Real Places and Imaginary Men


174 pages
ISBN 0-88750-524-4





Reviewed by Claudia Cornwall

Claudia Cornwall was a Vancouver writer.


Real Places and Imaginary Men isa collection of short stories set in a variety of places — Ontario, Israel, England of 1910. The cover promises that the stories will deal with the point at which reality meets the world of mystery and magic. Each story has a very different mood. Reality and mystery do not meet at only one point! Sometimes the mood is violent, as in the story. “Going on Alone,” in which two Canadians (one Jewish and one Gentile) have their holiday on a beach in Israel brutally interrupted by a murder and a raid by horseback-riding, sword-brandishing Bedouins. Sometimes the feeling is a gentle bemusement. In “The Butterfly Addiction,” the normal routines of a small town in Ontario are considerably disrupted by thousands of monarch butterflies. Sometimes the supernatural element is a large anomaly — difficult to assimilate into “normal” reality. In one story, a bookkeeper returning home from McDonalds with a bag full of hamburgers meets an angel, and his life is changed forever. Sometimes the anomaly is slight and consists largely in a puzzle about human motivation. In “Barry’s Bay,” a boy becomes convinced that his father has drowned himself and is startled to discover that he has not. In “The Beginning of Klaus Berber,” two friends become obsessed with an old man who adopts and sheds personalities with astonishing ease.

Readers attracted to the idea that reality is shot through with mysterious and unexplainable elements will like this book. Magic is glimpsed from many angles!


Dempster, Barry, “Real Places and Imaginary Men,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 19, 2024,