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Love and Pomegranates: An Anthology of Short Fiction

by Rona Murray and Garry McKevitt,eds

In her introduction, Rona Murray states that she and fellow editor Garry McKevitt chose the 12 short stories in this anthology of emerging writers because they are bound together by a “similar sense of alienation.” This is probably not a coincidence, as alienation tends to be the default theme of new writers.

Terrence Young’s “Fast” and Cathleen With’s “The Arbutus Tree” are the anthology’s best stories. Young’s story is a Carver-ish scenario in which two young parents, new to a neighbourhood, are invited to dinner with the older couple living next door at a moment when the young husband is dissatisfied with his life and marriage. Young, author of this year’s Rhymes With Useless, makes his imagery, dialogue, and plot perform together like muscle, sinew, and bone. “The Arbutus Tree” is a brutal story filled with images of a kind of furtive, filthy sexuality for which the reader is given no positive, redemptive alternative. With’s first-person narrator, a young girl camping with her friend’s grotty family, is completely convincing and the story never wavers into bathos.

Not all of the stories maintain the standards set by Young and With. While Bill Stenson’s “The Only Sign of Fire” and Kathryn Le Corre’s “Vivaldi’s Four Gynecologists” are strong and smart pieces, Norma DePledge’s “A Phantasmic Place of Calm” and Alisa Gordaneer’s “The Dock” are undercut by sentimentality. “Benny Got a Gun” by D.H. Carley and the anthology’s title story by kbanks strive too hard for unearned toughness.

If there are no outright belly-flops in this collection, it’s because few of the writers grasp for anything truly new – most are what author John Barth calls “determined young traditionalists.” Murray and McKevitt have chosen some solid stories, but it’s hard not to hanker for riskier stunts and more ambitious voices.