The New Quarterly – Spring 2007
Flipping through this issue of TNQ, the first thing I notice is the offbeat, quirky whimsicality of Charles Checkett’s cartoons. Highlighted in a 16-page color spread, these caricature drawings of iconic Canadian figures (Neil Young, Elvis Stojko, etc.) lend a dash of frivolity to a magazine that is quite serious about promoting Canadian voices.
Flipping through this issue of TNQ, the first thing I notice is the offbeat, quirky whimsicality of Charles Checkett’s cartoons. Highlighted in a 16-page color spread, these caricature drawings of iconic Canadian figures (Neil Young, Elvis Stojko, etc.) lend a dash of frivolity to a magazine that is quite serious about promoting Canadian voices. The written work here, by contrast, is thoughtful and elegant – though not without its own wry humor, as illustrated in a conversation between gynecologists in “Palaces” by Annabel Lyon: “‘See, you’ve hit a fold,’ Doctor Daley told the resident [. . .] ‘See, it’s like carpet in there [. . .] When you go to push a chair? And you end up pushing the carpet too?’” Lyon’s injection of occasional absurdities into the life of Mary, one of several main characters, brilliantly deepens our sense of Mary as a sensible woman navigating the confusion of others. “Palaces” is a lush, wistful novella of place and movement, nostalgia and progress. Russell Smith’s “Confidence” is a cinematic study of single professionals on the dating scene, each brandishing success as both shield and invitation. Two things make this story irresistible: first, each character’s stereotypical surface quickly degrades, revealing the complex individual beneath; and second, Smith is a master at managing simultaneous plots. The focus alternates from character to character and setting to setting, almost invisibly, zooming in so stealthily that one scarcely notices all the characters converging for the final scene. Fiction dominates this issue of TNQ, but the poems are no less notable. Jane Tolmie’s “Bodyseeds” upends poetic pretensions, its poet-speaker complicit in a fait accompli of exploiting others’ lives: “raped women, dead women / absent women, have always been muses. / I have dipped a finger in that ink / and found it red and clotted and profitable.” Two selections of light verse by W. K. Thomas provide an interlude of rhyme and a brief return to the spirit of droll wit showcased by Checkett’s cover art. Keep an eye out for future issues, too: TNQ’s pledge to work through a full list of Readers’ Choice authors promises quality reading for a long time to come.