The Secret Journal of Alexander Mackenzie
David A. Kent teaches English at Centennial College and is the editor of
Christian Poetry in Canada.
The setting is northern British Columbia, a world of forests and mill towns where local people are dominated by two forces — the economic power of multinationals (including the banks) and the bureaucratic power of the provincial government — which so often serve the wrong interests. The victims are hard-drinking brawlers or passive consumers in the suburban-mall style of life.
In The Secret Journal of Alexander Mackenzie, Fawcett has created a collection of stories which bears witness to the area’s political conflicts. The stories are narrated by Don Benson, a kind of local historian. It is clear from this collection that Fawcett is particularly interested in exploring the blurred relationship between story telling (fiction) and factual narrative (history). For example, “Hanging In” is a story which unmasks a backwoods tall tale; while “The Eudako Hotel Massacre” investigates how fact may be distorted and inflated in story re-telling, since “stories can be a form of boasting,” (p. 166). Even government reports about timber, as told in “Greenie,” become little more than fiction when fiddled by political considerations.
Less problematic as to authenticity, but nonetheless equally puzzling, are the strange visionary experiences that are described, such as in the title storywith its events of “unparalleled strangeness.” Thirty-five of these are recorded in journal entries and supported by an introduction and footnotes.
The alternating voices of narrator Benson and journal author Mackenzie offer a paradigm of adialectic between reason and imagination that runs throughout the collection. In this case, and in the altered perception recorded in “The Deer Park,” the reader is brought closer to myth; in two stories classical myth and contemporary reality are actually juxtaposed — “Icarus” and “Helen of Ilium.” As a writer with an evident social conscience and progressive — or is it conservative? — political sentiments, which is demonstrated in “The Enemy Within,” Fawcett would have us reconsider our premises. His fiction succeeds in making us reconsider the facts that “prevent us from changing the way things are” (p.82).