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PIerroN 9 mented by a breadth of information in many fields and an impressive command of idiom, whether the jargon of the scientist or literary critic, a medievalist's treatise on worms, Renaissance prose, the cliches of the marketplace, or the cowboy's drawl. The Hawryliw Process is an intelligent , witty, solid, satiric novel. Although the slowness of its opening and the intellectual demands it places on its readers will deter some, it is a novel which deserves a wide reading. With the forays into experimental fiction, with the large number of competent if not always exciting new writers, and with such a talented novice as Robert Allen, 1980's fiction by newcomers presents a heartening picture. 2 I R.P. BlLAN In the past year two ofCanada's foremost novelists, Mordecai Richler and Hugh MacLennan, ended rather lengthy silences: Joshua Then and Now is Richler's first novel in nine years, Voices in Time MacLennan's first in thirteen years. The appearance of these two works is the major event in Canadian fiction in '980. Otherwise, in what on the whole was not a banner year, there were several short novels that should be noted, including one by Rudy Wiebe, and, as always, a number of collections of short stories, the most interesting from Hugh Hood. One of the books of short stories comes from Sheila Watson, but Four Stories (Coach House Press, 80, $6.50) does not represent new work; all these stories appeared some time ago, three in the '950S before the publication of her only novel, The Double Hook (1959). I am not one of the many people who admire The Double Hook; the book seems to me excessively symbolic and mythic, awork ofarchetypes denuded. My view of these stories is very similar. Again Watson is exploring myth in modern form, or seeing modern experience in mythic terms; her characters are named Oedipus, Daedalus, Antigone. There is an unquestionable seriousness lying behind these stories - a concern with the loss of religiOUS belief in the modern world, with the loss of 'eternal verities' - but I don't think it is translated into successful fiction. At times the condemnation of the secular rational modern age is made too explicitly, but the main problem is the uneasy mixture of myth and realism. (I think, in part, that Watson is simply putting a strain on what prose fiction can do; her particular kind of examination of myth might seem more acceptable in poetic form.) As the stories stand we are faced with too many conversations where the realistic and mythic languages pull in different directions; as a result, the conversations are often simply puzzling, the stories mainly things to be deciphered. Leon Rooke's Cry Evil (Oberon, '57, $6.95) opens with one of the most amusing stories 1have read in some time. Supposedly concerned with the 10 LEITERS IN CANADA 1980 narrator's injured foot, it is in fact a story about writing a story. The narrator is a writer and he never gets very far in the story about his foot for his wife keeps interrupting him and criticizing the kind of stories he writes. The humour comes from the sharp exchanges between the narrator and his wife and from his partial attempt to comply with her criticisms by, for instance, including a little sex (of sorts) in his story. Her objections, delivered in a wonderfully shrewish way, punctuate the story: 'According to her, the people in my stories are never polite and nice the way people really are. In my stories it is always hocus-pocus, slam bang, and someone has a knife at your throat. Turns people off, she claims: More specifically, his wife objects thathis workhas 'noredeeming quality'; that it is too negative: 'gloom, gloom, gloom, that's all you preach'; finally that his stories are not about average, ordinary people, but about abnormal ones. By the time he's finished fending off her objections , his story is amusingly and deftly told. As we read on in Cry Evil, however, we suddenly realize that we have been set up by this opening story and that the title of the volume is perfectly appropriate; it is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 9-19
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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