, as happens too often, when...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 320-324
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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