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Victory Meat: New Fiction from Atlantic Canada

by Lynn Coady,ed.

Geography has always played a role in great fiction, making an anthology based on a specific region a promising idea. The nuances that surface in these collections allow a pleasing glimpse of that elusive notion of place.

Novelist and editor Lynn Coady has chosen an admirable selection of Eastern Canadian writing in the Victory Meat anthology. The designate “new” is questionable: half of the stories here have seen previous publication. As well, seasoned writers like R. M. Vaughan and George Elliott Clarke stand out as particular abuses of the word “new.” But the stories from the collection’s more experienced entrants are generally the best.

Clarke stands apart from the group, with a delightful, previously unpublished prose piece, “Identifying the Muses.” It is the monologue of a detective pontificating on the wickedness of, among other scoundrels, poets. Like Clarke’s verse, this story is dense, witty, and a bit frenzied. Another superb entry is Lisa Moore’s “Melody,” first published in her Giller-nominated collection, Open. The first half of the story follows a young protagonist through her friend Melody’s abortion; the second half follows the same character, now much older, through a tooth extraction and withering second marriage. The narrative teems with colour and scent, so vivid it deserves a second reading solely to savour the imagery.

Michael Winter’s “Second Heart” and Kelly Cooper’s “Conjugal Approaches” also deserve note. Though vastly dissimilar, both manage powerful meditations on gender, education, and maturity, and Winter’s colloquial language and local colour offer an accomplished glimpse of the traditional Newfoundland experience.

Atlantic Canada is seen by many as a region of isolated villages and friendly people, quiet and accommodating. Victory Meat will not greatly alter such a conception, but there are dark, sinister, and uncomfortable undertones to many of these stories, just enough to keep the collection lively and unpredictable.