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Water Studies: New Voices in Maritime Fiction

by Ian Colford, ed.

This collection presents short stories by 16 writers, mostly young and emerging, who call Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, or Prince Edward Island home.

Ian Colford, who compiled and edited Water Studies, also edits Pottersfield Portfolio, and this book is very much a product of litmag culture. Colford wisely uses the term “Maritime writer” to refer to place of residence alone, not themes or setting. So, while some stories are placed in Fredericton or rural Nova Scotia, others occur in Europe, the Mojave Desert, and even an unspecified country in the future.

Like most modern Canadian short stories published in literary magazines, this collection is distinguished by extreme technical virtuosity of the writing and earnest suffering of the characters. The technical excellence is a result of fierce competition for space in these magazines. The earnest suffering is more difficult to fathom. In this collection, the reader is exposed briefly to sado-masochism, failed love, anorexia, alcoholism, insanity, the philosophical contemplation of suicide, attempted suicide, divorce, domestic violence, voyeurism, and pedophilia, all delivered with a similar melancholy earnestness. The writing is uniformly good, but the tone of these stories is almost cliché.

There are exceptions. J. Maureen Hull’s “Homarus Americanus” tells of a young woman trying to discover why her sister gave up law school to become a lobster fisher. The writing is filled with joyful lyricism. Kelly Cooper’s “Water Studies” presents moments in the lives of three generations of women living under a single roof in a style reminiscent of Ursula K. LeGuin’s experimental work. Douglas Arthur Brown’s “Komodo Dragon” tells, with sly humour, of the consternation of conventional neighbours when a woman cuts down her hedge and keeps a lizard after her husband mysteriously vanishes. These stories provide a welcome variation to the overall melancholy tone of this book which is otherwise almost devoid of irony, humour, or joy. Sadly, this limitation of tone will consign the book to the same narrow readership as the literary magazines from which the stories and writers were drawn.


Reviewer: Janet McNaughton

Publisher: Pottersfield Press


Price: $17.95

Page Count: 192 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 1- 895900-12-3

Released: Mar.

Issue Date: 1998-3

Categories: Anthologies