Life is an adventure for the characters in these relaxed yet meticulously observed stories....Hollingshead is such a subtle, ironic storyteller that we happily believe him.
If Patsy Cline's soul can be passed down to kd lang, then Flannery O'Connor's may well have gone to Greg Hollingshead.
Many of the stories in Canadian author Hollingshead's third collection (his first book to be published in the States) are concerned with random, unremarkable moments. Eerily normal characters are paired, often with strangers, around ostensibly mundane events. But a quirky, original sensibility pervades these pages, and so in "The Side of the Elements," subletting a house becomes, for the absent homeowners, a maddening joyride with an almost surreal finish. In "The People of the Sudan," a couple is asked by acquaintances to deliver a mysterious box. Soon, the box takes on a life of its own and, for a brief time, wreaks havoc with their otherwise uneventful life. Among Hollingshead's abundant gifts is humor, used to maximum effect in "The Appraisal," a tale whose heart lies in the dialogue between a divorce and a hilariously deadpan real-estate appraiser convinced that the end of the world is near. What distinguishes these fine stories is a rich imagination, the sense of "what if?" that pervades each piece. Though most initially appear to be boring suburbanites, these characters offer a wealth of unexpected reactions and impulses and, in so doing, reveal rich interior lives. Like the characters themselves, Hollingshead's crisp, energetic prose offers surprising pleasures-expressions unique enough to press the narratives forward, but not so odd that they are halting. These lean narratives never feel forced and are frequently funny. Perhaps most impressively, the humor seems completely natural, as human and necessary as grief or ecstasy. (Apr.) FYI: The Roaring Girl was the recipient of the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 1995.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The stories in Canadian writer Hollingshead's (Spin Dry, Mosaic, 1992) collection are all delightful, shimmering jewels whose easy, natural pacing; syncopated rhythm; quirkiness; and slightly absurdist qualities will make readers savor them immensely. Reading them is a little like sailing down a dangerous river on a tiny raft; suddenly, you find yourself in white water looking for refuge. In "The People of the Sudan," for instance, a couple who agree to transport a huge box intended for relief find out that they have accidentally stepped into an episode of The Twilight Zone. The hapless Alex, who has rented a cottage on a grand estate in "Rose Cottage," is thrown out into the cold when he tries to stop Nurse Cheam from physically abusing Lady Cooper, her charge and owner of the estate. But even when bad things happen to innocent folks, they have the uncanny ability to rise above it all with a homespun philosophy that is mercifully lacking in New Age mumbo-jumbo. Truly worth buying.-Lisa S. Nussbaum, Euclid P.L., Ohio
A welcome arrival from Canada, Hollingshead (in his first US publication) points out a new direction to readers tired of the nihilistic banalities of postmodernism.
Immediately striking about Hollingshead (author of three story collections and a novel in Canada) is the gravity of his voice, which is authorial and strong even in its comic mode. The narration is unambiguous and sharp throughout this collection, even when the narratoras is often the casehasn't the first clue as to what's really going on around him. Thus, the homeowner protagonist of "The Side of the Elements" who sublets his house for a year and returns to find strangers holding a wake in his living room, can manage to be poised and philosophical in the midst of his confusion. The writer-in-residence of "Rose Cottage" is even more unflappable: After trying to come to the aid of a wealthy elderly lady whom he suspects of being beaten by her nurse, he finds himself passively succumbing to the advances of her middle-aged son. There is a tendency toward bizarre revelations among many of Hollingshead's characters. The real estate man of "The Appraisal" who comes to look at a house, take pictures and check the plumbing, talks like a character out of the Book of Revelations ("Maybe last year you could get more. Now nothing is selling. The West has entered a long economic as well as moral decline"). And the sleazy landlord of "How Happy They Were," who guts his buildings, exploits his tenants, and blithely steals an exchange student's girlfriend, turns out to be a member of an exotic cult.
Wild, weird, and wonderful: Hollingshead has perfectly fitted his voice to his subject and crafted these tales with astonishing skill.