Made in Manitoba: An Anthology of Short Fiction by Wayne Tefs, and: Contemporary Manitoba Writers: New Critical Studies ed. by Kenneth James Hughes (review)
- Western American Literature
- The Western Literature Association
- Volume 27, Number 1, Spring 1992
- pp. 88-90
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88 Western American Literature puerile sexual insecurities, contempt for women, and cranky anti-intellectualism rankle the reader; the final story, an incest fantasy, is downright repugnant. All the more unfortunate, because Locklin has some literary gifts, and if he could get beyond his preoccupation with the role of libidinous curmudgeon, he might produce more commendable work. The collection opens with a rambling tribute to Charles Bukowski, whose image as crusty satyr the narrator clearly means to emulate. In “The Bukowski/ Barfly Narrative,”Locklin attempts to interweave several thematic strands—the narrator’s disaffection for the academic profession, his lament for the Babylonish excesses of contemporary Los Angeles, and his identification with Bukowski as the mentor of his id. But whatever imaginative possibilities these themes might inspire, the story is marred by the narrator’s shrill misogyny and his tendency to lapse into the language of academic criticism, interrupting the story’s already weak momentum. Other stories are more structurally coherent, but repeatedly feature the same male protagonist whose mawkish self-absorption and adolescent sexual ego undercut the reader’s interest or affection. Moreover, there is little action or development in these narratives, robbing them of drama or conflict; most are musings about failed marriages, unsatisfactory relationships with parents and children, embarrassing affairs with coeds, and the pretensions of academia. An exception is the title story, where a wife and husband deceive each other in turn over the family’s investments. Though cleverly plotted and a refreshing break from the tiresome sameness of the other narratives, the story is strangely lifeless. On the whole, there is little to recommend this collection. Some readers may share the author’s nostalgia for an earlier cultural age when the vicissitudes of male bravado were more compelling fictional subject matter, but I suspect that most will find his world view unpalatable. LIAHNA BABENER Montana State University Made in Manitoba: An Anthology of Short Fiction. Compiled by Wayne Tefs, (Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1990. 279 pages, $6.95.) Contemporary Manitoba "Writers: New Critical Studies. Edited by Kenneth James Hughes. (Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1990. 177 pages, $12.95.) It is still true that most Americans take Canada for granted, an invisible presence above the top of television weather maps. The twenty-two stories in Made in Manitoba remind us how much we impoverish ourselves by not seeing Canada. Manitoba, the eastern-most of the three Prairie Provinces, includes the far North of Hudson Bay, the rough lake and forest and blackfly country of the Reviews 89 granite Laurentian Shield, and the endless wheat and elevators of the prairies. And it has Winnipeg, a major city both economically and culturally akin to Minnesota’s Twin Cities. The writers included in Made in Manitoba are both those who were origi nally from Manitoba but now live elsewhere and those born elsewhere who now live in Manitoba. As Wayne Tefs, the compiler, notes, selecting stories for the anthology meant balancing “gender, geography, generation,”and a number of other criteria. Thus we have stories by Manitoba’s grandes dames—Margaret Laurence’s often anthologized “The Loons” and Gabrielle Roy’s “The Wheel chair.” Robert Kroetsch, the dean of the living writers in the collection, is represented by the early “Earth Moving” (1960), written almost a decade before anything else in the collection. David Arnason, Sandra Birdsell, and W. D. Valgardson represent perhaps a middle generation of established and wellknown writers, though almost none of those represented here are new or obscure. These stories have both their epiphanies and the level narrative from which they must arise. I still love “The Loons” after many readings. More than any census, it marks the closing of a frontier. Wayne Tefs is also particularly moving. The self-conscious play with narration of Carol Shields’ “Dying for Love” and the slightly affected “Story Like a Shovel” of Birk Sproxton break the mold of the essentially realistic stories that dominate. The variation in the stories and the overall high quality of the collection go to show why prairie writing is as central to Canadian literature as it is to Canadian geography, a statement one cannot make for the Great Plains in American literature. Contemporary Manitoba 'Writers makes a...