NO MARGINS - Writing Canadian Fiction in Lesbian edited by Catherine Lake and Nairne Holtz (Insomniac), 320 pages, $21.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
For all the identity-based anthologies that have come parading out of small presses since the 1980s, none has focused on contemporary lesbian writers in Canadian literature. Anne Fleming writes frankly in the introduction to her story in No Margins that lesbian writing, especially in the 80s, was assumed to be awful stuff.
Not so in 2006. Co-editor Catherine Lake came up with the idea for No Margins after speaking with a bookstore owner who claimed Canadian fiction was currently being defined by our lesbian writers. With award-winning authors like Ann-Marie MacDonald and Dionne Brand, you can see why this assertion isn't too far off the mark.
Don't let the second-wave title dissuade you from reading, or the very old-school first story by Luanne Armstrong from continuing on. The fiction here is mostly stellar, and the notes accompanying each selection offer a unique glimpse into each writer's life.
Most exciting are the new pieces - a humorous tale from Elizabeth Ruth, an utterly engrossing story from Emma Donoghue, and Larissa Lai's The Sewing Box, an intriguing page-turner. Daphne Marlatt and Nicole Brossard add some experimental flavor to the mostly linear narratives. Marnie Woodrow takes us to a melancholic Hollywood bar where the characters come alive as though on film.
The anthology might have benefited from a few newer writers, as well as newer selections from the established ones.
MacDonald and Brand's pieces are excerpts from already popular novels, both written a while back. Mariko Tamaki, Anna Camilleri or Suki Lee might have added some more contemporary flavour and a more complicated identity landscape.
But perhaps that's another anthology entirely.
No Margins includes Nairne Holtz's Selective Annotated Bibliography Of Canadian Literature, with lesbian content that reads like curious mini-reviews and provides a primer for all things LezCanLit.
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