Douglas Glover (review date May 1985)
SOURCE: "Continental Drifters," in Books in Canada, Vol. 14, No. 4, May, 1985, p. 14.
[In the review below, Glover praises Digging Up the Mountains and comments on several of the stories.]
In his first story collection, Digging Up the Mountains, Neil Bissoondath reveals an impressive gift for writing prose that is precise and vivid, full of striking turns of phrase and exciting, many-fingered images.
Take, for example, the opening of his story "An Arrangement Of Shadows":
The clock struck once and it was eight o'clock.
Two pigeons, symmetrical slices of black on the blue sky, swooped and touched down abruptly on the red roof of the clock tower. The hands of the clock—broadswords of a brass long tarnished—were locked as always at four seventeen.
"All fine prose," in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, "is based on the verbs carrying the sentences." These lines of Bissoondath's are so alive that you race through them, scarcely noticing their technical virtuosity, yet they have colored the whole story—the striking, slicing, swooping, tarnishing, and locking is going on before your eyes.
Born in Trinidad in 1955, Bissoondath came to Canada 12 years ago as a university student. While his style bespeaks a sound British colonial school education, his stories reflect what one assumes is a personal sense of uprootedness and betrayal at the economic decline and social and ideological turmoil of post-independence Trinidad.
In "There Are a Lot of Ways to Die" Joseph Heaven, a successful immigrant with a rug installation business in Toronto, returns' to Port of Spain expecting "a kind of fame, a continual welcome, the prodigal son having made good, having acquired skills, returning...
(The entire section is 775 words.)