Hard Times: A New Fiction Anthology


164 pages
ISBN 0-920544-75-4
DDC C813'.0108054





Edited by Beverley Daurio
Reviewed by Noreen Mitchell

Noreen Mitchell is a librarian with the Toronto Public Library.


This collection of “new fiction” offers a selection of challenging
prose works from 24 highly creative writers. There is no easy way to
summarize the disparate styles and themes adopted by the authors except
to say that the anthology is most appropriately titled Hard Times. Not
only do the stories and fragments (some pieces are only one or two pages
long) concern characters or situations that are overwhelmingly bleak,
but also the reading of these works is all the harder given the density
of language and poetry-like nature of the prose. Many of the
contributors are poets: Barbara Carey, Mary di Michele, Rikki Ducornet,
Paul Dutton, Kristjana Gunnars, and Gerry Shikatani, for example. Like
poems, these works require painstaking reading and rereading, but there
is satisfaction in the gradual extraction of meaning and there is
pleasure in the appreciation of the craft displayed in the writing.

Not all the pieces are equally engrossing. The following, in
particular, are outstanding for their different perspective or
unconventional interpretation: “Nazis,” by Norbert Ruebsaat, in
which a German-Canadian boy considers his heritage; “Shadows,” by
Paul Dutton, wherein a longtime citizen is lost at night in an
unfamiliar and dangerous part of his city; “Simon Says,” by Mary di
Michele, which depicts the acquiescence of a teenaged girl in her first
sexual experience; “Robbery,” by John Ridell, which explores the
anguish of a first-time bank robber; and “Max, Moleskin and Glass,”
by Rikki Ducornet, which portrays a popular but eccentric writer who is
stuffed and displayed after her death. In addition to the variety of
content, the anthology shows experimentation and exploration of form
(first- and second-person narration, run-on or incomplete sentences,
repetition, generous use of punctuation, and so on). As such, it is a
collection suitable for careful inspection as well as introspection.


“Hard Times: A New Fiction Anthology,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/11285.