Medieval Hour in the Author's Mind
Matt Hartman is a freelance editor and cataloguer, running Hartman Cataloguing, Editing and Indexing Services.
Ernest Hekkanen came to Canada by way of Seattle in 1969. He lives on Mayne Island in British Columbia. These stories have previously appeared in various literary magazines. Hekkanen’s first book is a blend of surrealism and fantasy. This is a plus. Aside from Vancouver’s Michael Bullock and Stephen Guppy, there are too few writers in Canada (or in the United States, for that matter) who are willing to experiment in the surrealistic mode.
The problem with Hekkanen’s stories is not with his choice of material; this is, in fact, wonderful, ranging as it does from a whimsical preface, an account of an art forger, to a windswept island of fishermen to one of whom a bird-son is born (“The Aviarum, Fantastikka”). One of the shortest pieces in the book, “The Fatal Error,” is also one of the best: a darkly humorous tale of cause and effect involving a wayward screwdriver.
The problems with these eight stories arise from the stylistic clumsiness which too often stops the reader cold just when the author’s flights of fancy are taking hold. At one point in “The Bather,” a dense story about male-female dichotomies, a character writes, “it must not be overlooked that the tub was a symbolic mode of conveyance, which the bather’s subconscious had gained insight into when he suddenly envisioned it sprouting wings and bearing him off like a chariot.”
In the dialogue, too, the tone and language are forced and indistinguishable. The characters Hekkanen creates, however differently they may be drawn in appearance and situation, all contain a certain likeness of voice; which is, of course, Hekkanen’s voice.
In “The Merry Voyager” a man rises after a farewell party. There is a woman in his bed:
“Damn,” I exploded. “Look at what those sophomoric creeps have done. They’ve tied knots in my pant legs.”
“You poor, poor dear. How unfair of them.” However, her voice betrayed a certain lack of sympathy. Indeed, I thought her tone a little too gay.
For all of Hekkanen’s inventiveness, these stories bear the weight of the author’s presence, the author’s consciousness, the author’s labours, at awkward junctures in the narrative.
Contains eight woodcuts by the author.