by Mary Langille
IF YOURE LOOKING for experimental Canadian fiction, look no further than Hard Times (Mercury, 168 pages, $12.95 paper). Each of Beverley Daurio`s editorial selections is innovative in terms of either subject matter, style, or both.
In terms of content, the most striking of the stories is Ann Diamonds "The Ape Diet." A Japanese Buddhist monk comes to America to teach his religion, but fears that his students will never understand the essentials. He finally finds a worthy pupil, an orangutan at the San Diego zoo: "Here is a being unconcerned with existence and perfectly at home with his own deep ignorance"
For form the most daring (and the most difficult) is Steve McCaffery`s self-referential piece "Deliberate Follicles" Here fiction is described in terms of anatomy, geography, and chemistry, as well as a variety of other systems. At one point, a sort of nuclear reaction of prose occurs: the words temporarily break down into nonsense and then a new structure emerges.
Some of the selections in Hard Times are excerpts from longer works or works in progress. A piece taken out of context, such as Daniel Jones`s "Obsessions," often bewilders rather than engages the reader. Instead of resorting to excerpts, surely Daurio, could have found enough innovative fiction that is short and complete in itself to make up her anthology.