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SMALL REGRETS.

Margoshes, Dave.

Saskatoon. Thistledown Press, c1986. 144pp., paper, ISBN 0-920633-18-8 (cloth) $22.00, 0-920633-19-6 (paper) $10.95. CIP

Adult
Reviewed by Los Maingon

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May


Small Regrets is a collection of eleven tales set primarily in the United States. It is the first book by Dave Margoshes, who now lives in Regina. Margoshes has been a reporter and editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Daily News, Calgary Herald, Calgary Albertan, and Vancouver Sun, and has been living in Canada since 1972. This collection of short stories previously available only in back issues of Canadian and American literary magazines, is an interesting, if awkward, amalgamation of tales of consumer alienation.

The awkwardness stems from the lack of cohesion between the tales and from their monotonous obsession with the surface of American commercialization of sexuality, in a complacent acceptation of sexual demarcation. Sexuality in these tales is a vehicle for a problem of identity, falsely couched in Freudian psychology, but actually set on a socioeconomic stage. If I were to seek out a text that might be representative of the Americanization of Canadian culture, I would single out this one, because its concern is primarily American and Canada is seen as a mere extension. It is to be noted that of three stories set in Canada, only one, "On an April Morning," moves in the opposite direction to the other ten "American" stories, and presents an individual male revolt based on a continuous communication with the female, even beyond death, and this story is a literary success.

The title of the collection, Small Regrets, articulates the isolation of the male ego from the consequences of its acts. Regrets are small because the American myth of individualism so fractures the social web that life is seen to continue in spite of the casualties that the individual will inflicts on others. What Margoshes's texts do bring out is the self-mutilation of the male individual that results from the practical application of the individualist myth. The title therefore reflects the anonymity of Margoshes's heroes who are unable to articulate their own anxieties and sleepwalk through a repressive nightmare like drowning men who have lost their sense of direction as they unconsciously break the surface of their environment to find air, and come into small degrees of self-consciousness.

Margoshes is a magnificent technician; he exposes his tales with a laconic realist style that draws the reader's imagination. This power is nevertheless rhetorical. What gives his style a convincing realistic touch is his questionable fatalism. The characters are real, only if we accept the reality of shallow yuppy consumerism, that is, the well-roundedness of an auto-lobotomized, American society resistant to the miscomforts of radical change by having recourse to pseudo-fatalistic solutions that enables it to side-step its ethical responsibilities. Characters are real when they consciously weigh and assume the consequences of knowledge, however imperfect, that they have gained. To be real and have an identity is to act responsibly, and that is to make conscious choices inferred from knowledge of a problematic reality. Fatalism is to make reality a problematic and dodge responsibility, and that is what determines Margoshes's characters, and at best, what may signal their crisis.


Los Maingon, Dept. of Modern Languages and Literatures, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.
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