The Long Slide


140 pages
ISBN 1-55022-677-0
DDC C813'.6





Reviewed by Douglas Ivison

Douglas Ivison is an assistant professor of English at Lakehead
University in Thunder Bay.


James Grainger’s first collection of short stories is a thoughtful,
meditative, and at times quite funny look at the experiences of men
making the transition into adulthood. In some stories, we read about
youthful indiscretions, about men behaving badly and refusing to grow
up; in others, we read about men struggling, sometimes successfully and
sometimes not, to adapt to the increasing responsibility that life
throws at them. Throughout, the male characters’ struggles to find a
place for themselves in late-20th-century urban Canada (mostly in
downtown Toronto) is largely mediated through their relationships with
women: wives, girlfriends, lovers, and, in one case, a daughter. As a
whole, the collection provides us with a nuanced, sometimes depressing
view of the lives of men in their 20s and 30s.

The six stories in The Long Slide trace the experiences of a diverse
cast of young men dealing with relationships, sexual desire, and aging.
In the title story, Patrick fantasizes about the teenaged Amy while
planning (and failing) to dump his girlfriend, Brenda, in a desperate
attempt to hold on to his youth. In “My God, Richard Is Beautiful,”
Paul enjoys an illicit relationship with Theresa, the girlfriend of his
friend Richard, a relationship appealing for both its sexual abandon and
the lack of intimacy and responsibility. The final story, “Some Kind
of Morphine,” recounts a single father’s struggles to deal with the
death of his estranged wife, who had left him a year before for a life
of drugs and the street.

Engagingly written, The Long Slide provides real insight into these
lonely, somewhat lost young men. It tells us little, however, about the
women in their lives, who frequently function more as the object of male
fantasies or as the cause of male suffering. That’s not to say that
the men get off lightly, though: many of the male characters are
self-centred jerks. But a bit more development of the female characters
would have made this an even richer collection of short fiction.


Grainger, James., “The Long Slide,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,