How stories mean /
edited by John Metcalf and J.R. (Tim) Struthers.
Erin, Ont. : Porcupine's Quill, 1993.
356 p.
0889841276 :
More Details
Erin, Ont. : Porcupine's Quill, 1993.
0889841276 :
Online version licensed for access by U. of T. users.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references.
A Look Inside
First Chapter
As a student of literature and as a university professor, I have benefited significantly from the lessons which the more imaginative literary critics (Northrop Frye and Balachandra Rajan, to name two) can teach us about literature. But in the years since I completed my formal academic training, I have found that my interests as a critic have shifted, and have been invigorated, as a result of a unique education gained by listening to creative writers. Some of my university colleagues find what I have to say on this subject a little surprising. They understand my enduring concern with literary form, but are a little bewildered by my more recent fascination with the possibilities of style. How did I become interested in such and such? Through editing my collection The Montreal Story Tellers, I reply; in particular by studying the memoir-essays by Hugh Hood, John Metcalf, Ray Smith, Raymond Fraser, and Clark Blaise which open that volume. Or through interviewing writers, I say. Hearing how they resist most of my academically-based formulations. More recently, I continue, as a result of many, many conversations that I have enjoyed with John Metcalf as publisher of two books of his criticism through Red Kite Press and as co-conspirator with him as acquisitions editors for The Porcupine's Quill. The formal training that I acquired in the process of obtaining three academic degrees in English has not been sufficient to teach me to read the way I want to read now. Nor has the huge body of literary theory that absorbs many critics of my generation been equal to this task. Narrowly academic obsessions have led many critics to lose sight of our principal responsibilities -- to literature and language, to the experience of life, to the reading public -- and to vanish into a haze of intellection and semantics. In contrast, many Canadian writers have succeeded in speaking passionately and lucidly and perceptively about the artistry of their own and other individuals' work. By casting light upon the nature of their writing, the inside story, writers like John Metcalf provide the means to enhance our analytic understanding of literature and our sense of wonder about literature. If I had not read essays like John Metcalf's `Editing the Best', `Punctuation as Score', and `That Damn Clock Again', I doubt that I would have started to investigate the possibilities of style. Call this the music of prose: it is what generates, at some intuitive level, our sense of a story's power the first and every other time that we read the story. I would not have become so finely aware of this music, I would not have thought to comment on it, and I would not have begun to grasp how I might go about analysing it, if I had not kept listening to John Metcalf and his contemporaries talk about literature -- about their craft. For more than two decades, John Metcalf has laboured tirelessly to produce his own illuminating assessments of the art of fiction. He has also encouraged many other Canadian writers to discuss the making of their stories. Through his anthologies of stories and commentaries, John Metcalf has introduced generations of readers to exciting new possibilities of form, technique, style, and language found in contemporary writing. The present collaboration is even wider in scope, reprinting various seminal commentaries from John's earlier anthologies, gathering other intriguing items from relatively obscure sources, and including several more pieces newly commissioned by John. This book is a spirited testimonial by fifteen distinguished artists to the development of short story writing in Canada. It pleases me to have the opportunity to emphasize how indispensable the role played by John Metcalf in this ongoing history has been, how much enthusiasm and rigour he has contributed to the advancement of the short story in Canada.

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