The Atlantic Anthology: Volume I/Prose
R. Gordon Moyles is professor emeritus of English at the University of
Alberta, co-author of Imperial Dreams and Colonial Realities: British
Views of Canada, 1880–1914, and author of The Salvation Army and the
Fred Cogswell is right: “The short story is the genre in Canada in which the finest work is currently being produced.” And, he might have added, it has always been a Canadian literary strength. This anthology admirably supports those contentions. Though it offers only 27 stories, all from the Atlantic region, it reveals an excellence which, if taken as a microcosm of the national output, would stand unembarrassed in company with the world’s best. What is especially impressive is this: though there is a regional flavour to much of the writing, these stories transcend the merely local or parochial. The images may have a salty tang, but they enhance themes that are universally personal.
Also noteworthy is the fact that many of the stories chosen are not the familiar ones from other anthologies: it is a pleasure to read such relatively unfamiliar ones as Will Bird’s “Sunrise for Peter,” Haliburton’s “The Snow Wreath,” and L.M. Montgomery’s “The Dream-Child.” It always is a pleasure, of course, to re-read Buckler’s “The Harness” (a truly beautiful story), MacLennan’s “The Lost Love of Tommy Waterfield,” and Charles G.D. Roberts’ “Savoury Meats.” And it is equally pleasant to read the stories of such new but talented writers as Ann Copeland, Sheldon Currie, Helen Porter, Spider Robinson, and David Adams Richards, in the company of such favourites as Alden Nowlan, Kent Thompson, and Robert Gibbs.
The Atlantic Anthology (a title which would be better with the definite article omitted) is therefore excellent in both concept and execution: the editor, Fred Cogswell, eminently suited to that task, has made a most judicious choice. The format, type-face, cover design and layout are a little unimaginative but certainly not ugly. Only the paper is inferior; one wishes Ragweed had done better than that. But, that complaint aside, this anthology is a magnificent testimony to the prolific talent of the Atlantic region; it should prove very popular not only with school seniors but with all readers of Canadian literature.