Thursday, September 08, 2011

Michael Bryson Reviews The Meagre Tarmac

Over at his blog Michael Bryson has offered up a rave review of Clark Blaise's The Meagre Tarmac, nominated Tuesday for a Giller Award. Here's how it starts:

Masterpiece. That's a big word. In 20 years of writing book reviews I don't think I've ever used it, but I'm throwing the dart at Clark Blaise's new short story collection, The Meagre Tarmac(Biblioasis, 2011).

Primarily a short story writer, Blaise has often explored the period of this upbringing and his multiple identities and senses of self. He has also been an administrator of writing programs and a notable essayist and non-fiction author. He is currently the President of the Society for the Study of the Short Story.


The eleven short stories in The Meagre Tarmac continue Blaise's interest in the social construction of identity. This time, however, his characters are not exploring the two solitudes of North America's English/French divide. The characters in this book are nearly all Indo-American. The two solitudes on display here are the East and West. Also, cultural tradition versus liberal capitalism.

Post-Obama, are we post-racial? Blaise's book argues emphatically, no. But it's a no that is dense with complication.

In an earlier age, this book would be a lightening rod for an "appropriation of voice" debate. How can this white dude write from within the perspective of the Indo-American population? And he does it over and over, in precise detail, and so well!

Clearly, the author has experience of Indo-American culture through his in-laws, but (more importantly) he has brought to it a lifetime of experience, a lifetime of thinking through precise cultural differences, a lifetime of mastering the short story.

And it is a mastery, here, that ought to be celebrated. And read. And studied.

We, of course, couldn't agree more. For the whole review, well worth reading, please go here. (And sorry about the mustard colour highlighting: can't seem to steal from Bryson's blog without it. )

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