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Letters m Canada 1982 This year, three new contributors to our regular columns join our staff. Douglas Hill of the University of Toronto becomes one of our two columnists in the 'Fiction' category. He replaces R.P. Bilan, who has done an excellent job. Kathy Mezei of Simon Fraser University, herself a literary translator, takes over the 'Translations' section. John J. O'Connor, who wrote this column from its inception six years ago, has rightly become known across Canada for the meticulous attention he brought to that task. Martin Rumscheidt of the Atlantic School of Theology replaces his Maritime colleague, Emero Stiegman, in the 'Religion' section. To all three we express our appreciation for a valued contribution. This year, exceptionally, the poetry column has been prepared by a tandem, our regular contributor, Sandra Djwa, assisted by R.B. Hatch of the University of British Columbia. (B-ZS) Fiction 11 HELEN HOY If the pyramid theory of creativity ('for every Keats, you need a thousand Cloughs') has any validity, then new fiction for 1982 bodes well for Canadian literature. The base of the pyramid, at least, is quickly being set in place. Previously unpublished fiction writers have produced a dozen sturdy collections of stories and a half-dozen serviceable novels, as foundation for future construction. In addition, for impatient souls with eyes fixed firmly on the heights, we have one short-story collection which rises above the others, Guy Vanderhaeghe's fine collection, ironically , in this context, entitled Man Descending. Short-story collections are not merely the bete noire of publishers. They are also the scourge of reviewers. With repeated opportunities to redeem themselves, collections are less likely than novels to be simple failures (especially not with budget-conscious editors ruthlessly eliminating all but the fittest). Conversely, though, even the good collection is undramatic . Ten or fifteen hard gem-like flames are less memorable than a single bonfire. This 'reviewer's compleynte' is provoked by the eighteen UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 52, NUMBER 4, AUGUST 1.983 316 LETTERS IN CANADA 1982 collections (totalling 204 short stories) produced by new Canadian writers in 1982. Often quite good, the collections do not usually lend themselves either to simple dismissal or, alas, to succinct characterization and evaluation . Some of these fictional creations are comparatively slight. Ken Decker's Backyard Gene Pool (Quadrant, '3', $6.95 paper), a series of post-modern linguistic romps, brings forth mutant sports, tortuous masses of wordplay , more often than vigorous new offspring. Equally contemporary and sardonic but less purely cerebral is Greg Hollingshead's Famous Players (Coach House, '45, $7.50 paper). These fantasies, ranging from the delightfully playful to the outlandish and macabre, testify to Hollingshead 's imaginative energy. The wilful incoherence of some, though, becomes excessive and ultimately, for all their humour, the stories have little substance. Problems of clarity also plague Gail Scott's experimental Spare Parts (Coach House, 1981, 62, $6.50 paper), five stories exploring stages of female development and reflecting the heroine's perturbations and relative maturity through idiom, often surrealistic imagery, and varying degrees of narrative disorder. Of an enmely different order from these difficulties are the self-imposed limitations of Summer at Lonely Beach (MosaiclValley, 86, $12.95, $6.95 paper), Miriam Waddington's gentle, often lyrical short stories of growing up, ofJewishness, of middleaged loneliness; unassuming glimpses of character and situation so lowkey as to resemble still lifes. Among the unexceptional but satisfying collections are the usual heterogeneous assortments and also that fertile Canadian form, the collection of connected stories. The latter (in the Canadian context perhaps better described as federated short stories) includes Martin Avery's Cottage Gothic (Oberon, 94, $15.95, $7.95 paper). Avery gives us tongue-in-cheek sketches using Gravenhurst, Ontario, Norman Bethune (a native son of Gravenhurst), Canadian literature, hockey night in Canada, and cottage country as comic motifs. Simple sentences and tart understatement permit the wry, detached narrator to puncture illusions: 'But don't worry, nothing happens ... This is not a story by Atwood, Valgardson or Joyce Carol Oates. There is no room for gothic romance and mystery in the backwoods of cottage country.' Other such connected collections are more simply...


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