selected by Jane Urquhart
696 pages, C$35
Almost a year later, this 700-page tome has become the flashpoint for one of the sharpest literary debates this country has ever seen.
It seems, at first blush, to be much ado about very little. Short fiction flies under most readers' radar. The popular impression is that short stories are a kind of novitiate for budding novelists.
It is an attitude Canadian editor (and short story writer) John Metcalf has long fought against. For Metcalf, "short stories are the pinnacle of artistic form." In the second volume of his literary memoirs, Shut Up He Explained, he provided a Century List, accompanied by extensive and detailed commentary, of the 40 best Canadian short story collections of the past 100 years. Metcalf's canon was, like any list, meant to provoke the kind of discussion and argument important for the literature.
Little discussion or argument was forthcoming. What came instead was the Penguin anthology.