Coming Attractions 5

by edited by David and Maggie Helwig
127 pages,
ISBN: 0887506798

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The presentation of three "new" writers in Coming Attractions is an annual event, like Christmas, and this year's offering is cause for celebration.
Charles Foran sets three stories in three different worlds, each made real by his imaginative powers. "Cat at the Door" balances reality and fantasy, offering the reader a soothing possibility for human connection as the protagonist massages a drunken woman to relieve some of the pains of alcohol poisoning. In "Boat People," the poison is denial of memory, and multiple points of view isolate an immediate present chilling in its sterility. "Mary Hynes" is an ambitious examination of the strained dynamic occurring in the area beyond acquaintance but before friend. Deftly handled, the story convinces with its strength.
Lee, in "Cat at the Door," remembers her stuffed animals, "who had strange adventures and whispered outrageous stories in her ear... stories Lee believed implicitly and defended against claims that they were anything less than the truth." They sound like the stories of Charles Foran.
Patricia Bradbury writes stories with a graceful sensitivity that resists paraphrase. "The Ship" has a story line that sounds banal: a woman who's recently lost her daughter takes a cruise on the Pushkin arid meets a man whose daughter is recovering from an appendectomy. But the written story is so seamlessly constructed, so acutely compelling, it becomes new to the reader. "Cuba Libre" is equally powerful in its reinvention of the "outsider" theme, here expressed as a woman lonely in Havana who'd rather be on Mars. (Again, the paraphrase doesn't do justice to the story.)
Bradbury's talent is in making the familiar unpredictable. She takes astonishing risks with emotional connections and succeeds wonderfully, as in this paragraph from "Yellow Dust": "My uncle was passed over for senior vicepresident and retired early from his company. He had a big send-off and was given three vacations and two video cameras. The Christmas tree caught fire that year and was never replaced."
Cynthia Holtz profiles contemporary women and her strong moral intelligence supports her wickedly accurate observation sublet her apartment in "Home Life," the reader is treated to a personal history more conversational than gossipy. Holtz accords dignity to all human emotions, even burlesque behaviour. Barbara, superstitiously, tries to duplicate the sounds of her parents' lovemaking with her husband: "'Oh! Oh!' Not because of what I was feeling, maybe to help the feelings along. He stopped what he was doing and said, 'That's too ridiculous.' "
"Nights with Harry" skilfully dissects the noncommittal male and could do more for readers than a shelf-full of self-help books. "The Whole Story" is a powerful exploration of a woman's' response to her father, a Jewish immigrant, as he relives, and recreates the stories of his past. The power of story is something Holtz understands; she demonstrates; as well, its importance. When John Metcalf was editing the precursor to this series, he wrote, "The fiction in this book is not an entry in the 'Great Canadian' Stakes." Quite right; the reader is the winner.

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