Kevin Irie - Issue 106

Low Water Slack by Tim Bowling (Nightwood Editions, 1995, 79 pages, $9.95).

Tim Bowling's first book, Low Water Slack, is a rare find. Accomplished, assured, and stocked with memorable imagery, it trumpets the presence of a huge new talent. The biographical note on the back cover gives us the personal history: first prize in the 1994 National Poetry Contest, raised in Ladner, British Columbia, worked as a deckhand of a Fraser River gillnetter each summer. But his background also describes the book's subject matter - the salmon, the water, the boats and the people who work them, where "the salmon are a moving crop."

Bowling has the talent to combine the personal, the political, and the philosophical within his poems, gliding from one to the other as gracefully as those salmon that dart through his poems. And salmon are very much the living centre of this collection. Like Ted Hughes, Bowling sees them as regal, heraldic. He describes a dying salmon as:

 ... scales like bloodied coin
 a glove of chain-mail
 after a Crusades slaughter
 the living hand still inside

              (The Last Sockeye)

Part of Bowling's gift is his ability to recognize the inherent majesty of the natural and yet to also celebrate the lives of those who earn their living by the catch. This dichotomy surfaces inthe poem, "Sunset: LadnerHarbour":

 I can see the crabs twitching like
 severed hands as the boat moves past
 me on the dyke. I know the man behind
 the wheel. Yet it seems impossible to
 wave. Who would I be waving at, the
 man I am or the hundred prisoned selves
 I can't become?

It is those "prisoned selves" that Bowling also explores in poems on adolescence, his parents, the past and future. "The Tinsmith," is a tribute to John Sullivan Deas, a free mulatto from the States who eventually owned and ran a B.C. cannery in the 1870's. "West Coast Winter: 1942," is inspired by the inland deportation of Japanese-Canadians during World War Two. On a more personal note, Bowling writes of lonely widows who depend on fishermen bringing them home catch to eat, of neighbours who have died young, of his own love. Yet, no matter what the subject matter, Bowling gives each the same skilful degree of attention and insight, of compassion and perspective. It is that Whitmanesque empathy that allows Bowling to accurately write:

 I have been that profile,
 the slow pace on hardwood floors ...I am
 one step from the black graves flowing
 by, one beat from the broken glass

                       ("Canoe Pass")

After reading this collection, it is apparent that Bowling has claimed coastal British Columbia as his own poetic landscape in much the same way that another impressive British Columbia poet, Harold Rhenisch, has claimed the orchards of the interior.

Low Water Slack is a generous first book of poems, and, at age 3 1, Bowling has the prospect of more fine work to come. Often, first books are regarded as tentative, or promising. With Tim Bowling, there is no need to wait: Low Water Slack is promise fulfilled, talent celebrated.

Donez Xiques - Issue 106

A Very Large Soul: Selected Letters from Margaret Laurence to Canadian Writers. Edited with a preface and introduction by J.A. Wainwright. Dunvegan, Ontario: Cormorant Books, 1995. xxi + 264 pp. $18.95.

"I had to discard 8 months work and years of brooding on the novel I hoped to do, because it turned out I had outgrown it and did not really want to write it. I think another novel is growing under the surface. It is all an odd experience..."(13). These comments by Margaret Laurence prior to beginning work on The Diviners, her last novel, occurin acollection of more than two hundred letters: A Very Large Soul: Selected Letters from Margaret Laurence to Canadian Writers edited by J.A. Wainwright. The book is fittingly dedicated to Malcolm Ross, who taught Margaret during her college days, and who as teacher, critic and editor has made outstanding contributions to Canada's literary life.

In 1980 Margaret Laurence remarked that after reviewing her papers she reali ' zed that she had received letters from 109 Canadian writers; and while she did not enumerate the number of fellow writers to whom she had written, correspondence in various repositories, particularly the very extensive holdings at York University, indicates that that number was equally large. J.A. Wainwright, who edited this important collection of letters from Laurence to more than thirty Canadian authors, 9 women and 23 men, has made a valuable contribution to a growing body of work about one of Canada's foremost writers.

 

The reader must bear in mind, though, that hundreds of other letters to and from Margaret Laurence remain to be examined in order to achieve anything like a full picture of her life. Material from the decade between the publication in 1953 of "Uncertain Flowering," her first story (in Story) and the November 1962 letter to George Woodcock in A Very Large Soul is not represented here because of the specific focus of this volume and because much of that material is not readily available.

A Very Large Soul is interesting precisely because the letters in this collection, written over a 24 year period, are addressed to various persons, not to a single friend or colleague. This is a collection to be read, not skimmed, though the letters may be approached in several ways. The arrangement is not chronological but alphabetical - in this case a good decision; for the writer's relationship varies with each recipient, resulting in a complex and interesting view of Margaret Laurence between the ages of 36 and 60.

Numerous letters to A dedele Wiseman and to Al Purdy are not included since the extensive Purdy-Laurence correspondence, which requires a volume of its own, has already been published (1993). And the hundreds of letters between Adele Wiseman and Margaret Laurence are now in ' the process of being published (edited by John Lennox and Ruth Panofsky).

Most of the letters in A Very Large Soul were written after Laurence had become a mature writer with an established career, but they reveal over and over again her extraordinary generosity in corresponding with younger writers. Her enthusiasm for and interest in their work are tangible. Laurence is consistently straight forward, never feigning interest or concern. In addition, her letters to well-established colleagues contain quite specific comments on their work, and, as a result, readers will be tempted to jot down titles of novels, short stories and poems to add to their own reading list.

The range of Laurence's responses to situations in life and literature is interesting and varied. At times one senses that she is thinking aloud, trying to resolve conflicts and deal with anxieties about her writing. In a review such as this, general statements tend to fall short of what one is trying to convey; it is difficult to capture the flavor of these letters which span two decades or to arrive at an accurate portrait of Laurence rather than a mere sketch. The following references to her letters may better serve as entry to this important collection than an attempt to sum up the disparate parts.

Laurence's excitement following the winter 1975 meeting of the Writers' Union is palpable in this letter to Andreas Schroeder: "[The sessions] were just terrific...... It was so good to see you all again! Like wow! I know what you mean-it really is like a new infusion of energy" (191).

Her lengthy remarks to Harold Horwood about what she was trying to accomplish in The Diviners shed much light on that ambitious last novel of hers, and on writers' dilemmas and self-doubts (96).

Laurenceis adamantin her instructions to archivist and bibliographer William Ready about the manuscript of The Diviners, reporting to him that she intends to include a note with the manuscript: "Those parts which have been cut but which are still legible because I only drew a line through them, must not ever under any circumstances be printed in a critical article, essay, thesis or anywhere else. I'm sorry to sound so fussy, but I find I cannot bear to contemplate those bits which I have carefully taken out because they didn't belong, being at some time or other printed - it seems to make nonsense of the painstaking job of revision, the object of which is to make a better novel" (164-65).

She writes to Hugh MacLennan about her belief in God and in free will, but she also worries because she feels that "we have, as a race (all of mankind) not used it well. What gives me hope, I suppose, is the possibility of grace" (117).

Laurence's correspondence with Ernest Buckler began at a time when he was experiencing great discouragement over his work. Her esteem for Buckler and her concern for him are reflected clearly in Laurence's letters. In one instance she refers to The Stories of Ernest Buckler which had recently been published, and mentions "the ways in which the stories communicate the sense ofplace so beautifully, so that the reader is enabled for a while to enter, really enter, your country, your place. Another thing - the way in which you can communicate and make comprehensible the sadness and even the tragedy of those hurtful silences between people who love each other, and the subtleties of father-son and brother-brother relationships, in which each must tread very carefully, but never, it seems, can tread quite carefully enough. I found these stories very moving indeed" (29-30?). The correspondence is not one-sided, however, for in other letters to Buckler, Margaret Laurence is quite candid about her own discouragement and it seems as if Buckler's letters to her buoyed Laurence up as well.

To Gabrielle Roy, she writes in 1977: "I wish with all my heart that in Anglophone Canada (and yes, in the prairies which you and I both love so much) that more people could have realized, really realized, long ago, the way in which people in Quebec feel about their history, their language, their heritage, their identity. I only pray (and I use that word advisedly) that it may not be too late" (178).

Margaret Laurence's dedication to writing dominates the correspondence, but there are moments when her letters are full of humor and spontaneous "banter." Readers also learn of her relief at being settled into Elm Cottage, her genuine pleasure in the achievement of fellow writers, her concern with ethical issues related to her manuscripts, and frustration in endeavoring to resolve to her satisfaction problems of form in The Diviners. In editing this correspondence Professor Wainwright wisely kept the focus on Canadian writers and writing; and the book gains enormously because of that.

In A Very Large Soul readers will not find revelations about very personal matters, nor much that could be called startling. The letters are remarkably devoid of "gossip." While some readers may regret that there are not more details about Laurence's daily life and concerns, matters of that sort generally are of interest only to the parties involved or to a dedicated biographer. In fact, when these letters are perused in their entirety rather than in an edited version, one actually finds that very little of significance has been omitted. Reading A Very Large Soul often gives one the sense that Laurence is a bit rushed. She frequently writes to acknowledge letters, to express regret for not replying more promptly or writing more often, and to congratulate another writer for a recently published work. Occasionally, as in her letters to Hubert Evans and Gabrielle Roy, one feels that Laurence is writing out of her own deepest feelings. In 1983, for example, she remarks that the past two years have been "a good time for me, in terms of my own life and friends and children, but not such a good time in terms of my work, which still seems to evade me, much as I try. I do not tell many people about this anguish, because they would not understand because it is my own private concern" (189).

Those who wonder about a writer's life will find much to ponder in these letters. However, it is misleading here to single out particular correspondents, creating the impression that letters to one person are more important than to another because in reality something of Laurence is revealed to each one. For instance, only one letter to Alice Munro is included, but its interesting content is not repeated elsewhere in the collection and the excerpts from Wainwright's interview with Munro are very enlightening.

The tedium of reading through an unedited correspondence is usually the task of a biographer who then has the responsibility to summarize, interpret, and provide a wider context for the subject's life. And in the case of Margaret Laurence these letters actually make clear the need for a current full-scale biography which would take into account recent scholarship as well as material that has been placed in various repositories since Laurence's death in 1987. Nevertheless, inA Very Large Soul the notes which Wainwright provides both to the text of the letters and for the background of each recipient are often very useful. The unfortunate omission of an index and chronology for these letters mars the volume's usefulness, however. In addition, one remains puzzled that Wainwright was unable "to find out whether Sinclair Ross has received the Order of Canada (254) or to locate Leslie Fiedler's essay on Mordecai Richler (published in the Running Man) which aroused laurence's wrath (206); and is readily available in Fiedler's Collected Essays. While the biographical notes about the background and work of each recipient are indeed helpful and Wainwright has managed to track down important data, there is some inconsistency in citing page references to journals and newspapers, as well as some factual errors. Such points, however, do not erase the significance of this important collection.

The varied correspondence in A Very Large Soul has been gathered with the intention of letting these letters to other writers show Laurence communicating "her complex thoughts and feelings about their work, her work, and Canadian cultural matters in general" (iii). This collection certainly accomplishes that. Professor Wainwright's diligence in obtaining some letters which are still in private hands and for adroitly interspersing remarks from his interviews with fifteen of the recipients adds considerable substance to this volume. A Very Large Soul is definitely a rewarding reading experience.

Mark Antony Rossi - Issue 106

Black Eggs, Poems by Kurihara Sadako, Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Richard H. Minear, ($34.95, 329 pp.) Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Mchigan, 108 Lane Hall, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1290

Kurihara Sadako, one of Japan's greatest 20th century poets has released "Black Eggs," an expanded collection of poems that incorporates the original 1946 Hiroshima manuscript "Black Eggs" and the finest examples of her post-Hiroshima poetry. As translated by Professor Richard H. Minear, Kurihara Sadako's personal story is as unique and inspiring as her poetry.

She published her first major collection of poetry "Black Eggs" in 1946 but was unable to avoid the American Occupation's censorship regulations. Ironically, in this interim period, these regulations were more oppressive than the censors of the former Japanese Imperial Government. The censorship authorities, employing local Japanese editors, struck out a number of poems from her manuscript as well as other writers bold enough to document the horrors of atomic aftermath.

"Black Eggs" survived and moderately prospered selling 3,000 copies. Its censored poems were not published until thirty-seven years later in 1983. In the years following she continued to write, composing hundreds of poems and essays, most concentrating on Hiroshima, its victims and the need for a world-wide anti-nuclear ban.

Mrs. Kurihara was born and raised in Hiroshima and was present on that fatal day, 6 August 1945, the day the Atom Bomb changed the world and Kurihara Sadako forever, transforming her life from shopkeeper to one of Japan's bravest and most honest social and literary writers. With pen in hand; moral in heart, she tore down the thick curtain blinding average Japanese from truly understanding the third-class citizenry accorded Korean minorities. Speaking ever louder in literature and public rallies she demanded the best treatment possible for all suffering victims of atomic radiation. By reminding her fellow countrymen in stark language of Japan's role as aggressor during the Chinese occupation - a stand not popular then or now - she nevertheless married that ugly truth with the memory of Hiroshima. A moral acceptance she coined "dual awareness" of Japan's role as victim and victimizer.

In "The Day Of The Atom Bomb," Japan is the victim and Mrs. Kurihara is two and half miles from ground zero:

 "Frightening/street of hell-/each moment/
 the number of refugees/grows. Me refugees
 all/have burns;/clothes/are seared/onto
 skin.[Uninjured/but utterly naked,/a young
 girl fleeing-/I give her/my child's
 underpants./The road to the aid station/
 outside of town:/the line of refugees/
 stretches on/ and on./On the relief trucks/
 the bodies of the dead/and the injured,/
 blistered and/horrible."

Contrast that poem with "When We say, 'Hiroshima'," a potent piece describing Japan as victimizer. Not unexpectedly, this poem has a greater audience outside of the island:

 "When We Say,'Hiroshima',"

 "When we say "Hiroshima,"/do people answer,
 gently,/ "Ah,'Hiroshima? ... /Say"Hiroshima,"
 and hear" Pearl Harbor.'/Say "Hiroshima,"
 and hear "Rape of Nanjing."/Say "Hiroshima,"
 and hear women and children in Manila/thrown
 into trenches, doused with gasoline,/and
 burned alive./Say "Hiroshima,"/and hear
 echoes of blood and fire./"Ah, 'Hiroshima',"
 /we first must/wash the blood/off our own hands."

As these two poems indicate, the poet is sometimes caught in a chaos that demands abandonment of aesthetically-pleasing abstracts in order to instill in art an accurate recording of. history. There are terrible periods in our lives when art must become more than decoration or academic discussion, but bridge the jagged voids created by our society's collective fear. Japan has yet to fully acknowledge the latter of the two truths painfully composed. But, at least, the blueprint does exist for future generations.

Mrs. Kurihara has also written extensively on the link between Hiroshima and the Holocaust, discovering the emotional and literary consequences brought about when a people are nearly destroyed. The "witness syndrome" as I call it, bums deep in survivors, forging a fiery conviction to share with the world what has happened. A way to remeriiber and honour the dead. A way to cement in history an event that must never happen again. And quite possibly, a way to retain one's own sanity pummeled by sweaty nightmares and the guilt in having escaped death.

As written in "Hiroshima, Auschwitz: We Must Not Forget," the linkage is powerful and entirely justified:

 "Hiroshima, Auschwitz: we must not forget. 
 Nagasaki, Auschwitz: we must not forget. 
 Even if the first time was a mistake, the
 second time will be a calculated malice.
 The vow we made to the dead: we must not
 forget."

On a literary and psychological plane an interesting development emerges throughout the collection. Tanka, the ancient Japanese poetic structure of syllable divisions consisting of 5-7-5-7-7, is reserved for the works of sorrow and homage as in "City Ravaged by Flames," written in 1945:

 "Amid rubble /ravaged by flames/the last
 moments /of thousands: /what sadness! /
 Thousands of people,/tens of thousands:
 /lost/the instant/the bomb exploded./
 silent, all soffows/unspoken,/city of
 rubble/ravaged by flames:/autumn rain falls."

Whereas free verse, a poetic structure just barely over a hundred years old, plays a more upbeat role. An optimistic stance willing to begin again as demonstrated in the post-Hiroshima poem "Reconstruction" written in 1946:

 "withchild, spouse, mother dead,/
 who needs a large house?/
 Inthe small shacks/ the survivors
 call constantly, "come closer,"/keep
 each other warm, and carry on.,,

I cannot resist commenting on the tanka, free verse contrasts and I often speculate on why her boldest and freest sentiments are found in free verse. A certain positive strength exists in her free verse that leapfrogs tanka testaments of horror and melancholy. Almost as if a kind of unconscious unshackling of the Old Imperial Social Order was taking place-tanka, representing the old, free verse, the future.

While it's true to say that meditations on Hiroshima make up a significant part of this manuscript, it's not fair to leave out the dozens of poe@s that reflect upon the world's conflicts and nuclear messes such as Vietnam, the accident at Three Mile Island, the tactical nuclear missiles once stationed at the English bases in Greenham Common and issues of feminism and the future hope that lessons will be carved from the twisted ruin's of man's inhumanity to man.

In poems like "May," describing the brutal murder of protestors in the May 1980 South Korean uprising, and "American Tragedy," lamenting the cancer-striken residents of post-nuclear testing Nevada, Mrs. Kurihara is ever present, consistent in speaking for the dead and dying who cannot speak of the wrongs leveled against them. In both her fights in the abolition of nuclear power and the strengthening of human rights this poet has not forgotten what so many people would rather shove under the post-Cold War rug. The enormous price and legacy of the Cold War lives in her writings like angels heaven-sent to jump-start our hearts and minds. Forever reminding humanity of its character flaws that turn god-like powerful technology into man-made waves of mass destruction.

After the recent killing fields of Rwanda and the current ones of Bosnia, we so desperately need to pay heed to her voice ringing softly and eternally true in "Let The Sun Shine On The Children:

 Let's bring back the lost smell of plants
 and the voices on song,
 lift up our eyes, and stride toward tomorrow."

Contributors to Issue # 106

Chris Arthur lives in England and teaches at the University of Wales, Lampeter.

Gloria Artigas is a retired professor from the Universidad T6cnica del Estado in Santiago, Chile, where she worked for 25 years in the language department. Artigas has won several awards for her writing, and "Comers of Smoke" was named as first honorable mention in the Second Latin American Competition of the Short Story Written by Women in 1993.

Kenneth Banks was bom in Toronto. He was educated at the University of Guelph, Ontario and Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS. He has been published previously in The Antigonish Review. He has two books in print: The Tyrian Veil(1983) and Persephone (1985). For the last decade he has made part of his living as a fisherman working on Pictou Island, NS.

Alan Bishop is a Professor of English at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON.

Carol Bruneau lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her work has appeared in New Maritimes, Quill & Quire and Atlantic Books Today, and she has stories upcoming in The Fiddlehead and Room of one's Own. Her first book, After the Angel Mill, (Cormorant, 1995) is a collection of linked stories set in Cape Breton.

Terrance Cox has been published in numerous literary magazines including The Antigonish Review, Canadian Literature, The Fiddlehead, and New Quarterly. He lives in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Stewart Donovan teaches English Literature at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. He is the editor of The Nashwak Review. His poem "Still Life Revisited" (Antigonish Review #104) is forthcoming in the 1995/96 Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry.

Tony Fabijancic has a Ph.D. in English from the University of New Brunswick. His stories and articles have been published in West CoastLine, The Hawaii Review, The Faulkner Journal, Rethinking Marxism and Mosaic.

Pam Galloway lives in Burnaby, BC. Her poetry has been published in The Amethyst Review, Dandelion, Motherwork convolvulus and Fireweed. She regularly reads her poetry at venues in the Vancouver area with the poetry group 'Quintet'.

Peter Harris's poems have appeared in many magazines, most recently, in CutBank, The Kansas Quarterly, andPassages North. Also, for the past seven years he's written the Poetry Chronicle for The Virginia Quarterly Review.

Troon Harrison is the author of five children's picture books. Her poetry has appeared in Wascana Review, Windsor Review, The Peterborough Review and Pottersfield Portfolio. The poems in this issue are included in a collection entitled "Navigating By Memory", to be published Fall 1996, by The Cider Press, Peterborough, Ontario.

Susan L Helwig's work has been published in various literary journals and anthologies across Canada. She is a programmer for "In other words" at radio station CKLN 88.1 in Toronto. This is her second appearance in The Antigonish Review.

Kevin Irie has published reviews previously in The Antigonish Review. He has also published poems in periodicals such as Descant, Canadian Forum, Queen's Quarterly, and The Kyoto Review. He has a book of poems, "Burning The Dead," (Wolsak and Wynn, 1992). He lives in Toronto.

Susanne Kort lives in Caracas. Her poems have appeared in The Malahat Review and in the U.S. in The Seneca Review, Peurto del Sol, The Antioch Review, as well as in journals in England, Ireland and the Caribbean area.

M. Travis Lane is an Honorary Research Associate at the University of New Brunswick. Her most recent books areTemporary Shelter, Goose Lane Editions, 1993 and Night Physics, Brick Books, 1994.

Steven Lautermilch lives in Kill Devil Hills, NC. The poems included in this issue are from a new collection titled "These Transparencies". He has new poems appearing in New Virginia Review, The Ohio Poetry Review, andYankee.

John B. Lee is a winner of both the 1995 Tilden and Milton Acorn Awards for Poetry. Mr. Lee's most recent book isThe Beatles Landed Laughing In New York (Black Moss Press). He lives in Brantford, Ontario with his wife and sons.

Edward Lemond owns a secondhand and antiquarian bookstore in Moncton. He is presently finishing a novel The Birds of appetite, set in Nova Scotia, with a central character closely modelled on the Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton.

Kathy S. Leonard is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Linguistics at IowaState University in Ames. She has published translations of short stories by Latin American women authors in many journals, includingFeminist Studies, Antigonish Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, and Critical Matrix, The Princeton Journal of Women, Gender, and Culture. She is currently finishing work on an anthology titled Cruel Fictions, Cruel Realities: ShortStories by LatinAmerican Women in Translation.

Ruth Mandel is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and currently writing a poetry and photography manuscript, titled "Photographs We Will Never See", about the Holocaust's continuing reach and her recent trip to Poland. She has had poems published in Contemporary Verse 2, Parchment, Fireweed and Canadian Woman Studies.

Eric McLuhan, PH.D., is the author of Laws of Media and The City as Classroom (both with Marshall McLuhan) and of a forthcoming book on James Joyce's Finnigans Wake. He is also editor, with Frank Zingrone, of Essential McLuhan. He has taught at the University of Toronto, York University, Wisconsin State University, and other colleges.

Jennifer McVaugh operates the Bookstore in Golden Lake in eastern Ontario. Her first novel, Hello, Hello, was published by maxwell MacMillan.

Frederick Mundle teaches English at the New Brunswick Community College, Campbellton, NB.

Roger Nash's fourth collection of poems, In A Kosher Chow Mein Restaurant, is forthcoming with Your Scrivener Press this summer. He teaches Philosophy at Laurentian University.

Thomas B. O'Grady was bom and grew up on Prince Edward Island. He is currently Director of Irish Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His poems have appeared in poetry Ireland Review, The Lyric, The River Review/La Revue Rivière, The Fiddlehead, Crab Orchard Review, and other oumals and magazines. He has al so publi shed PEI-rel ated ficti on in Dalhousie Review and The Abegweit Review.

John Papemick is currently working on a novel entitled, The Three Annas, a manuscript for which he has recently been awarded a Canada Council Explorations Grant. His writing has appeared in Existere and The Fiddleheadand will be appearing in The Quarterly, and Exile.

Barbara Colebrook Peace lives in Victoria, BC. Her poetry has appeared previously in The Antigonish Review, and also in Vintage 93, The Malahat Review, Arc, The Windhorse Review, and other literary journals.

Ian Pople teaches in Saudi Arabia. His collection the Glass Enclosure was published in Britain by ARC and was a poetry Book Society recommendation.

John Reibetanz teaches English at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Morning Watch (Véhicule, 1995) and of the forthcoming Midland Swimmer, and his poems have appeared recently in Quarry, The Malahat Review, and The Paris Review. He was a finalist in the 1995 National Magazine Awards.

Mark Antony Rossi has published poetry, fiction, essays, articles, plays, book reviews and interviews in several journals. October 1995 marked the world premier production of three of his plays: "Gear Fear...... Jane Doe" and "Numb" by Johnson Community College's Black Box Theatre in Kansas.

Marilyn Sciuk lives in Oshawa, Ontario. Her work has appeared in the literary joumals, Blood and Aphorisms andThe New Quarterly. Thistledown Press is including her short fiction in an upcoming anthology.

Nabeela Sheikh lives in Windsor, ON. Nabeela is currently working towards an M.A. in English Creative Writing while also teaching a section of an Expository Writing course.

Alix Smyth is a recent graduate of Dalhousie University with a Master of Arts in English who lives in Halifax. This is her first published poem.

R.W. Stedingh is a Vancouver writer, translator and editor. His poems and translations have appeared in numerous magazines including Malahat Review, Tamarack Review, Northwest Review and Event. He is the author of two volumes of poetry, Faces of Eve (1969) and From a Bell Tower (1971). He is the Founding Editor of Canadian Fiction Magazine and the former Managing Editor of PRISM International. He is now working on The War of Words: Selected Poems of Pierre Reverdy.

Mary Swan lives in Guelph, Ontario. Recent work has appeared in The Malahat Review and The Ontario Review, and the forthcoming Anthology "Sudden Fictions".

Arved Viirlaid was bom in Estonia on April 11, 1922 and educated at Kloostri and at the Tallin State College of Fine Arts. After serving as an officer in the Finnish Army, he moved in 1945 to Sweden, in 1946 to England, and in 1954 to Canada, where he is now a citizen. He is the author of fivebooks of poetry including Hand in Hand (1978), which received the coveted Visnapuu Award for that year. In addition, he has published eight novels. His work has been translated into.Latvian, Swedish, French, English, Spanish, Finnish, Ukranian and Chinese.

Donez Xiques, a summer resident of Nova Scotia for over twenty years is a professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY. Her work has appeared in Canadian Literature, The American Review of Canadian Studies, & Thought. She is presently completing The Apprenticeship of Margaret Laurence, a study of the writer's early career.

Contributors to Issue # 105

Rob Bartel is studying history at the University of Winnipeg. These poems were drawn from his recent experiences in Latin America.

Gunnar Benediktsson is a published writer. His poetry appears in the 1994 edition of New Voices (JMW Publishing) and will also appear in a forthcoming issue of "The Icelandic Canadian".

Allan Brown lives in Powell River, B.C. His poetry has been published in various Canadian magazines since 1962 and in eight books and chapbooks. His critical writings have been published since 1975. His work has appeared frequently in The Antigonish Review.

Sean Brendan-Brown is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop. He currently teaches at USM, Hattiesburg. He has had work published in The Antigonish Review, The Windsor Review, Carousel, The Black Fly Review and Painted Bride Quarterly.

J.D. Carpenter teaches English in Toronto. His fourth book of poetry, Compassionate Travel, was published last year by Black Moss Press. He is currently working on a novel, Fellowship of Death.

Wilf Cude is the author of The PhD Trap. He has appeared frequently in The Antigonish Review. He lives in West Bay, N.S.

Richard DuBois lives in New Jersey. He is working on a novel set in Manhattan concerning the triumphs and tragedies of the gigolo lifestyle.

William Virgil Davis won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize for his first book, One Way to Reconstruct the Scene. He has published poetry, short fiction, and criticism in a wide variety of periodicals and in a number of books. He is Professor of English and Writer-in-Residence at Baylor Univ.

Merlin Donald is a professor of Psychology at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. He is originally from Montreal. He is the author of Origins of The Modem Mind: Three Stages in The Evolution of Culture and Cognition (Harvard University Press, 1991). He has published extensively in his field.

John Donlan is a reference librarian at Vancouver Public Library and a poetry editor with Brick Books. His books of poetry areDomestic Economy (reviewed in TAR 84) and Baysville. The poems in this issue are from a work in progress, Green Man.

John D. Fraser is a Nova Scotian presently living in Boston.

Raymond Fraser writes out of Fredericton, and is the author of a number of books, including the Black Horse Tavern, The Struggle Outside and The Bannon bridge Musicians. He is currently writer-in-residence at Fredericton High School.

Randall Garrison is a self-published writer of poetry, short stories, and children's fiction who recently has been published in several literary publications, and an award-winning commercial writer and partner in a marketing firm with clients including General Motors, Lear Seating and Cadillac.

Robert Gibbs, now retired from teaching English and Creative Writing at UNB, is still a poetry editor with The Fiddlehead. His most recent work has appeared in Tickle-Ace and The Nashwaak Review.

Clare Goulet is a freelance writer/editor living in Halifax. She has worked as Editorial Assistant for The Fiddlehead, ran children's creative writing workshops, and recently completed a novel What You Can't Give Away, for her M.A. in English at UNB.

Desmond Graham is a writer living in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. He published Poetry of the Second World War.- An International Anthology and has a collection The Marching Bandswhich was published in 1995 by Seren.

Aldwen Hadwen lives and writes in Montreal. She has poetry appearing in Queen's Quarterly.

Glenn Hayes lives in Newmarket, ON, and teaches English. His work has appeared in many Canadian Literary magazines and in the anthology, Christian Poetry in Canada (ECW, 1989).

Jennifer Herbison lives in Vancouver. She is originally from Parksville, Vancouver Island - the retirement capital of Canada. She is working on her Master of Fine Arts thesis - a book of short stories.

W.J. Keith taught English at the University of Toronto, but recently took early retirement. A regular contributor to The Antigonish Review, he published a book of poems, Echoes in Silence, in 1992.

Alphonse Lanza is, a poet/lawyer, living in Hamilton, ON. This is his first publication.

Steven Manners is a frequent contributor to Toronto literary magazines. His stories have appeared in two anthologies,Stories_from B&A, vol. I (1993), and Stories from B&A, vol. 2(1996), and his collection, Mytho/Genies (1988). He placed second in the Anvil Press 1995 International 3-Day Novel writing contest.

Steve McOrmond has published poetry in The Antigonish Review#97 and has poems forthcoming in The Malahat Review and Poetry Canada. Currently he is enrolled in the M.A. Creative Writing Program at U.N.B., Fredericton, where he is also working as an assistant editor of prose and poetry at The Fiddlehead.

Nancy Minard has previously published poetry in The Antigonish Review. She works at the Killam Library - Special Collections, Dalhousie. She is starting to put a collection of her work together.

Roger Moore teaches Spanish at St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB. He is currently working on a book of short stories. He won the WFNB Alfred G. Bailey Prize for poetry in 1995. He is preparing this and another poetry collection for publication.

Melanie Morassutti is from Toronto and is working towards a B.A. Honours inenglish. "TheZucchini"isherfirstshortstory andsheis hoping to pursue her Masters in the fall.

Marilyn Gear Pilling's prose and poetry have appeared in many Canadian literary magazines. A collection of short fiction, My Nose Is A Gherkin Pickle Gone Wrong, will be published in 1996 by Cormorant Books.

J.S. Porter was bom in Belfast, N. Ireland and is now a Canadian citizen. His book The Thomas Merton Poems was published by Moonstone Press in 1988. He has published numerous anthologies and is included in numerous literary magazines.

Susette Schacherl grew up in Saskatchewan. She now lives in Toronto where several of her plays have received readings or workshop production. This is her first published fiction.

Anne Simpson lives and works in Antigonish, N.S. She has published in The Malahat Review, Quarry, The Fiddlehead, andEvent, among others.

Anne Swannell lives in Victoria. She has published two books of poetry, the most recent being Mall (Rowan Books, Edmonton). She is currently at work on two other collections. Her work has appeared in Canadian Literature, The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, Prairie Fire, Dandelion and Grain.

Tony Tremblay teaches English at the University of New Brunswick. His current research focuses on the association between Marshall McLuhan and Ezra Pound.

J.D. Whitman is a writer living in Toronto. Since receiving an Explorations Grant from the Canada Council in 1994 she has been working on a collection of short stories entitled The Healing Power of Fish. This is her first published story.

David Winwood is Anglo-Dutch, but living in Ireland; published poetry in magazines in Australia, Canada, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, U.K. and U.S.A. He is currently working on a juvenile novel set at the time of the medieval plagues.

Martha M. Wright lectures on Asian art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, usually in English but sometimes in Japanese. She finds that art and food make delicious mates.

Antanas Sileika - Issue 101

More Pleasure in the Land of the Small Presses

The task of reviewing small press books in Canada is becoming rapidly less dour with the appearance of many more titles that bring real pleasure to a reader, or at very least, raise interesting questions. It is no longer necessary to buy titles out of literary patriotism, only to have them sit unread on the shelf.

The other good news is that the small presses seem to be doing much better with distribution. I have seen most of the books reviewed in this article displayed prominently in independent bookstores and the small chains. A Trader is still not likely to pick up one of these titles at the airport, but it is no longer necessary to go into book shops that specialize in Canadian literature where the atmosphere reeks of dispirited messianism.

The first two titles were even nominated for the Governor General's award, without, as far as I can gauge, any whiff of tokenism. In a year with less overwhelming competition, the first would have had a solid chance of winning, and the second remains important because of the questions it raises about literature itself.

How Insensitive, by Russell Smith, from Porcupine's Quill in Erin, Ontario is a surprise delight from a first novelist who shares some of the attributes of the Brat Pack writers who appeared in the USA some years ago. He is young (31), hip, ironic, and very much a surfer on the Toronto arts scene as a freelance writer with impeccable academic credentials. His work has been reviewed widely, and received enough attention that when I called the publisher for a review copy for this article, none was available.

A new superstar in the model of Nino Ricci? Perhaps, but the media buzz on a writer distracts from the work itself, so too often we are buying books because of public relations coups. How Insensitivedeserves to be bought purely for fun. It is a hilarious social satire of the Queen Street arts scene in Toronto.

James R. Wallen's Boys' Night Out covered the same territory earlier this season, but Wallen's book dealt with low-lifers whereas Smith's book is filled with the tragically hip. How Insensitive can also be read as a roman h clef of the Toronto scene in which various media hotshots get their comeuppance, but pointing which character represents whom is an activity best left for the kitchen table.

The main character is Ted Owen, a graduate of Cultural Studies from Montreal who comes to Toronto to make his way on the "scene". He is well-armed because he can give brainy cracks on deconstructionism, feminism, eco-terror, and Jacques Lacan, but he is still essentially an innocent who has to learn how Toronto operates. Here is Ted speaking with his friend John as they prepare to go out for Ted's first Toronto party:

   Ted fingered the row of shirts: soft
 cotton, linen, silk, and a pile of
 T-shirts with faded team rowing logos.
 "People dress up more here, I guess."

   "This isn't dressed up.  No one dresses
 up."

  "Oh." Ted pulled out a white linen shirt.

  "The idea of dressing up is rather
 suburban, I think," said John. "The
 idea is to look good, not to dress up."

  "But you look good by dressing up." Ted
 suddenly felt exhausted. He hadn't eaten
 since a plastic VIA sandwich at noon, and
 his beers with Max had left him dry.

  "You look good by being stylish.  And
 actually, for your information, it's
 politically cooler if only the guys are
 stylish."

  "What?"

  "Chicks are traditionally supposed to
 worry about style, so now if they're cool
 they don't.  It's that whole coffect-cool
 thing. It's bad to dress up if you're a
 chick."

   Ted laughed, doing up the buttons on
 the scratchy shirt.

   "Chicks. I haven't heard that word for
 a while. Sounds a little like room
 two-twenty-two now, doesn't it?"

   John looked around. "No."
 Ted put his jacket over the shirt. 

   "I've never wom linen before. 
 It scratches."

   "Chicks love it."

   Ted mouthed the word 'chicks', trying
 it on.  "Are you seeing any ... chicks?"

   "Me?  No. No". John was sticking his
 hair back with gel. "By the way, for
 your reference at this party, you can't
 say chick. Only chicks can say it. If a
 chick says it, it's extremely cool, but
 if you say it it's bad.  Same with fag
 and dyke."

   "Only chicks can say fag and dyke?"

   "Only fags and dykes."

   "I see." Ted opened Playboy, flipped
 through it quickly.  "I can't say chick,
 fag or dyke.  What about to you, here?"

  "To me, when we're alone?"

  "Yes.  What am I allowed to say?"
 John smiled to himself in the mirtor. 

 "To me you can say spiitarse,
 fudgepacker and carpetmuncher. 
 You ready to go?

Anyone who thinks the above passage is puerile or juvenile will find the rest of the novel to be the same, but I, for one, find the irreverence to be very funny.

How Insensitive is really a novel of manners. The outsider has to learn how to speak and act with the "in" group. He has to learn which clubs are cool and which are not, and above all, he must learn to live with contradiction. A feminist might live with a man who beats her, and rich white kids insist on authenticity, but end up wanting what their parents wanted, just a little hipper and cooler.

The novel, but it has no plot to speak of beyond the discovery of the rules of cooldom, and this bothered some of the reviewers. It doesn't bother me at all because it is always a pleasure to see a fresh look at the absurdities of manners, especially pretentious arts world manners. This novel could also stand as a guidebook for rubes like me who don't know how to carry themselves on Toronto's Queen Street.

If Russell Smith's book is light and entertaining, Donna McFarlane's Division of surgery, from Women's Press in Toronto, the second nominee for the GG, is troubling both in content and in the questions it raises about what literature is.

Donna McFarlane and her central character, Robin Carr, both share a condition called inflammatory bowel disease. Robin Carr undergoes numerous painful operations which are described in some detail. The novel includes patient clinical reports and a reprint of a brochure called "Facts about Inflammatory Bowel Disease from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada".

This is a book I would not normally choose to review for two reasons. First of all, inflammatory bowel disease deals with excrement in great deal, as it must. Although my queasiness about reading this material could be overcome, my second objection came from a superficial understanding of the project itself.

English teachers tell their students repeatedly that literature and life are not synonymous. The sufferings of hospital patients rarely fit into the schemes of writers as ends unto themselves. A serious post-modemist might treat a clinical report as literature, but most writers do not because the thing does not have a literary shape to it. Writers cringe when travelling companions in planes say that their lives would make good stories, and for the same reason.

This novel, I feared, had been nominated for humanitarian reasons and not for literary ones, and initially, my suspicions were bome out. First, the language of the novel is anti-literary. By that I mean it is flat and matterof-fact. Secondly, that matter of excrement is dealt with in great detail, as in the passage below, in which Robin Car shows her boyfriend, dubbed the "Alley Cat", how she empties an ileostomy bag:

 I opened the white plastic clip and
 coaxed the contents of the ileostomy
 gently down towards the toilet bowl. 
 Tne stool, the consistency of mashed
 bananas or lumpy pudding, slid out. 
 I wondered if he'd comment on the
 difference between it and his own. 
 He sat on the edge of the tub and
 watched without comment. I proceeded
 through the ritual: took two small
 bottles from my purse, rinsed the bag
 through the bottom opening with water
 from one bottle, dried the lower edges
 of the bag with toilet paper so it
 wouldn't smell, added blue deodorizer
 from the second bottle to the ileostomy
 bag and replaced the cap. I flushed and
 stood.

 "Your turn," I said, and hitched my
 pants.
 
 He sat. I watched and listened and held
 my breath against the smell just as he
 had.

It is difficult to make it through passages such as this one. Yet as one continues to read through the novel (if one continues to read), the reader slowly begins to admire the scrappy Robin Carr. She is a woman who could have given up at any point without being considered a coward, and yet she battles on and on through humiliation and pain. In this characteristic, the novel is not as anti-literary as it first seemed, because identification with a fictional character is what many writers hope for.

If one can bear to read this novel, its power does become apparent. The reader learns that great pain can be lived with, and sometimes overcome for a time. One learns that heroes are not only those who do dramatic acts such as seizing enemy bunkers, but those who fight for dignity and survival in hospitals around the country.

So does the novel succeed in its own right? Not quite. The ending in which Robin Carr goes through a difficult epiphany over an abortion strikes me as belonging to some other novel. Nevertheless, Division of Surgery is useful shock to those accustomed to the more polite world of belles lettres.

New fiction need not be nominated for the GG in order to be noteworthy. Some years, I have even thought the opposite to be true. Many new story collections and novels have appeared this year that are worth spending money on, and here are a few more of them.

Robert Mullen shows some astonishing strengths in his first collection of stories called Americas, from Coteau Books in Regina. These stories have been published in a variety of literary journals, and it's no wonder. They feel very fresh and unlike most fiction that comes out of the literary presses in this country. At the same time, they show a level of sophistication and polish that I would have expected from a writer who had been working for a much longer time.

Thematically, Mullen takes parts of North and South America, and especially unnamed jungles, and turns them into a kind of heart of darkness, but with a spin. There is a frightening power in the remote parts of the Americas, but this power does not evoke horror. Instead, there is a hard, inexplicable mystery. A botanist might have his arm chewed on by a ghost animal, a waiter might be called to a small town by his dreams in order to do a voodoo burial of his grandfather, and natives rise up and kill for no explicable reason.

Tne jungle has its rules, as a botanist named Don Frederico and his guide Juanito learn from an old jungle magician:

 They would kill nothing while they were
 there, Juanito had promised. No animals,
 no birds, nothing that moved. Only
 insects, the old man said, they could
 kill insects if they wanted because
 there were more of those around than
 anyone needed.

 Despite this, Don Frederico, each
 evening, took apart his revolver and
 cleaned it.
 
 "I lost my temper once," Don Frederico
 said.  "I was provoked.  Just see
 that it doesn't happen again."

 Then one day, for no reason, he killed
 a snake, slicing off its head. It was
 El Chicon. It was harmless. The snake
 was coiled around a tree, its mottled
 skin all but invisible against the
 similarly mottled bark.

 The old man stopped, turned around,
 and held out his hand for the machete.

 "Give it to him, patron. All he
 wants to do is cut down that tree."

 The tree belonged to the snake and the
 snake belonged to the tree; anyone
 with eyes should have seen that. The
 tree was called chicote and the
 snake El Chicon. Even the smallest
 child knew that nothing, not even a
 snake, ever existed in the world as
 itself alone.

We have two cliched notions about the wilderness. The traditional one is that it is a wasteland to be tamed or exploited, and the other, more recent, is the Fern Gully belief that the wilderness is a paradise to be left alone. Mullen manages to avoid these two cliches and aims at a tough mysticism.

The manner of writing is interesting as well. Mullen writes in a mosaic pattern of tiny fragments whose narrative message does not become apparent for a while. The reader has to wait for the patterns to emerge. This technique, although interesting, began to wear on me in the second half of the collection where Mullen seems to like the effect so much that he uses it too often and the powerful initial response wore down into tedium at the end. Yet a few rocky moments in a new writer's first collection are not surprising. The polish of the first half is.

Zachary's Gold is a novel by Stan Krumm, from Oolichan Books in Lantzville, B.C. It is a creature we do not see much of in the small presses, namely an adventure book, and a sly one at that.

It starts out deceptively enough as the story of a nineteenth century prospector in the interior of BC looking for gold. Zachary Beddoes sounds like a moralizing intellectual in the fashion of the nineteenth century, and at first I thought he was going to give us some kind of pioneer tract, a kind of Roughing it in the Bush in Search of Gold.

But the story takes a remarkable turn at around page fifty when the narrator happens upon a vicious thief and murderer and kills him in a stumblebum gunfight. The moral test comes when Zachary finds the thief's trove of stolen gold, and he fails this test with flying colours. The moralizing young man turns into a buccaneer who must escape the valley with his loot, and the balance of the tale is the adventures he goes through to escape.

I have read no adventure novels since I was a boy, but this one is very well done. There are shoot-outs and a Chinese sidekick whom Beddoes treats with extreme contempt until he gets to know the man and respect him. Stan Krumm could have been the Louis L'Amour of Canada, except there is a bit more going on in this novel than dime novel fiction.

The archaic narrative voice that so annoyed me at the beginning of the novel began to disappear, which is a sure sign that the character is becoming convincing. Secondly, the transformation of character is the name of the game in traditional literature and Zachary Beddoes' change is subtly foreshadowed, a trick that escaped me on first reading.

What a relief to stumble across a first-time novelist who can sustain an illusion. I only hope that Stan Krumm takes a little time off from his jewelry/goldsmith work to devote more time to fiction. We could use more of his kind of work in this country.

Oakland Ross took a big step several years ago when he left his job as an award-winning foreign columnist with the Globe and Mail in order to take a run at fiction. It is the kind of thing that most journalists I know would like to do. Very few actually make the leap, and fewer still finish the work they had planned because fiction is a very different business from newspaper writing. The irony of all this is that Ross's Guerrilla Beach came out with Cormorant Press, a respected small press in Dunvegan, Ontario, but a small press nevertheless. Just about everybody I know in the world of the small presses would drop everything to get on a plane and cover foreign wars on an expense account.

Did Oakland Ross make a mistake? There is not much money in writing for the small presses, so he will never be as well-paid in fiction as he was at the Globe, but the man can write fiction, even if this collection of stories has a few bumps in it.

Ross's greatest strength is his ability to paint pictures of the places he is talking about, primarily in El Salvador and Chile. It is not really a physical picture he is after so much as an emotional one. Here is a passage in which a doctor named Mena returns to his own apartment after briefing a foreign journalist on atrocities that are really going on inside his country. It is a deadly game Dr. Mena the informer is playing, and he is beginning to lose his nerve. Witness him on the stairwell:

 A scraping sound. It scuttled down the
 stairwell - no mistaking it. A
 scraping sound, the sole of a shoe
 twisting against grit on a smooth tile
 floor. It had come from the third floor,
 where no one lived.  Mena half turned to
 descend. He listened, gripping his letter
 and his keys. "Hola?" he called up the
 stairs. 'Hola?"

 He heard nothing, but still he waited. 
 His heart was pounding. Just like that,
 his heart was pounding. Perhaps he
 should not go up at all. But that was
 crazy. He lived in this building. This
 was his home. Besides, if there was
 anything wrong, surely Juan would have
 told him.  Surely Juan would know.

 He started to climb the stairs again. 
 It wasn't far. He reached his door,
 with his keys already out, his hand
 extended. He stopped again to listen
 - no sound, except the belch of traffic
 on the street below. The tip of his
 key rattled against the slot of the
 lock, refused to enter, balked and
 chattered, and finally slid through
 the tumblers. Mena twisted the key,
 the lock released, the dead bolt slid
 back, the handle turned, and the door
 opened.

This is typical Graham Green land, and many writers try to imitate him, but few succeed in convincing the reader. Ross manages to do so, probably because he knew the territory so well as a journalist.

In general, the stories that deal with foreign journalists are the best ones in this collection. These characters function under their own kind of code: they must be hip and cool and get to where the bullets are flying. The only way they can deal with the tension is by sucking on too many Marlboros and drinking booze in hotel bars like bit players out of some Somerset Maugham story.

But if Ross's strengths are mood and atmosphere, his weaknesses are plot closure and the minds of the local people. Some of these stories are no more than meditations, but this is a writer who is still finding his way in fiction, and there is nothing wrong with that. It will be interesting to see if Ross is staking out a territory with these stories, much like Vietnam for the American Tim O'Brian, or whether he will choose to move on to other settings.

My final selection in this half-dozen is The Dangers of Critical Thought, by Stephen Schecter, Robert Davies Publishing, in Montreal. These are 3 long stories from a first-time writer who is a sociologist based in Montreal.

The three short stories, but especially the first, are all about decline in private life, Quebec, and the world. The narrator is invariably a man in his forties, sometimes straight and sometimes gay. He has an acute sense that his youthful body and ideals have decayed, and all will come asunder when Quebec separates from Canada.

This sounds very melancholy, and it certainly is that, but it is a book of inspired melancholy with a European feel to it. The tone is like something out of Milan Kundera, or Gregor Von Rezzori, in which love affairs, politics, sociology, and a corrupt physical body all share part of the story.

In the first monologue, a man fears that the failure of the Meech Lake accord is consistent with his failed marriages and love affairs. This combination may sound strange, but it is the kind of connection that the East Europeans are very good at. The monologue is set in the late eighties when communist Eastern Europe began to unravel.The narrator has no sympathy for the communists, but he fears the revolutions are intended to turn the newly democratic countries into capitalist playgrounds. He has a longing for some kind of order, say the order of the Austro-Hungarian Empire:

 ... Nothing has come but regret slipping
 from day to day, pain clutching at my
 heart, and a bitter taste in my mouth
 mingling with a bitter taste that curls
 around the pictures of crowds in Leipzig
 and Prague. It should not be like this. 
 It is unthinkable that this is the horizon
 which stretches before me to the end of my
 days.....

 I don't know why I worry so much about
 Canada falling apart. I spent enough years
 trying to crack it open. Perhaps it's
 different when you're going at it full
 force, each blow of the hammer inflamed
 with your own conviction. Today I am no
 longer convinced. I fret instead about all
 the muck that might rise to the surface
 when each side finally says good riddance.

Threaded into the narrative are references to Bach and especially Rilke's Duino Elegies, and the tone is so elegiac it borders on the apocalyptic. Everything has come to naught, and there is nothing new under the sun in private or public life.

The second two stories echo the tone of the first, but these are gay love stories, each of which carries little hope of redemption. This is the type of work that will clearly not be to everyone's taste, but it is interesting to see a European sensibility transported to these shores.

That brings us to the end of this half dozen, but it might be worth taking a brief look at the state of the nation. I have a stack at the other end of my room of 42 recently released Canadian small press books, and that is only from the last couple of months. No survey review like this one can hope to be complete.

Furthermore, I have chosen to talk only about books that interested me in some fashion. I see no point in lambasting first-time authors in this type of review. Some of the small press books are very bad, a few are good, and most fall into that great grey area of "not without redeeming qualities". I recently received a note from a woman who wrote in some kind of shock, saying that she had no idea her book would disappear after it was published. Media reaction was nil and distribution was poor. These two defects, along with poor editing, have been the triad of weaknesses that doom most small press books to instant non-existence in the public mind.

In defense of book review editors, who are much railed against, I can only say that volume is the problem. For review, I read only Canadian small press fiction, and those titles alone reach well over a hundred annually. It is next to impossible to get a review editor to look carefully at every book she receives, and so publicity agents are taking on the job of reminding editors that their clients are worth talking about. The publicity agent does not always work, but a small press writer has to catch the attention of a reviewer in some way, whether it is by use of an agent, the winning of a prize, or, best of all, by the remarkable quality of the prose in the first few pages of a novel or collection of short stories.

Even widely reviewed books from the small presses, and especially those that get good reviews, are not always good sellers. Distribution, as I mentioned above, is often weak. In addition, a surprise best-seller like How Insensitive can clean out a press run, and it may take weeks or months for more books to be printed. By then, the "momentum" of public opinion will have slowed so much that the book may no longer sell.

If all this sounds like a litany of problems, it is. They are the problems that beset all publishers, but they are felt most acutely in the small presses. The author who dreamed of success beginning with publication, then dreams of success being good distribution or positive reviews, and finally, in desperation any kind of recognition that his books exist.

Does this mean that small press writers should think that fiction must be a solitary pursuit and they are writing only for themselves? Absolutely not. The writer works to create an artifact for the public, and although the public may be tiny for small press books, even an audience of'two is better than an audience of one.

Allan Brown - Issue 101

An Underlying Reverence: Stories of Cape Breton Edited and with an Introduction by James 0. Taylor. Sydney, Nova Scotia: UCCB Press, 1994. 137 pp. $17.95.

The ten stories collected in An Underlying Reverence vary considerably in tone and point of view, though they all move in one way or another into and out of the Cape Breton life experience. They also move across a spectrum that extends from the subtle and sophisticated character analysis of "The Burnt Forest", by the late R.J. MacSween, to the raw satiric bite of Sheldon Currie's "The Glace Bay Miner's Museum". The French Acadian sensibility is represented here as well by Beatrice MacNeil's impressionistic "Events".

The tales are, by and large, fairly conservative in technique. The easily flowing, naturalistic dialogue of Tessie Gillis's "The Innocent" moves to a familiar Joycean epiphany. D.R. MacDonald presents two firmly drawn characters in "Green Grow The Grasses O" Kenneth Munro, a rather neurotic young man "from away," and the solid Scotswoman Fiona Cameron - by means of key words (hers in Gaelic, of course) that both of them favour and that clearly establish their relationship to each other as well as to Cape Breton. Joan Clark's two linked stories "God's Country" and "HerFather's Daughter" carefully (if somewhat predictably) trace the reactions of a woman who returns to "the Harbour Mines" after a 20-year absence.

What these pieces may lack in formal inventiveness, however, they well make up in flexibility and vigour of expression. The style of many of the authors is simple, even to the point of plainness, yet in its own way quietly effective, as with Angus MacDougall's casual reference in the title story to the simple dignity of "people ... digging into the hilly, watery face of Cape Breton." The landscape can also be more complex and more dangerous. Alistair MacLeod recreates the uncertain appearance of drift ice in "Winter Dog": "Sometimes you could see the hard ice clearly beneath the water but at other times a sort of floating slush was formed mingling with snow and "slob" ice which was not yet solid ... thick and dense and soupy." A solemn resonance appears in the complex, incantatory final sentence of Ellison Robertson's Prayers, capturing the end of a young boy's dream:

 In the upper hall the bag of marbles
 fell unheeded from his hand as it
 brushed the wall, the glittering glass
 spheres, each with its fluted twist of
 a different color, spilling onto the
 floor with a clatter (like a fist full
 of gravel shattering the smug blank
 windows of the nearby mine office),
 spread in a kinetic flood along the
 wom, pine wood floor, its narrow strip
 of oil cloth, and down the stairway
 carrying their light, a hard, pale
 fire, into the dark below where they
 winked out one by one.

Of course there is humour in the collection as well. The sound of bagpipes has often been parodied, but never as deftly, I think, than with Sheldon Currie's claim that "it sounded like a cat jumping from table to table and screaming like a tiger."

There is a character in "Events" called Aunt Zabeth, a fey-like creature who drifts in and out of the story and finally points to its resolution. The narrator observes that Zabeth's voice "had an urgent, intimate quality, as if she spoke only to reveal secrets."'ne same could be said aptly, in their various ways, for all the stories in An Underlying Reverence.

Contributors to Issue # 101

Annette Abma is a doctoral student at McMaster in Hamilton. She's been writing poetry for a number of years. This is her first published appearance.

Gary Anderson lives and writes in Victoria B.C., where he is also pursuing an M.A. in English. His latest publication appears in the 21 st Anniversary issue of Whetstone, published in the spring of '94.

Teruko Anderson-Jones lives on a farm in Ontario, Canada. Her poems have been published in magazines in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia (including: The Antigonish Review, Canadian Literature, Queen's Quarterly, Envoi, Outposts, Westerly). Her first book, Travelling the Fairgrounds, was published in 1994. These poems are from a new manuscript entitled, Brilliant Grief, Silent Snow.

John A. Barnstead

teaches in the Department of Russian Studies Program at Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS. He has published articles on Russian poetry in a variety of journals.

 

Brian Bartlett has taught literature and creative writing at St. Mary's University in Halifax since 1990. Goose Lane Editions have published his Underwater Carpentry (1992) and Planet Harbor (1989), and he recently completed a third collection. A long twelve-page poem of Bartlett's appears this year in The Malahat Review.

Stephanie Bolster received a B.F.A. in CreativeWriting fromthe University of B.C. and is completing an M.F.A. program there. Herpoetry has recently appeared in The Malahat Review, The Capilano Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Antigonish Review(No. 95). She has not yet published fiction.

Diane Bracuk is a writer and journalist living in Toronto. Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers in Canada and the United States. She is presently working on a collection of short stories. This is her first appearance in The Antigonish Review.

Allan Brown was bom in Victoria, B.C; lived for 22 years in Yingston Ontario; moved to Powell River, B.C. in 1992. Literary editor of Quarry magazine for three years; in Kapuskasing, ON. in 1987-88. Poetry published in various Canadian magazines and newspapers since 1962; critical writings since 1975; eight books and chapbooks of poetry; two completed mss. on hand.

Robert Cooperman lives in Maryland. His second collection, The Badman and The Lady, will appear from BASFAL Books in 1995. He is working on a long sequence of poems about the emigrants on the Oregon Trail.

Mary Ellen Csamer has been published widely in Canadian literary magazines since 1984, most recently in Event, Quarry and C.V. II. She is currently seeking a publisher for a manuscript of poems.

Deirdre Dwyer has her Masters in English and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor. She has been published in The Antigonish Review, Dandelion, Event, Germination, Grain, Matrix, Poetry Canada Review, Room of One's Own, The Dalhousie Review, Canadian Literature, and The Windsor Review.

Normand Gagnon was born in Ontario in 1949. He completed studies aimed at teaching first-language English and has proceeded to teach it as a second language for the past fifteen years. He has recently been involved in a multi-media education project called ALLO PROF, as a conceptor and actor.

Melody Goetz is a Saskatchewan-born writer who now works for an international relief & development agency in Winnipeg. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of Canadian journals. In her past &/ or adjacent life she works as a visual artist; she graduated with a Fine Arts degree from U of M in the late 1980s.

Carmen Luz Gorriti was born in Lima, Peru in 1951 and currently works as a social worker helping low-income women. The story that appears here won an award in "The First Short Story Contest' Magda Portal"' in Lima, Peru in 1990 and was subsequently published along with other winning stories in Memorias Clandestinas.

L.L. Harper's first chapbook, A Failure of Loveliness, which won the Nightshade Press William and Kingman Page competition was published in late fall 1994. Work has appeared in The Georgia Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Laurel Review, Passages North, Kansas Quarterly, The Hawaii Review, The Connecticut River Review, The Illinois Review, The Bridge and others.

Maureen Hynes's book of poetry, Rough Skin, is forthcoming from Wolsak & Wynn in 1995. Her work has appeared in The Malahat Review, Poetry Canada, Prism international, Quarry, Prairie Fireand many others. She has also written Letters from China (Toronto, Women's Press, 1981).

Mary Jeselnick lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and teaches English Literature at Eastern Michigan University. She is working on a text of female Break Writing and has published recently in Caliban.

Kathy S. Leonard is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Linguistics at Iowa State University in Ames. She has published several translations of scholarly articles and short stories by Latin American women authors in such journals as Feminist Studies, The Antigonish Review, Critical Matrix: The Princeton Journal of Women, Gender and Culture, and The Michigan Quarterly. She is currently finishing work on an anthology of translated short stories by Latin American women writers tentatively titled Between Fire and Ice: Short Fiction by Women from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, co-edited with S. Benner, which will be published by the University of New Mexico Press in 1996.

Paul D. McKerry is the acting head of the English Department at Neil McNeil High School in Toronto. Some of his work has been published in American literary magazines. This marks his first appearance in a Canadian journal.

Stephen Morrissey teaches English and Humanities at Champlain College, Montreal, Quebec. He has written six books of poetry and several chapbooks. As well, he has published numerous poetry reviews and articles on poetry and poetics; edited and produced two literary magazines. He is married and has one teenage son.

Kay Mullen is a poet living and writing in Renton, Washington. She was a teacher for many years and is currently an elementary school counselor. This is her first contribution to The Antigonish Review.

J.S. Porter lives in Hamilton, Ontario. His poems and essays have appeared in TAR, Brick, Grail, Kentucky Poetry Review andCanadian Literature. He belongs to The International Thomas Merton Society, and published The Thomas Merton Poems(Moonstone) in 1988.

Antanas Sileika has published short stories in Canadian and European literary journals and written magazine and newspaper articles for Saturday Night and The Globe and Mail among others. He has written drama and comedy for CBC Radio. From 1979 to 1989. He was an editor of Descant.

Robert Edison Sandiford - Issue # 99

It All Adds Up: From the Dim Past to the Uncertain Future by Saul Bellow, Viking Penguin, 327 pp., $28.99, 1994.

Most admirable among Saul Bellow's qualities as a novelistis his refusal to condescend to readers. He has made himself a success the recipient of National Book Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature - by not underestimating the intelligence of the public. And he has written with this conviction since The Adventures of Augie March (1953) gushed from his pen. Consequently, another of Bellow's great qualities is his commitment to portraying the Big Picture, i.e., to illustrating the human condition and the necessity, as he put it in Henderson the Rain King (1959), of "being," notjust "becoming."

These qualities are generously in evidence in It all Adds Up, his first collection of essays, travel writing and other non-fiction selected from the last 45 years. What emerges here, as elsewhere in his work, are Bellow's vested interests in the ever-changing states of art, the artist and humanity.

"Mozart: An Overture," the opening essay, sets the tone and demonstrates how far-reaching hisprosecan be. In adiscussion on the Classical composer, Bellow addresses humanity's relative enlightenment. "We are committed to the belief that there are no mysteries - there is only the not-yet-known," according to him. "We are as ignorant of fundamentals as human beings ever were."

Yet this is where the artist and art come into play. "All of [our trouble]," writes Bellow, "comes from us. It is we who set up and we who knock down. If we are impostors, we are also those who expose impostors. This 'being human is our very own show." For in Mozart "we see a person who has only himself to rely on. But what a self it is, and what an art it has generated. How deeply (beyond words) he speaks to us about the mysteries of our common human nature."

What Bellow is talking about, of course, is art as a means of perceiving the world. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, he slams science and intellectuals and their claim to greater awareness. There is no mistaking his hostility in "Writers, Intellectuals, Politics: Mainly Reminiscences":

 My case against intellectuals can be 
 easily summarized: Science has postulated 
 a nature with no soul in it; commerce does 
 not deal in souls and higher
 aspirations-matters like love and beauty 
 are none of its business .... Intellectuals
 seem to me to have turned away from those 
 elements in life unaccounted for in modern 
 science and that in modem experience have 
 come to seem devoid of substance.  The 
 powers of soul, which were Shakespeare's 
 subject (to be simple about it) and are 
 heard incessantly in Handel or Mozart, 
 have no footing at present in modern life 
 and are held to be subjective.  Writers 
 here and there still stake their lives 
 on the existence of these forces.  About
 this, intellectuals have little or 
 nothing to say.

Be this as it may, it's reassuring how Bellow makes use of literature to link all humanity. In "The Sealed Treasure," he observes that "without a certain innate sympathy, we could not read Shakespeare and Cervantes." Furthermore, "the important humanity of the novel must be the writer's own. His force, his virtuosity, his powers of poetry, his reading of fate, are at the center of his book. The reader is invited to bring his sympathies to the writer rather than to the characters, and this makes him something of a novelist too."

Despite such hard-won wisdom (he is an advocate of constant selfcorrection), Bellow has his failings as a writer. He is, actually, the first to acknowledge them. "If I were to write these pieces today," he admits in his Preface, "I think I should say less about distraction and emphasize instead the importance of attention." For Bellow is apt to be overtaken by his own preoccupations.

There is a tendency toward imprudent sentimentality in It All Adds Up. Bellow is a man with an enviable sense of place. Chicago is his city, America his country, the world his to roam. But at 78, he also sounds like a man slipping through time and not liking it very much.

In Part II of "The Jefferson Lectures," Bellow notes that the Chicago slums of his youth were ruined by the Imniigration Act of 1924. "The slums as we knew them in the twenties were, when they were still maintained by European immigrants, excellent places, attractive to artists and bohemians as well as WASPs who longed for a touch of Europe." The act, in his opinion, resulted in "the disappearance of a genial street life from American cities; the dank and depressing odors of cultural mildew rising from the giant suburbs, which continue to grow; [and] the shift of bohe@a from the slums to the universities."

But Bellow's vision is both tainted by the self-indulgent "posturing" he finds distasteful among Romantics and clouded by the knee-jerk cynicism he distrusts in intellectuals. "The good old days weren't always good," as Billy Joel once sang. They only seem that way because we have already lived them. It was no less true yesterday than it is today that there always have been challenges to meet and changes to overcome.

What can we say, though, except that, right or wrong, Bellow is honest? In "The French as Dostoyevsky Saw Them," he reminds us that "the degree to which you challenge your own beliefs and expose them to destruction is a test of your worth as a novelist." So in almost every piece, it is possible to hear bellow speaking directly to you: opinionated, street-smart, eloquent, erudite, and hopeful. In his 1976 Nobel address, he is unerring despite distractions: "Only art penetrates what pride, passion, intelligence, and habit erect on all sides - the seeming realities of this world."