Apr 22, 2011

I have been remiss! Oh, bad, bad monkey, thy name is ... remiss? Is that a name?

I would be remiss if I were not to mention the recent online publication The Winnipeg Review, a literary endeavour which describes itself thus:
The Winnipeg Review publishes on-line every quarter, with weekly updates, from its eponymous home. Like the inhabitants of this midcontinental city, TWR is always opinionated, occasionally cranky, and ethnically confused. We exist to review literary books, mostly Canadian fiction, and to showcase interviews, excerpts, poems, and columns by writers with something to say.
Why bring this up, you ask? Well, aside from being a darn sight better than many similar websites, with insightful commentary and in-depth book reviews, it has a marvellous lineup of reviewers.

Do you really not see where I'm going with this?

Yes, I have gouged away heaping hunks of my free time to through a few reviews their way, which I have been sadly neglect in mentioning here, a neglect I will now remedy.

First, my very recent review of Timothy Taylor's remarkable The Blue Light Project:
The Blue Light ProjectThe Blue Light Project does not do things the easy way; there are no clear lines of plot, the agendas of secondary characters flit in and about, not everything is tied up in a neat bow. Some reviewers have tried to compensate by refusing to follow the inner logic, instead imposing upon Blue Light a structure Taylor never intended: one reviewer in a major Canadian publication takes this so far as to devote the majority of the review to Pegg’s interview with the hostage taker, all but ignoring Eve and Rabbit, removing much of the mystery Taylor delicately builds, and emphasizing all out of proportion what turns out to be a fairly small segment of the actual novel.

Blue Light, despite some remarkably tense moments, is not a thriller, and Taylor never posits it as such. The hostage situation is integral, but it functions as a pivot point for the others to balance on, not as a central theme. What is far more important is Taylor’s conjecture that only through trauma can we see clearly and possibly hope to achieve something meaningful in our lives. Blue Light’s characters are all seekers; of what, they are not sure, until something jars them from complacency. We see this in the various mobs that surround the building, yearning to be a part of the conclusion, wanting to be a part of anything that might affect them and thus add significance to their existence.
And secondly, from two months ago, my two-hander review of Alexander MacLeod's Light Lifting and Sarah Selecky's This Cake is for the Party:
Light Lifting

At this point, any review of Sarah Selecky’s or Alexander MacLeod’s recent work could be argued as superfluous. Their fame, for the moment, is secure. Two collections of short stories, each acclaimed to a degree that would make most authors collapse under the weight of their envy. Each a Giller finalist. Each now shortlisted for Commonwealth Best First Book, winner still to be determined. Each taking a comfortable roost inside national and regional bestseller lists. Selecky earns comparisons to Alice Munro. MacLeod escapes the sizable shadow of CanLit heavyweight and father Alistair to carve his own small niche in the canon. These are truly auspicious beginnings for any literary career.

This Cake is for the Party

Taken side by side, weighing each collection against the other as we would combatants in a field of battle, Selecky’s This Cake is for the Party and MacLeod’s Light Lifting showcase sizable talents, displaying unique voices and mastery of craft. They each contain stories of memories captured in time, stories that tell of personal moments and hint at larger ramifications beyond the last sentence. Yet of the two, This Cake holds together better as a whole, but Light Lifting hints at a slightly broader range. It is doubtful anyone would mistake a Selecky story for a MacLeod, but MacLeod could, in the future, pull off a reasonable Selecky.

And there you have it. Drop in to The Winnipeg Review for some terrific reviews of a few of my recent favourites, including a sterling treatise by Lee Kvern on Valerie Compton's affecting Tide Road and Michelle Berry on Miriam Toews Irma Voth (on my TBR pile).

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