by Anne Fleming
NORMA HARRS impressively serves up not eight, not 12,but 20 tales in Love Minus One &Other Stories (Hounslow, 170 pages,$16.99 paper), her first book of fiction since her 1980 novel, A Certain State of Mind Set variously in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Ireland, theyrun to the kind of stories friends exchange over coffee. Did I ever tell youabout my drunken aunts who set the car on fire while the priest was over fortea? Or about the friend of a friend who plied her philandering husband withtantalizing meals until he was too fat to attract other women?
Storytelling stories, that`s what they are, andnothing wrong with that. They feature epiphanies, reversals, small acts ofcourage. Sometimes this works well - in "Saturday Lady," Harrsmanages to make a cooped-up woman chasing her husband`s escaped birds notseem cliched. More often, however, the point of the story is too obvious. Anolder man comes around to wearing a diaper after his success in a rest homevaudeville routine. A painter exorcises the memory of a portrait-sitter`sdeath by selling the painting.
It`s hard to be hard on these stories, they`re solovingly crafted, the writing so deft and assured. A handful of stories, likethe lovely "A Blight on the Roses," prove that Harrs is capable ofgreater complexity without losing her light touch. A pared back collectionmight give these pieces their due. Here they blend in with their neighbourslike brand new, identical townhouses.