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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The Notebooks: Interviews and New Fiction from Contemporary Writers

Reviewed: February 6, 2004
By: edited by Michelle Berry and Natalee Caple
Publisher: Anchor Canada
505 pages, $25.95

I was, for some years, suspicious of the modern short story, feeling that it had pretty much abandoned the “story” part of the form. It is pretty certain - don’t take my word for it, check the standard texts - that anything to do with plot was seriously out of favour for quite awhile. This was all part of the same general urge that banished representative art as well as poetry with rhyme and rhythm, both of which have since returned to take their rightful places among the “modern” movements which were once said to have disposed of them.

The stories in The Notebooks partake of every flavour you might imagine, do not scorn the telling of a tale or the delineation of a character. For each of the seventeen writers represented here we get a notebook page from some work in progress, a short biography, a short story or novel extract (not necessarily the one from the notebook), and an interview with the writer.

This is quite a delight.

Almost as much fun is the fact that five of these writers have spent time in the Yukon in the following ways.

Russell Smith was the first of our Berton House writers in 1996.

Andrew Pyper came along the next summer and wrote Lost Girls, one of the first novels to make mention of Berton House in its cover copy.

Steven Heighton was living in Berton House when this book was being assembled a few years back, and his interview was actually conducted from there via e-mail.

Catherine Bush was recently a guest writer at the annual Young Author’s Conference.

Eden Robinson was the Yukon’s Writer in Residence a few years ago.

For me the other neat thing is that I’ve met and interviewed four of these five, Pyper having been here while I was away on vacation one summer.

There’s some very good stuff in this volume. If my faith in the future of the short story had not already been restored some years ago, this book would help to do it.

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