Reviewing anthologies which don’t have a theme is quite difficult: each piece is an individual one and so there isn’t usually a way to connect the different pieces.
Canadian Imprints is one such anthology. It is the product of a group of writers from Toronto, Canada who band themselves together as Writer’s and Editors Network. They self-publish their work and this is their second collection, the production values of which are very good indeed, and the volume is very readable .
The first pieces that I encountered in Canadian Imprints were the Dedication by Celia Girouard; and Ben Antao’s ‘Love in Centre Island’. I’ll write about the Dedication later, but here I’ll concentrate only on the first part of the anthology which consists of prose pieces.
Antao’s story is the first one. I’ve read most of his work and these tend to focus on stories which are set either in Goa and India to which he belongs ethnically; or to the West, most usually Canada where he is a citizen now.
This story recounts a very emotional encounter between a 70-something Caucasian man who is desperately seeking companionship after the death of his beloved wife; and a woman of Chinese descent, much younger, but who is also looking for love but along with that, she wants to have a child as well.
It is a story which could easily have degenerated into the bad sex in fiction award material, but although the story has a very very physical feel and smell about it, it neither goes in this direction nor does it become sentimental, and indeed it has an ending which I thought was very well handled.
Canadian Imprints calls itself an ‘anthology of prose and poetry’ but I’d rather call the first part a miscellany of prose, for it consists of pieces of different kinds of prose and not just fiction. The second piece I read ‘The Olive Tree’ by Maurus Cappa, was more like a piece of journalism about a strange case which I won’t spoil for you by narrating.
Andrzej Derkowski’s ‘Devil’s Acorns’ is non-fictional prose about ‘minor incidents whose influences on the more important events (of world history) are not generally recognized’. For instance he tells about the First World War which started because of the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary might have been averted if his driver Gavrilo Princip had not taken a wrong turn. This series is planned as a book. There is another piece by Derkowski called ‘My Toronto: Looking Back’ which is a memoir of how the city has changed since WWII. Such pieces when they have a personal touch, as in this one, never go out of fashion.
At first I could not make out whether the next piece by Sally Dillon, The Soap Box Opera was biography or fiction. In fact the difference does not matter as Dillon the omniscient narrator describes the most important day in the life of Victor Von, the day when he won the Lions Club Soap Box Derby. It is only in the ending when imperceptibly the point of view turns first person, that we realize that it is a story. Maybe this story was saying as an aside that fact and fiction are siblings of the same mother.
There is no doubt that we are dealing with the imaginary when we read ‘A Conversation with my Shadow’ by Mostafa Dini. It begins, I quote:- My car stalls on the highway, right in the middle lane. I panic and get out. But I can’t walk. My feet are stuck to the pavement.
“I want my inheritance,” says my shadow, sucking my feet down.”
The following story ‘Adventure Under the Sea’ by Fran Edelstein, tries to emulate The Old Man and the Sea in a short story as Mack, a scuba diving instructor takes on a shark. I think it was competent and readable as an excercise, but it is difficult to not be reminded by the Master.