Cities Of Weather

by Matthew Fox
ISBN: 189633220X

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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 gay sensibility.
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.

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