Marilyn R(uthe) Bowering Janet Giltrow - Essay

Janet Giltrow

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Marilyn Bowering's The Visitors Have all Returned is "experimental" fiction, but its innovations draw it towards poetry. Bowering presents action elliptically; consequently her chapters have the structural status of poems collected to address a unifying theme. In The Visitors the speaker's theme is her detachment from her husband and, eventually and ominously, from her daughter, and her resort to private images of ancient, childless figures traversing a mythic pastoral.

When the plotted connections among narrative units are missing, prose loses some of the ordinary signs of coherence and cohesion. Bowering supplies this deficiency with relentless reference to the narrator, a young woman of inwardly spiralling self-consciousness; the stylistic outcome is an extraordinarily heavy incidence of first person pronouns. A second feature of Bowering's style is related: she writes simple sentences unencumbered by qualifying appositives or verbals. This dearth of ornament parallels the speaker's detachment from her surroundings, for it argues her indifference to audience, and a carelessness about exhibiting any persuasive elaboration that might attract a reader into her world.

Can prose succeed without the conventional materials of cohesion and attractiveness? If the reader can take to this speaker, in all her focussed self-interest, then The Visitors works. (pp. 137-38)

Janet Giltrow, "Explorers & Runaways," in Canadian Literature, No. 87, Winter, 1980, pp. 136-38.∗