Under NeWest Eyes: Stories from NeWest Review.
Edited by Paul Denham and Gail Youngberg.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
The standard saying in this town is: "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes, it'll change." Living in this town means never knowing what to wear when you get up in the morning and then having to change your clothes four times a day anyway.
from "This Town" by Diane Schoemperlen (p. 51)
Such is life on the prairie, such is life in most of Canada, and such is the nature of Under NeWest Eyes. For if the story you are reading doesn't suit you, wait a few pages and it'll change.
This book is a collection of 20 stories to celebrate 20 years of fiction writing in the NeWest Review, which was launched in 1975, to "provide a forum for Western Canadians to talk to each other about themselves, about their culture...." to develop the indigenous voice of the prairies." (p.9).
In addition to Western writers, the editors of Under NeWest Eyes have included authors from outside the prairie region. Resulting in a rich collection of voices writing on diverse subjects. A cultural mosaic of stories arranged chronologically as they appeared in the Review. The collection includes notes on the 13 female and 7 male contributing authors.
Death, desire, and daily living are three common themes running throughout the book. Two of the "death" stories are an early tale by Governor Gereral's Award winner Rudy Wiebe, entitled "Home for the Night" in which a young man flying home remembers the past and must come to terms with the present. And "Music Lessons", by lesser-known author Bonnie Burnard, about the gift a young piano student gives her teacher.
Ontario native Jake MacDonald's "Becoming", which features mild-mannered Nimitz, who longed to live in his element, water, complete with fins and gills (?!) will linger long after a first reading. As will Sharon Butala's "Belle in Winter", a story about a mother of seven who longs for a love she's never experienced.
A little touch of Paris is provided by novelist and playwright Guy Vanderhaeghe's story "Cafe Society", in which a trio of men converse at a sidewalk cafe. You will crave an illustration as you read "The Wedding I Never Attended", by Ed Kleiman, as you are invited to look at a photograph of the story-teller's brother's wedding.
Many snapshots of urban living are presented in Diane Schoemperlen's "This Town", as she presents a mosaic of aspects central to a cultural identity: entertainment, hobbies, love and death. Subjects also common to stories by Ken Mitchell, Sandra Birdsell, Edna Alford, Rosemary Nixon, and other creative Canadians, selected by two accomplished editors and found (in) Under NeWest Eyes.
Gina Varty is an actor, poet and librarian at the Audio Visual Educational Library, United Church of Canada, Edmonton.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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