The Progress of an Object in Motion


209 pages
ISBN 1-55050-119-4
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by James Deahl

James Deahl, of Mekler & Deahl Publishers, is the author of Poetry
Markets for Canadians, Under the Watchful Eye: Poetry and Discourse,
Even This Land Was Born of Light, and Mix Six.


It requires a leap of faith to get past the garish and overdesigned
cover to reach “Badlands,” the opening story in this collection; but
that leap, if taken, is rewarded. Curtis Gillespie’s stories lie
within the naturalist tradition made popular during the 1920s by James
T. Farrell. What made Farrell so great was that his stories truly
captured the America of his time. He defined urban U.S. culture by
observing it closely and reflecting it faithfully. And now Gillespie has
done the same for Canada.

Gillespie writes in a straightforward, subtle manner that immediately
engages his reader. Whatever it is that makes Canadians Canadian and not
American can be found in these stories. In much the same way that
Farrell showed Americans what they were really like, both the good and
the bad, Gillespie holds a mirror up for our own self-enlightenment. He
captures incidents in the lives of ordinary people without either
overdramatizing or trivializing them. And while he is at home with
stories set in Ottawa, Toronto, or Mexico, he is especially good at
capturing the Canadian West.

If there is a weakness in this collection, it is that the characters
are presented either as individuals or within the setting of the nuclear
family. While this is a good place to start—reminding one of Alice
Munro—it is not enough. Their larger social background is merely
sketched in lightly. When Gillespie learns to place his characters
within Canadian society as accurately as he can place them within our
Canadian landscape, he will have something truly exciting to offer.


Gillespie, Curtis., “The Progress of an Object in Motion,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,