The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3

By John Clement Ball | Go to book overview

V

Vanderhaeghe, Guy
NEIL KALMAN BESNER

Guy Vanderhaeghe’s four novels and three collections of stories have redefined and enriched the reach of prairie writing in Canada, and broadened the power and possibilities of contemporary fiction. Beginning with the Governor General’s Award- and Faber Prize-winning collection, Man Descending (1982), Vanderhaeghe’s short fiction has depicted a rich series of ironic, detached, and quirkily philosophical characters, such as Ed, the collection’s sardonic title figure, who is reincarnated and more fully developed in Vanderhaeghe’s first novel, My Present Age (1984). While his short stories, often darkly comical, are founded on his characters’ quotidian vices and arresting voices, Vanderhaeghe’s novels–particularly his two most recent, The Englishman’s Boy (1996) and The Last Crossing (2002)–are at once grounded in and reach far beyond their prairie settings as they represent a dialogue between competing facets of the last two centuries of North American and European history and culture.

Vanderhaeghe was born April 5, 1951 in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan and completed BA Honors (1972) and MA (1975) degrees in history at the University of Saskatchewan, followed by an education degree at the University of Regina (1978). He has taught at Sir Thomas More College in Saskatoon since 1993, with a stint at the University of Ottawa as writer-in-residence (1985) and visiting professor of creative writing (1985–6). Homesick (1989), co-winner of the Toronto Book Award in 1990, is Vanderhaeghe’s warmest and closest exploration of family to date. The novel probes with compassion and humor the taut complexities of a forced homecoming as Vera, a headstrong daughter, worrying over her precocious son after her husband dies, returns to Western Canada after a long absence to live with her widowed father in a small prairie town. All of Vanderhaeghe’s strengths at this stage of his career are evident here: rounded characters with deep interior lives; sculpted but lyrical language; and a watchful eye for the details, both natural and social, of a prairie setting.

The early 1990s saw the appearance of another widely praised book of stories, Things as They Are? (1992) and two plays, I Had a Job I Liked. Once (1992a), winner of the Canadian Authors’ Association Award for Drama in 1993, and Dancock’s Dance (1996a). The second phase of Vanderhaeghe’s career was inaugurated with the appearance of The Englishman’s Boy, winner of his second Governor General’s Award (and shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award). His most ambitious novel to that point, and the first book in what he has since projected as a trilogy about Western Canada, The Englishman’s Boy opens with a vividly evoked scene of horse-stealing on the prairies, before deftly weaving together two plots: one recreates an infamous historical episode, a dissolute pack of wolfers’ pursuit of stolen horses across the prairies and into Cypress Hills, culminating in a drunken conflagration of misogyny, rape, and killing; the other dissects the culture and ideology of mythmaking movies that glorify and distort the settling of the West. Aboriginal characters and culture make their first

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The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editors i
  • The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Literature WWW.Literatureencyclopedia.Com ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Entries vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Notes on Contributors to Volume III xv
  • Introduction to Volume III 937
  • A 942
  • B 980
  • C 995
  • D 1034
  • E 1052
  • F 1066
  • G 1094
  • H 1121
  • I 1145
  • J 1154
  • K 1167
  • L 1180
  • M 1198
  • N 1252
  • O 1270
  • P 1277
  • Q 1296
  • R 1300
  • S 1325
  • T 1365
  • U 1370
  • V 1373
  • W 1378
  • Z 1398
  • Index 1400
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