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Dickinson, Don.

Ottawa. Oberon Press, 1987. 112pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-696-8 (cloth) $23.95. 0-88750-697-6 (paper) $11.95.

Adult/ Secondary
Reviewed by Fred Leicester

Volume 16 Number 5
1988 September

The back cover informs us that the author once worked as a shepherd, that he now lives in Lillooet, B.C., and that this is his first book of stories. However, the half-expected pastoral themes complete with nymphs and dryads, Pan, and sylvan dells all fall to materialize. Instead, after reading the seven stories, I was left with a series of mental images that ranged from dusty prairie towns with their hard-drinking, life-weary men, through the cocksure exuberance of youth, to the ravaging effects of old age and the bitter-sweet agony of contemplating what might have been.

Of the seven stories, I liked four a lot, one a little, and two not at all. Of the four I really enjoyed, three have a unifying leitmotif, that of life in the post-Depression prairies. "Fighting the Upstream" is a prairie version of Sillitoe's "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner" (published in The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, New York: New American Library. 1971). "The Other War" recounts the antics of two nine-year-olds who find their father's cache of World War II memorabilia, while "Kozicki and the Living Dog" recounts the misadventure of a drunken fanner manqué in search of his only friend Bacchus, a morose cross between a Cairn terrier and a bulldog. Bacchus, incidentally, is also drunk.

Dickinson is excellent at handling verbal humour, his vernacular is spot-on, and there is some camera-sharp scene setting. He is also largely successful in sketching characterization through dialogue, and his flashback techniques are illuminating.

Senior English classes would undoubtedly find the stories in this collection good starting points for discussions ranging from anomie to Weltschmerz, but librarians may well balk at paying $11.95 for such a slim volume.

Fred Leicester, Golden School District, Golden, B.C.
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