Hugh Hood 1928–-
(Born Hugh John Blagdon Hood) Canadian novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, and biographer.
Considered one of Canada's most versatile authors, Hood is an intellectual whose prose is deceptively simple. Although he has described himself as a “Catholic novelist,” his views are often unorthodox and are rooted as much in philosophy as religion. The tone of his fiction shifts between the serious and satirical, creating a fictive atmosphere at once realistic and fantastic, or as Hood has defined it, “super-realistic.”
Hood was born in Toronto on April 30, 1928. Raised in a Roman Catholic family, he attended Catholic school as a child and developed a strong interest in religious literature and theology. Moreover, his adventures as a youth in the city of Toronto became a frequent subject for his later fiction. In 1947 he attended Saint Michael's College at the University of Toronto; he earned his B.A. in 1950 and an M.A. in 1952. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1955, he taught at St. Joseph College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1961 he began to teach at the University of Montreal. He continues to teach and live in Montreal, and the city has been a recurring setting for his work.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Hood's short fiction manifests a comprehensive knowledge of Catholic theology, music, architecture, philosophy, literature, and popular culture. In his first collection of stories, Flying a Red Kite, he explores the ways in which heritage and myth impact the present. Around the Mountain, his next collection, is comprised of a series of twelve sketches set in Montreal based on an allegorical structure drawn from Edmund Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender. The stories of None Genuine Without This Signature are characterized by biblical analogies and a diversity of styles. In August Nights and The Isolation Booth, Hood once again considers the importance of history and heritage and contemplates the power of imagination. In You'll Catch Your Death, he explores—and often satirizes—the vagaries of popular culture.
Critics commend Hood's concise diction, use of metaphor, and skillful craftsmanship, which is particularly evident in his short stories. Also notable in his short fiction is his ability to convey large moral and philosophical concepts through seemingly trivial events. Many commentators have considered the influence of the poet William Wordsworth and the English Romantics as well as Hood's use of literary allusions and mythology, particularly the Arthurian legend. Moreover, Hood is cited for his literary journalism, especially his ability to blend fact and fiction to evoke a particular milieu.