||A Review of: Cities of Weather
by Michael Greenstein
Although the past tense is stronger in Montreal than elsewhere in
Canada, the youthful magazine, Maisonneuve, makes a clear case for
the future of English creative writing in Quebec. A 28-year-old
associate editor at Maisonneuve, Matthew Fox has just published his
first collection of short stories, many of which involve the coming
of age of a sensitive gay protagonist from Fiona, Ontario (in the
vicinity of Alice Munro country) who moves to Montreal to engage
in artistic activities.
The first story, however, masks the homosexuality of the others in
Cities of Weather. Janey Forsythe works in an office in Montreal's
CyberSmart before coming home to sculpt in her apartment. "Janey
saw her life as two worlds connected by ugly tunnels. There was her
apartment-three clothes-strewn rooms that smelled of clay-and there
was the office." Fox connects two or more worlds in "City
of Weather" and in the stories that follow it, fusing private
and public realms into an organic whole. The meteorological maps
of Montreal, New York, and Fiona, Ontario include a barometer of
The wet tunnels of Montreal seem like an extension of Janey's wet
clay that she sculpts into her "Big Project"-"a
clutch of hands coming up from nowhere in the smothering fingers."
On the one hand, her company compartmentalizes its workers; on the
other hand, her computer screen comes to life "loading personal
settings, finding network connections"; and in between, Janey
tunnels through Montreal's mazes, connecting through sculpture.
Unlike her cubicle at work, her home is a railroad apartment, with
rooms flowing into each other, like in an art gallery. Her boyfriend
Mike has left her for a job in Toronto, but she refuses to leave
Montreal, concentrating instead on her sculpture, The Big Project.
Devoid of work and her love life, Janey turns to her neighbours at
the end of "City of Weather". First she sees a rabbi
unloading boxes from his car onto her stairway, then she sees her
ground-floor neighbours, a deaf couple she earlier observed making
love. "It was sign language.She watched the digits.They would
be a perfect finishing touch for the Project." Janey uses her
fingers to sculpt the hands of others, even as Fox uses his manual
dexterity to put the finishing touch on his story. The final sentence,
"She can listen without breaking the silence," applies
equally to her deaf neighbour and to Janey who eavesdrops on the
silent lovers' sign language.
Montreal recurs in the next story, "Prove That You're Not
Infected", where the narrator suffers not from AIDS, but from
an obscure kidney disease, IGA nephropathy. He recalls the ice
storm: "Montreal does not pretend that there is balance-and
relishes the void. There is always some citizen who says something
out of place, yet ironically appropriate." After echoes of
Leonard Cohen, the story ends with the narrator asking his lover
to disappear with him. Similarly, "Advanced Soaring" ends
with "Gone, gone, gone," the disappearance of Luke and
Mark in Montreal. These vanishing endings betoken the ephemeral
nature of young love affairs that attempt to weather the storms of
city life, just as the city weathers through its harsh winters.
Despite some blatant editorial lapses, the stories in Cities of
Weather are interesting and well written.