Stories About Storytellers Companion Reading (#3)

Many early readers of Stories About Storytellers have remarked that they finish reading it only to rush to pick up one of the other books Doug has so lovingly described. So to make it easier, this recurring feature revisits some of those books and reminds you why they’re worth a read. Last time, we revisited Broken Ground by Jack Hodgins, and this we’re featuring . . .

Man Descending by Guy Vanderhaeghe (1982)

I did not edit this collection of Guy’s stories, which won the Governor-General’s Award in 1982, but I did publish it. In fact I remember being flu-struck at home when I took the chance to read this manuscript sent in by an unknown writer that my colleagues had recommended, and even through the fever it was clear to me that this was a remarkable book from a fine new voice.

Impressed by Guy’s new book, A Good Man, I’ve just re-read Man Descending, and it continues to delight me. If you’ve skipped over it, for whatever reason, run to catch up to it. The tough, clear prairie voices (often of working-class young guys who are rarely heard in “Literature”) ring out from each page, and from the start you know you’re in the hands of a real writer. Like Alice Munro, Mavis Gallant, Margaret Atwood, Alistair MacLeod and a few others, Guy has shown that Canadian readers (more than most) will respond to short stories, and make them commercial as well as artistic successes. This remarkable book is both.

For a bit more on Guy Vanderhaeghe see page 274 of Stories About Storytellers.

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