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Brief Reviews
by Donna Nurse

JOSEF BODNER, the oddballprotagonist in the Vancouver writer Grant Buday`s most recent novel, harbours apassion for glass. In Under Glass(Oolichan, 142 pages, $10.95 paper) Josef spends much of his time hoarding everything from light bulbs to bottlesto his mother`s forbidden figurines. His fascination extends especially to theEater of Glass, a member of the gypsy caravan that, in 1913, still traversesthe Slovak village where Josef and his mother live. Joseph labours to expresshis passion artistically, but an unfortunate absence of natural ability thwartshis every effort. Josef`s hopes of forging an artist`s life lead him toTurkey, Jerusalem, and eventually British Columbia - a geographical rangethat lends an epic scope to the novel. But other stylistic conventions recallthe novella form that Buday utilized in his previous book, The Venetian; Under Glass containsless than 150 pages and adheres tenaciously to the sole theme of Josef`s obsession. Many of Buday`s characters resemble traditional folkfigures. Botsko the oneeyed store keeper, for example, and Josef`s wife Moira,a talented weaver, who, though mute, sings out loud in her sleep. The proximity of the woods and frequent appearance ofgypsies also emphasize the story`s folkloric atmosphere. Buday`s colourful yetuncluttered prose moves events along swiftly. And although the novel invitesseveral readings, including Freudian and mythological interpretations, it is asexquisite and tightly woven as any of Moira`s tapestries. With Under Glass Buday offers both a stimulating meditation on artisticidealism and a truly compelling fairy tale.

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