This book captured my attention from its opening sentence: "There is something sad about wind and fences." The wind blows on through fences throughoutThis book captured my attention from its opening sentence: "There is something sad about wind and fences." The wind blows on through fences throughout the novel, as Drinkwater, a washed-up hockey player nearing obsolescence, comes to terms with his fading career, his future career operating his family's junkyard, and his relationships with three women: his ex-wife Kathy, his fiancée The Intended, and his mistress Waitress X.
The unusual feature of this novel is its lack of characters. Drinkwater's string of hockey coaches and fellow players are known simply as "coach" or "the goalie," and one is not distinguished from another. His Intended and Waitress X are never named, and character development is almost entirely lacking. This novel is about Drinkwater himself, and it is sustained entirely by Jarman's remarkable prose. Jarman normally sticks to short stories, where his writing shines without the need to sustain the reader over 80,000 words or more. That Salvage King, Ya! pulls it off is quite a feat....more
This is quite a collection. On finishing it, I had to wonder why Jarman isn't better known.
The answers to that are obvious. First, he writes short stoThis is quite a collection. On finishing it, I had to wonder why Jarman isn't better known.
The answers to that are obvious. First, he writes short stories, which many people view as a training ground for beginning novelists rather than a serious discipline in its own right, and so he doesn't get wide exposure. Second, he's at odds with the conventional "Canadian short story," which is realist and character-driven -- see Munro, Alice. (Not that I have anything against Munro, Alice.)
But Jarman is so, so good. His prose crackles. Jarman lives at the level of the sentence, and often seems more concerned with sentences than with plot or character, and the results are remarkable.
Furthermore, he's drop-dead funny. "Fables of the Deconstruction," in which a professor struggles to interpret the intentions of a student who removes her bra from under her shirt, is not only drop-dead accurate but hilarious. "If Derrida didn't exist, we'd have to invent him," she remarks, borrowing from Voltaire, "and then beat him up at recess."
You can't call Matt Cohen a one-trick pony. There's a lot of range in these posthumous short stories, a variety of approaches and voices and styles thYou can't call Matt Cohen a one-trick pony. There's a lot of range in these posthumous short stories, a variety of approaches and voices and styles that not many writers can pull off. One of Cohen's feet is planted firmly in familiar CanLit territory, in the kind of critique of small-town mores found in other Canadian writers of his generation. The other foot is dancing, stomping around pretty much wherever it wants to. You might complain that some of the stories seem slight, but perhaps it's because of the company they're keeping. Well worth reading, especially for anyone seriously interested in the short story as a form.