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Hood, Hugh.

Toronto, Stoddart, c1985. 215pp, paper, $12.95, ISBN 0-7737-5046-0. CIP

Reviewed by Barbara J. Graham

Volume 14 Number 2
1986 March

It is well that Hugh Hood, the accomplished writer of the yet-to-be completed series of novels, TheNewAge/Le Nouveau siècle, occasionally reminds his enthusiastic readers that he is equally adept in the writing of short fiction. August Nights will not disappoint the reader willing to accept the differences that another form of fiction demands. These twelve short stories and one novella have in some cases been published before in magazines, but the total collection exhibits a cohesion both realistically and imaginatively through the collection's title. In the first story, "The Small Birds," the time is August, the place the summer cottage. Marian, who suffers from the black flies and mosquitoes, is beginning to feel the magnificent release that August brings. The reader experiences her joy and content in the observation of small birds, whose rituals fascinate her and pique her curiosity. Marian's freedom from imprisonment coincides with her discovery of the nest and birth of some swallows that she first assumes are dead. Her discovery that, just maybe, a young swallow feels a connection with her is poetically described. Hood's love of baseball is reflected in the vignette of one summer when Sally and Patricia follow the fortunes of their baseball hero, Orlando Saint-James. They create a banner for Ollie, bake him a cake for his birthday, and hang outside the clubhouse doors waiting for a glimpse of their heroes, whose lives revolve only around themselves and the next game. Hood intuitively captures the dialogue and feelings of the hero-worshippers. The frustration of the Canadian writer is described poignantly in "Every Piece Different": "I've spent my whole life learning how to make these beautiful objects and nobody wants them and I can't do anything else and I can't stop making them."

What impresses the reader, is Hood's ability to see with such vividness both the external, and internal realities, whether he is observing the disintegration of a Yorkville heritage home or an ailing marriage. Hood is not above using the fantastic to illustrate both man's and nature's endurance. Pedricito and a giant see turtle travel six hundred nautical miles in seventy hours in a bonded relationship that saves the man's life. The novella, "Weight Watchers," satirizes our contemporary preoccupation with youth and thinness. Freedom from fat, and from wives, becomes merely illusory. We create our own traps. Characters with meaning, each searching for release from human bondage and yet needing loving connections, not always being successful, but struggling, these are some of Hugh Hood's concerns in August Nights. Adult readers will empathize and recognize the essential human dilemma.

Barbara J. Graham, Board of Education for the City of London, London, Ont.
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