The Age of Cities.


240 pages
ISBN 978-1-55152-212-8
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Matt Hartman

Matt Hartman is a freelance editor and cataloguer, running Hartman Cataloguing, Editing and Indexing Services.


Grubisic is an English professor at the University of British Columbia, and an editor of collections of gay fiction. In this, his first novel, he attempts to recreate the gay and lesbian subculture of 1959 Vancouver and, by extension, all other similar sized Canadian (and no doubt American) cities. Grubisic’s story revolves around a manuscript discovered in the hollowed-out core of a book on home economics. The find is made by a student of a fictional academic, one A.X. Palios, who “publishes” the story of a straitlaced and sexually repressed school librarian named Winston Wilson. Winston still lives with his mother in fictional River Bend City, a town near Vancouver, which, located in the (unnamed) Fraser Valley, manages a good approximation of the Bible belt communities of Chilliwack or Abbotsford. Winston travels to the city to see a podiatrist about his mysterious swollen foot and falls in with a group of flamboyant revellers who present themselves to the reader as unmistakably gay; he is quickly seized upon by the leader, a man known as “Dickie,” and eventually indoctrinated into the culture. Winston, the narrator makes clear, is innocent and unadventurous even for the repressive period of the 1950s: “The library was a comfortable shell into which he could retract—that was no shameful fact he kept hidden in an unvisited recess in his mind. It was pragmatic, the most practical of solutions. You don’t become a jet pilot if you’re afraid of heights, after all.” Grebisic’s twin conceits of a “found novel” and a stuffy academic (Palios provides a Pooh-Perplex–like satire of academic bafflegab in an afterword full of footnotes and name-dropping) allows him to present his analysis of the situation faced by the gay community during a difficult time.


Grubisic, Brett Josef., “The Age of Cities.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024,