Hugh (John Blagdon) Hood LOUIS K. MacKENDRICK - Essay

LOUIS K. MacKENDRICK

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Most of the 16 stories here (drawn from Hugh Hood's previous collections) don't appear in general anthologies. Since this seems to be the purpose of Selected Stories, one may regret the absence of "Three Halves of a House", "The Village Inside" or "Getting to Williamstown". But we are given "Looking Down From Above", Hood's lovely evocation of Montreal's mountain and reflection on self-fulfilment despite the accidents of the flesh.

Hood's prose is finely controlled in several tempi, as for example in his chronicle stories where fiction and documentary meet. He has an exacting sense of location, of specific and loved places. Often he emphasizes wonder and discovery in his writing as if he were the heart-struck cicerone who can nonetheless radiate a slight but unclinical coolness. The internal connections and thematic unities of his tales are subtle because the stories are so deceptively relaxed.

This book has stories "about" the immediate present balanced against the accumulation of personal history, impermanence, vulnerability, and the oddly similar arrangements between life and art. These are stories whose revelations are paced precisely and persuasively not to an "epiphany" but to an understated point of awareness, to a compromise with mortality.

Louis K. MacKendrick, in a review of "Selected Stories," in Quill and Quire (reprinted by permission of Quill and Quire), Vol. 45, No. 1, January, 1979, p. 34.