Jack Hodgins Robert Harlow

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Robert Harlow

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Jack Hodgins is an author whose mind has an innocent eye. You might say that it launders everything that comes into view. The world it sees is one we're familiar with—full of fears, ambitions, sicknesses, oppressions, obsessions, degradations, tragedies, and disasters—but we see them from that distance innocence keeps—must keep—if it is to remain unadulterated by any head-on reactions to the evils around us….

The information Hodgins gathers from his universe is different absolutely from the kind gleaned by [Zola, Dreiser, or even Dickens]. We are not far into The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne before we begin to understand that Bourne's world requires artlessness and naiveté if it is to be created at all, because it is a world that is fey and magic, where … people do what they must to support that wishful picturing of life that belongs to an only-slightly-beleagured innocent eye.

Joseph Bourne—like Donal Keneally in Hodgin's The Invention of The World—lives beyond ordinary life. We learn that he has come to Port Annie on the north-west coast of Vancouver Island to escape from himself, his past, his name, his talent as a poet and as a healer….

But even here he is pursued by his fate. A tidal wave has broken over the town just before the story begins, and a Peruvian freighter is swept in on it. A passenger who comes ashore is the exquisite Raimey, from Jamaica, whose walk is so provocative that adult males faint at the sight of it. The Peruvian freighter leaves, evidently unharmed by its adventure, but Raimey stays on. Bourne must meet her on his interview show. She has been sent by his great love and larger-than-life Jamaican wife, and as they talk he realizes this. He chokes, faints, dies. But back at his shack on The Flats, he is resurrected by Raimey. His past is returned to him. The town doesn't know what to make of it.

Meanwhile, other plots are thickening, other information is dispensed. (p. 10)

There is no edge to any of this lovely nonsense. It is true that there is a knowing voice that breaks through occasionally, which is nothing if not editorial, and which forces us to think the author is intruding to keep chaos from taking over. Hyperbole , in fact, is Jack Hodgins's vehicle, and it is a dangerous technique, because if it doesn't have its own controls built into it, it often becomes a faulty substitute for real imagination. Sadly, the controls are not always there, and we too often have to witness the author leaping in to settle things down. The...

(The entire section is 661 words.)