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500 LETTERS IN CANADA 1982 In sum, there is a valuable book to be written about psychology and the writing of Robertson Davies, but such a book will heed his early interest in Freud and his ongoing delight in Jung. (JUDITH SKELTON GRANT) Robert Lecker. On the Line: Readings in the Short Fiction of Clark Blaise, 'ohn Metcalf, and Hugh Hood ECW Press. '30. $8,95 paper On the Line is perhaps the most important book in Canadian criticism published in the past twelve years. It is important not only because it is the first worthwhile, substantial study of our writers in a genre in which they excel and have an international reputation, but also because it is a book that concretely exemplifies the sort of exciting and brilliant critical responses our literature is capable of eliCiting in a talented critic. For various and sundry disturbing reasons, the short story has not received as much critical attention in Canadian criticism as either the novel or poetry, and Lecker is right to complain about both the dearth of meaningful criticism and the emphasis on thematics and regionalism in most of whatever commentary there is. Believing - and I share this belief - 'that what we need in Canada is not classification, but identification based on the distinguishing features of an individual author's work: Lecker concentrates on the three short-story writers he admires the most: Clark Blaise, John Metcalf, and Hugh Hood, without doubt three of our better writers in the genre. The book constitutes an explanation of that value-judgment to both the reader and to Lecker himself, and the exploratory, quasi-subjective tone established in the Introduction , together with the frequent direct addresses to the reader throughout the book, is a highly effective rhetorical strategy. Stressing the elegiac and tragic qualities in Blaise's fiction and the selfconsciousness of his narrators, Lecker is concerned in his chapter on Blaise with invoking 'Blaise's tragic view of language, his absorption in the perpetual struggle he sees between art and nature, savagery and intellect, his sense of life as lie.' He is seeking 'the centre of Blaise's seductive web' of 'memory and desire.' But most of all, he wishes to tell us how a Clark Blaise story 'feels.' Lecker speaks most often of character throughout his discussion of Blaise's various stories - the psychological condition of Blaise's central characters and the psychological significance of narrative events - though he does convey, in most cases, a powerful sense of the texture of a Blaise story too. Sometimes, however, Lecker's stress on the metafictional dimensions of particular stories - 'Eyes: for example - seems unwarranted, and I wish that some of his acutely insightful parenthetical remarks were HUMANITIES 501 not subordinate but primary assertions. For instance, such comments as those about 'the wholly unexamined' possessive tone in certain sentences in 'A Class of New Canadians' (p 20), the rhythm of Blaise's sentences in 'Eyes' (p 22), and the use of military language in 'Broward Dowdy' (p 41) tell us more about how a Blaise story really 'feels: in my view, than any discussion of the psychological dilemma of the central character, important as that may be. Concerned to show how 'ideas' develop through Metcalf's 'concentration on things: Lecker traces the evolution of Metcalf's aesthetic in the growth of his protagonists from boyhood, through adolescence, to manhood . Each stage, Leeker argues, 'is identified by increasingly self-reflective views of craftsmanship and written art.' Lecker is primarily concerned with meaning here, though not at the expense of either form or texture. But I wish more of his commentary were like his astute analYSis of the first paragraph of 'Early Morning Rabbits' (p 62) or his penetrating insight about the 'fictional river of time' in 'The Teeth of My Father' (p 88). Because 'Hood's stories are so complex: Lecker argues, he has chosen ,to discuss only one story - namely, 'Looking Down from Above' - and because it has become conventional to 'read what Hood and his critics say about Hood' rather than to react spontaneously to Hood's art, Lecker tries to escape such critical contexts in his reading of the story 'as a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 500-501
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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