Hood, Hugh (Contemporary Literary Criticism)
Hood, Hugh 1928–
Hood is a Canadian novelist, short story writer, essayist, and biographer. Using Canada as a microcosm, he examines the human effort to order chaos. His perspective is essentially Christian and moral, yet strikingly individual. His tone vacillates between the serious and the satirical, and his fictive atmosphere can at times become surreal. Critics have admired his concise diction and skillful craftsmanship, especially as evidenced in his short stories. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 49-52.)
"Whoever heard any talk about painting that made sense?" asks a character in ["White Figure, White Ground"]. One might answer, "Hugh Hood, the author of this novel." This rising young Canadian writer has here tackled a notoriously difficult subject and brought it off. Not with any frothing at the eyeballs over the agony and the ecstasy of it all, and without preciosity (well, not much), but with the simple leverage of insight…. [By] subtle cross-illumination among its parts, the author casts fresh and searching light not only on the creative process itself but on the father-son relationship, the dynamics of marriage, the barrens of un-fulfillment and the whole ambiguous issue of roots and growth.
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[The Camera Always Lies] reminds me of the novels that used to be circulated by the Doubleday Dollar Book Club and the Literary Guild—books that were neither quite good enough nor quite bad enough to make it with Reader's Digest Condensed Books, or the Book of the Month Club.
Mr. Hood is a good, solid, old-fashioned pro, when it comes to putting a short story or a novel together. It seemed to me that his collection of stories, Flying A Red Kite, had an Irish texture. Its strong, formal sentences and paragraphs reminded me of the Irish writers who did their best work between the wars: Frank O'Connor and Sean O'Faolain, for instance. None of the stories was very interesting, but none...
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Hugh Hood is an intellectual writer. Moreover, he's a very ambitious one. In blunt terms: he's a mind-stretcher. In fact, Hood attempts dimensions in his fiction which most writers would just as soon experience for themselves in somebody else's work. Furthermore, he sees himself as a writer not in going from one book to the next, but in terms of a life's work….
And, although he is a deceptively simple writer (a description he hates, I believe, and understandably) and easy enough to read, the hard fact is that he is a complicated writer and sometimes difficult to understand. This must somehow perplex critics who are accustomed to having their ambitious writers do rather obviously strange things with...
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[A] growing realization that White Figure, White Ground is one of the good ones can be justified if you consider the relationship of this self-portrait of the creative imagination to the Canadian tradition as well as the broader context of North American and English letters.
From Wilhelm Meister onwards the novel of the artist has had a strong picaresque bias and has traditionally tended to favour vagrancy…. However, Hood's equivalent of the American story of going out west isn't getting the hell out. It's the exploratory journey from Montreal to Barringford (Shelburne N.S.)—therefore to the east, the rising sun, the sea, Jerusalem and Eden—followed by the return to the big city and...
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William H. New
The sustained work of Hugh Hood … provides a connection between the realistic and stylistically experimental…. [White Figure, White Ground] is imbued with an interest in Sartre and Genet, and observes how a painter strives to distinguish between a libertinism he despises and a healthy acknowledgment of his sexual being, and how in his work he tries both to succeed and to paint that which is invisible—light sources rather than colours. But these ideas lie on the surface fairly overtly. The painter observes at one point:
I've always depended on form. I'm a very formal painter but I never realized how much till I started this thing. Form is illumination: the phrase likely...
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Each time I read The Swing in the Garden I become more convinced that the novel marks an innovative high point in Canadian fiction. But in what sense is it innovative? Certainly, it does not share the features associated with many of the so-called "experimental" Canadian works: there is no celebration of chaos in thought or style, no suggestion that the world is an absurd place which can never be known, no indication that the narrator calls himself into question or doubts the validity of his perceptions, no parody of the conventionally "worn-out" fictional forms. The syntax is well-ordered; the mental connections are extremely rational. In an era of fictional anti-heroes, angst, and discontinuous prose,...
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