Coming Attractions 91

Description

104 pages
$12.95
ISBN 0-88750-866-9
DDC C813'.01'05

Publisher

Year

1991

Contributor

Edited by Douglas Glover and Maggie Helwig
Reviewed by Don Precosky

Don Precosky teaches English at the College of New Caledonia in Prince
George.

Review

This anthology features the writing of three short-fiction writers:
Ellen McKeough, Robert Majzels, and Patricia Seaman. Each one is
represented by three stories. Douglas Glover in his introduction says of
them that “they write at full tilt” and that “they are also
angry.” All nine stories exhibit anger in some form or another. The
anger suggests to me that these writers are, at heart, idealists. There
is a right way for things to be; they are angry because things are not
the right way. “Full tilt” may be a bit more nebulous, but to me it
means that the authors are risk takers. They will risk spectacular
failure in order to achieve spectacular success. Risk-taking plus anger
sounds like a formula for disaster, but in this collection it succeeds.

McKeough’s stories are the most accomplished in the collection. She
writes tough stories with bits of desperation and tragedy scattered
through them. The main character in all three pieces is a female doctor
or medical student who must deal with the pain of others while living
with pain of her own. People do rotten things to each other and life
does rotten things to people. Mixed with the pain is a quirky sense of
the absurd. It’s hard to top “There used to be a psychedelic vagina
above my desk at Saint Teresa’s” (“Dying by the Rules”) as an
opening sentence.

Majzels uses more indirection in his narratives, and they have a bit
more technical complexity in their telling. Two of his stories move back
and forth between a main plot and a subplot. In “A Still Warm
Ground” a father takes his son to a synagogue to learn about his
heritage. The boy, while sitting through the service, experiences in
imagination his father’s imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp and
becomes nauseated. The boy has not learned that aspect of his heritage
that his father wanted him to understand. It is, in part, an initiation
story, as is “Boys Catch the Girls,” where the rituals of initiation
involve bullying girls. The story focuses on the narrator’s inability
to buck social pressure. In fact, in all three stories the main
characters experience frustration at losing control of their situations.

Seaman is probably the most daring of the three writers, employing less
conventional plotting and narrative techniques. Her endings are sudden,
even inconclusive, and her stories have more of the feel of raw
experience about them and less of the thing shaped than the work of the
other two.

This is an exciting and readable collection, and we are lucky to have
such talented new writers coming along. Thanks to the editors for
bringing them to our attention.

Citation

“Coming Attractions 91,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/30938.