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Bix’s Trumpet and Other Stories

by Dave Margoshes

It has been argued that short stories, thanks to their brevity and the associated compression and intensity of the language, resemble poetry more closely than they do the novel. The 18 stories in Saskatchewan-based author Dave Margoshes’ new collection have qualities that could easily be deemed poetic. “Outside the living room window, the last remnant of light was snuffed out of the sky. A wind lifted the naked hand of the lilac bush and tapped it against the glass.” These lines, from the story “Pornography,” are redolent of the suppleness and metaphoric heft of verse.

Similarly, Margoshes’ preference for open-ended stories reflects the way in which the meaning of poetry expands outward for the reader. Stories such as “The Gift,” “The Unattempted Kiss,” and “A Man of Distinction” don’t resolve themselves neatly, but rather hint at things outside the stories themselves, leaving their ultimate resolutions in the hands of the reader.

Sadly, a little of this goes a long way. The unresolved nature of many of these stories makes for a certain sameness over the course of the collection. After a while, the device begins to feel coy at best; more often it comes across as simple authorial laziness. Adding to this feeling of repetition are the details that crop up again and again. Characters in various stories are enamoured of Shakespeare, particularly the sonnets; two stories feature characters who dine at Bridges restaurant in Vancouver; and two different stories describe characters as having “Paul Newman eyes.”

Margoshes also omits information in a way that frequently renders his stories more like sketches than fully formed pieces. Characters’ motivations are often murky or left out altogether, and the preponderance of back story reads like so much plot summary. As a result, the reader is left with the paradoxical impression that Bix’s Trumpet simultaneously does too much and far too little.