Jack Hodgins Barbara Amiel - Essay

Barbara Amiel

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In The Invention of the World] Hodgins has produced a work of ambitious scope that should entertain, if not fully satisfy, both readers and critics. (p. 76)

Hodgins' book makes liberal use of symbolism, elements of the grotesque, and most especially the folk myth that infuses the work of certain writers ranging from Italy's D'Annunzio to Ireland's Yeats. (Unlike either, however, Hodgins doesn't flirt with the fascist impulse.) His narrative has a built-in richness: when a writer adopts the regional cadences of Irish prose, as Hodgins does in much of this book, his story benefits from the boisterous lush rhythms that go hand in hand with the Irish bent for rambling tales inspired by mist, marshes and, less happily, alcohol. At the same time Hodgins' account of contemporary life in a small BC logging and fishing community glows with authenticity…. Like it or not, this is … marvelously captured—a slice of humanity that is as Canadian as the shiny faces at the CNE or the backgammon existence of highrise tenants. Of course, so long as a writer is neither an incompetent nor an absolute genius, whether or not readers will like the world he creates will be a murky matter of personal taste…. The sign of real power in a writer is to carry the reader who hates fishing stories but is transported by The Old Man And The Sea. Hodgins cannot quite do that yet.

Still, he is a man of substantial talent. He sweeps the reader away on great waves of storytelling that disappoint only when the craftsman's strings are too visible, the tales too unfocused. True to its title, his book attempts to invent the world. That may be too big a thing to invent with one's first novel. It would be a great pity if the understandable competitiveness and hype of the publishing world convinced such a talented new writer that now, like God, he can rest. (pp. 76-7)

Barbara Amiel, "A Man's Reach Should Exceed His Grasp, or What's a Second Novel For?" in Maclean's Magazine (© 1977 by Maclean's Magazine; reprinted by permission), Vol. 9, No. 5, March 7, 1977, pp. 76-7.