Hugh Garner Doug Fetherling - Essay

Doug Fetherling

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Hugh Garner's 1950 novel, Cabbagetown, his second book, has dominated his reputation. It was a straight-forward naturalistic story of a young man's progress, away from poverty and toward radicalism, in the 1930s….

That Garner almost always writes about the present, that he writes about a social sensibility rather than a geographic or political stance, that half of his books have been published in the 1970s—all these facts run contrary to the accepted view that Garner has never quite managed to dispel. An important aspect of his new novel, The Intruders, is that he seems to say, "Oh, what the hell, there's no use arguing. I'll give them what they want." On the surface of it, The Intruders is a sort of Cabbagetown Revisited. (p. 60)

[In] The Intruders, he surveys what has become of the neighbourhood since his days there.

In the 1970s, TV unit managers, stained-glass artists, lawyers, CBC story editors, and other marginal types have purchased old Cabbagetown slums and sandblasted them, installing skylights and uncomfortable furniture. These are the people and the atmosphere Garner is attacking. Since Garner delights in making the middle class nervous, it's not illogical that he should let himself go and have some fun. And this he does. The Intruders at times harks back to the lesser works of Upton Sinclair. It is only slightly more a work of fiction than it is a...

(The entire section is 608 words.)