Jack Hodgins Laurence Ricou - Essay

Laurence Ricou

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Hodgins' collection of ten stories [Spit Delaney's Island] takes Vancouver Island as its centre and the personalities of its apparently ordinary, usually rural, people as its interest. This focus doesn't make the book as explicitly regional as might be expected, although there are carefully observed details … [and] some amusing speculations on the Island identity. Hodgins shares Spit Delaney's taste for "a bit of excitement," and his stories often depend on an incongruity slipping into the grotesque. In "Every Day of His Life" Mr. Swingler's courtship of Big Glad takes place on her roof while he paints mountain vistas and she drinks dandelion wine; in "Three Women of the Country" Mrs. Starbuck kills her calf with an axe and hides her son from the world in an attic. Such experiences are successfully dramatized externally, but lack an echo in the inner world of feeling. Often Hodgins seems simply to be reaching for the grand effect—the same feeling one has about the symbolism of the dividing line in the opening story, or the strained allegory of "At the Foot of the Hill, Birdie's School." Indeed the more one thinks on Hodgins' stories the more apt Delaney's reflection on fiction [supplanting reality] becomes. It is not the elaborate, movie-like gesture that reveals, or "exposes" the characters, but precisely the simple, seemingly unremarkable, moments which Delaney wants to reject. (pp. 116-17)

Laurence Ricou, "Story and Teller: 'Spit Delaney's Island'" (reprinted by permission of the author), in Canadian Literature, No. 76, Spring, 1978, pp. 116-18.