Clark Blaise Norman Levine - Essay

Norman Levine

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In A North American Education and Tribal Justice] Blaise looks at his American upbringing knowing that he is French Canadian from Quebec. And when he makes use of his Canadian material it is with the detachment of having lived for much of his life as an American.

He calls his pieces "short fiction"—an accurate description. For they are not short stories in the accepted sense. What he is able to do is to trap pockets of sheer messy life. In the novella-length "The March", in Tribal Justice, it is not the opening and the final sections (about American university students who end up marching on Washington for a civil rights demonstration) that are important. They are there to shape the direction of the story. But it is the middle—the bridge section—where the narrator goes to Quebec City for a short while and gets involved with some young French Canadian separatists, ending with a picnic in the Laurentians—that is unforgettable. Several of his pieces work in the same way….

[Blaise is one of] a growing number of young [Canadian] short-story writers whose main concern is to show what it is like to be alive at a certain time, in a certain place, without making a "story" about it. Against this background, the form taken by Clark Blaise's "short fiction" can be better understood.

Of his two books, A North American Education is the more unified. He goes from the present...

(The entire section is 413 words.)