The Alligator Report


125 pages
ISBN 0-00-223170-0
DDC C813'





Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is an associate editor of the Canadian Book Review


The 26 stories in this collection are dedicated to the late Richard Brautigan, whose “delicate, visual, whimsical, facetious writing,” W.P. Kinsella notes in his introduction, “appealed to a whole generation of us who were able to identify with the gentle, loving losers of his stories.” The same might be said of The Alligator Report, which depicts, most especially in those pieces that are set in Vancouver’s skid row, a wonderful panorama of loopy but endearing misfits cast adrift in a world of bureaucracy run amok. Cousins to the tall tale, these stories (or “Brautigans,” as the author terms them), a unique blend of the offbeat and the surreal, showcase Kinsella’s gift for sustained deadpan humour, and for incisive, concrete, and often surprising imagery, as in “Voyeur” in which the narrator drifts, “a shadow without a body, as moonlight reflects my many facets, and, far off, a cat screams in an alley.”

Read at a single sitting, the tales, many of which run only two pages, tend to blur into one another, and sometimes their determined whimsicality wears a bit thin. But the occasional lapse is more than redeemed when Kinsella dips into his considerable bag of tricks and plucks out a gem like this: “In Alberta, timber wolves often grow to a height of six feet, and, if they wear contact lenses, are allowed to teach in community colleges, though not in high schools.”



Kinsella, W.P., “The Alligator Report,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024,