Constant Fire

Description

149 pages
$13.95
ISBN 0-88750-998-3
DDC C813'.54

Publisher

Year

1995

Contributor

Reviewed by Beverly Rasporich

Beverly Rasporich is an associate professor in the Faculty of General
Studies at the University of Calgary and the author of Dance of the
Sexes: Art and Gender in the Fiction of Alice Munro.

Review

In this book of short stories about the Cherokee nation and its rustic,
humorous, often grotesque characters, murder without consequence is the
order of the day. In the lead story, “Blood,” a white man is locked
up by a Native elder in a sweatbox and starved to death over the winter;
the story concludes with a kind of “Yo-ho-ho” singsong. In “Little
People Still Live in the Woods,” a brain-damaged father is drowned by
his daughter, an angry, joking dwarf who tires of him. Most alarming is
the tale of a frustrated, barren, delusional Cherokee woman who,
coveting her baby nieces, sticks her knife into the heart of one of
them, flips the heart out, and eats it in plain view of family members.

In her introduction, Hardy makes it clear that this book is a tribute
to the Cherokee and to their own stories, some retold here. Her
intentions—like those of Bill Kinsella, famous (or infamous) for his
comic portrayals of aboriginal community in Alberta—are good. However,
Eurocentric biases are tough to eliminate, and ultimately, for this
reader, the text recalls settler culture’s familiar interpretations of
Native peoples as primitive, superstitious, childlike, and barbaric.

Despite the inevitable problems she has as a non-Native author choosing
Native culture as fictional subject, Hardy is nonetheless a superb
storyteller. These stories are arresting in the telling; there are
passages of striking prose, as well as some thoughtful explorations of
the interior motivations and life experiences of Native characters.

Citation

Hardy, Melissa., “Constant Fire,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/30988.