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detail and are perhaps the best sequences in the novel. Equally striking is Walshe's talent for comic language, and it is a measure of the strength of these skills that they remain so prominent despite Walshe's pursuit of an abstraction that never quite enters the novel as idea or as character. The majority of the first novels published this year are modest and have few literary debts. Like Paddy Webb, however, Walshe has determined on a more expansive subject. Webb falters in her return to realism, Walshe in allowing the narrative to become overwrought, both of them faults, one hopes, only of inexperience. 2 1 MICHAEL F. DIXON To borrow a bromide from the sporting press, on paper it should have been a winning year. With new fiction from Atwood, Callaghan, Davies, Gallant, and Hood in the lineup you could betyour domed-stadium deficit onCanlit. Alas for thebright hopes of training camp, the firstteam gave an effective literary impression of 'playing-out-your-option': doing competently what they did better before. Writers, ofcourse, have mortgages and dentists' bills, and a garage sale ofodds and ends from the filing cabinet to capitalize on reputation hardly ruins the franchise; neither does it make a season of champions. Callaghan's Our Lady of the Snows (Macmillan, 192, $19.95) blatantly recycles an old short story to fill the space required of novels, attenuating moral parable to melodrama and diluting its power. Atwood dresses her usual dance team of victim and victimizer in unusual costumes againstunexpected settings for The Handmaid's Tale (McClelland and Stewart, 324, $22.95), but their intricate steps move to the familiar Atwoodian gavotte of solemn polemic. In Davies's What's Bred in the Bone (Macmillan, 448, $22.95), Francis Cornish steps from his role in The Rebel Angels as an intriguing minor characterinto the harsh light ofstage-centre to stand revealed as a pale hybrid of Monica Gall and Dunstan Ramsay, his psychodyssey bled of the resonant mystery and impending sense of discovery energizing its progenitors from Salterton and Deptford to make room for a wondrous bounty of arcane lore and trenchant observation on art and artisans:Cornish is a creature upstaged by the magisterial voice of his creator. Nothing in these works will offend their authors' loyal adherents; nothing will convert the unfaithful. They are not unworthy by any means; much worse appeared in English, some of them in Canada. 'Static' is perhaps the word for them, artifacts of major writers playing comfortably within, not probing, their established boundaries. Such impressionistic remarks hardly constitute valid protocol in an academic journal, but they are the stuff of reviews, those conduits of first impreSSions and undefended responses, especially in their most superficial manifestation, the omnibus review. I make them as prologue to FICTION 13 questioning whether any review of new fiction by established authors is now more than a redundancy in these pages. At one time Canadian fiction was reviewed in academic journals or it was seldom reviewed at all, but that era is clearly, gratifyingly past. The appearance of new work by known writers is a cultural event; 'media' coverage this year was extraordinarily widespread and generally enthusiastic. Atwood and . Davies made the pages of Time. Need UTQ, with its limited space, supplement Time? Or Maclean's, Books in Canada, the CBC, The Globe and Mail? Surely our role with new fiction is to complement, not supplement, the popular review with the scholarly analysis. Mavis Gallant's Overhead in a Balloon (Macmillan, 208, $19.95) exemplifies ·admirably the dilemma created by an imperative to characterize a complex work without sufficient space for a critical context. The volume contains a dozen stories, all but one reprinted from the New Yorker. Any vintage so carefully controlled as New Yorker prose is not likely to offend most palates if sipped in small doses. Gulped in bulk, Gallant's stories leave a faintly bitter aftertaste. To trace something so elusive to its source is the job of a critic, not a reviewer. Review-speak ('spare: 'economical,' 'precise: 'sharp: 'penetrating: 'finely textured') captures accurately the acute articulation of Gallant's narrative voice, but not its tone, a tone detectable in her...


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