Montreal Stories by Clark BlaiseMontreal Stories by Clark Blaise

Montreal Stories

byClark Blaise

Paperback | October 15, 2003

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Here gathered together are the Montreal-set stories which made Clark Blaise famous -- such stories as `A Class of New Canadians', `Eyes', and `I'm Dreaming of Rocket Richard' -- alongside two new and unpublished Montreal stories, `The Belle of Shediac' and `Life Could Be a Dream (sh-boom, sh-boom)'.

Clark Blaise has taught in Montreal, Toronto, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, as well as at Skidmore College, Columbia University, Iowa, NYU, Sarah Lawrence and Emory. For several years he directed the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Among the most widely travelled of authors, he has taught or lectured in Ja...
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Title:Montreal StoriesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 8.73 × 5.56 × 0.59 inPublished:October 15, 2003Publisher:Porcupine's QuillLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0889842701

ISBN - 13:9780889842700

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Montreal functions like an (unreliable) heart within the body of Clark Blaise's oeuvre: a treacherous, indispensable organ at the centre of his fiction. The writer, so far, has spent just thirteen years consecutively (1966-78) in the Paris of North America. (With its brick tenements, multiplicity of nineteenth-century churches and urban funk, Montreal physically -- spiritually, perhaps -- resembles Brooklyn, even Dublin, more than it does the City of Light.)Thirteen years. Not a lifetime, but longer than any place else in an accomplished, peripatetic career. Born in Fargo, North Dakota; raised in Florida and Pittsburgh; the son of a French-Canadian father from the Megantic/Maine borderland and an English-Canadian mother from Manitoba, Blaise found home and exile, all at once, in Montreal. The city is his Dublin and his Trieste. The bipolarity of Mo'ray-al/Munntreeall -- electrified him. If the city had not existed, he would have to invent it, as Faulkner would have invented north Mississippi. Of course, this is exactly what each writer did, but both needed to ground their imaginations to the touch of actual earth (or asphalt).If Blaise characters are certain of anything, it is the significance of place: they usually attempt to explain themselves by giving sets of geographic coordinates (and never simple ones).Leaving the United States, crossing a border to settle in a city whose fault lines doppleganged his own, was a crucial act for a writer who was already exploring geography as metaphor and motive. In the Montreal stories, Blaise investigated fluid, broken identities, and the terrors and instructions thereof. He sited these on working-class French Canadian streets of the East End; on Hutchison Street `with the Greeks moving in'; and just west of downtown, where `someday Montreal will have its Greenwich Village and these short streets between St. Catherine and Dorchester will be its centre'.These stories have as protagonists watchful, self-reliant boys, ambitious young professors or middle-aged writers, the latter two imaginable as those boys, two, three or four decades later. I should mention that they all seem part of one unfolding story: Blaise's short fiction has a unity and coherence that make each collection read like the latest instalment of a novel being published, in many volumes, over the lifetime of the writer.The collection includes two `chameleon boy' stories set in Montreal in 1950s, a city locked in an icebox. `Drab ... the interiors and streets, the minds and souls and conversations of east-end Montreal. One big icy puddle of frozen-gutter water, devoid of joy, colour, laughter, pleasure, intellect or art.' (You cannot call Blaise a booster.) The chameleon boys watch their identities (French/English, American/Canadian, Montreal/Florida) spinning like citrus in a slot machine after the handle has been cranked. They are utterly uncertain which combination is going to turn up next, and some version of this helpless, chancy, bleakly funny situation comes up repeatedly in Blaise. The mythology of borders is this writer's medium. He uses it to investigate our terms of existence on this planet, the nature of the lease.In `North', a family flees Pittsburgh, routed in their attempt to establish American lives. Arriving in Montreal, they camp out in a relative's East End flat. Québec is still under the wet blanket of Duplessisismo. A boy who had thought himself soundly American discovers, to his horror and fascination, that he is, in Montreal, someone else.This chameleon, whether he happens to be a native (`I'm Dreaming of Rocket Richard') or a transplant (`North') exists hyper-aware of parental failure, of the doom and slide in life, which is, in Blaise, always associated with the crossing of borders. In `I'm Dreaming of Rocket Richard' the narrator's alcoholic French-Canadian father gets one weak shot at success American style when his brother-in-law considers hiring him to run one of his Florida dry-cleaning shops. Crossing borders, heading south or north, is as an action as electric, misunderstood and consequential in Blaise as getting married is in Richard Yates, or commuting by train in Cheever, or sex in Philip Roth.`Unhousement' is the echt Blaisean word. (`Memories of Unhousement' is one of the superb, startling, nonfiction pieces in Resident Alien.) Seen from one angle, Clark Blaise, like Jack (Ti-Jean) Kerouac, is a diaspora writer. Their specific diaspora -- the emigration of millions of French Canadians from Québec and Acadia to the United States -- is otherwise almost completely absent from the literature and consciousness of English Canadians and Americans, even those living within twenty miles of the Quebec/New England border. Like Jack Kerouac, Blaise, a French Canadi

Editorial Reviews

`Clark Blaise is a born storyteller ... a writer to savour.'