This Time, That Place

By Clark Blaise
Foreword by Margaret Atwood

This Time, That Place
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“Blaise is probably the greatest living Canadian writer most Canadians have never heard of. ” —Quill & Quire

“If you want to understand something about what life was like in the restless, peripatetic, striving, anxiety-ridden, shimmer cultural soup of the late twentieth ... Read more


Overview

“Blaise is probably the greatest living Canadian writer most Canadians have never heard of. ” —Quill & Quire

“If you want to understand something about what life was like in the restless, peripatetic, striving, anxiety-ridden, shimmer cultural soup of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries," writes Margaret Atwood, "read the stories of Clark Blaise. " This Time, That Place draws together twenty-four stories that span the entirety of Blaise's career, including one never previously published. Moving swiftly across place and time, through and between languages—from Florida's Confederate swamps, to working-class Pittsburgh, to Montreal and abroad—they demonstrate Blaise's profound mastery of the short story and reveal the range of his lifelong preoccupation with identity as fallacy, fable, and dream.

This Time, That Place: Selected Stories confirms Clark Blaise as one of the best and most enduring masters of the form—on either side of our shared borders.

Excerpt

From Margaret Atwood's Foreword to This Time, That Place

When you’ve been dragged around as a child as much as Clark had, you become adept at camouflage. Think of him as a cuttlefish: when in a clump of seaweed, look like seaweed. He could “do” someone from almost any background. And of course, in order to blend into a background, you need to observe that background closely: its textures, its smells, its symbols, its furniture. Perhaps the richness and accuracy of detail and the attention to the nuances of dialogue for which Blaise has been so justly praised has come in part from these early experiences. To avoid being prey, how do you hide in plain sight?

For a fiction writer, such a talent can be both an asset and a liability. If you don’t have just one single “identity,” you aren’t confined to it: your range is cosmopolitan. But when you have so many possible identities at your command, where is the centre? Are you a trickster figure, wandering the margins like Odin in disguise, always observing but never fully rooted? Is your “identity” the fact that you aren’t definable by your membership in a single group? Are you a shape-shifter like werewolves and gods? Are you a conglomerate, like Walt Whitman, who announced, “I contain multitudes?” Was he a part of all that he had met, like Tennyson’s Ulysses, or was all that he had met a part of him, as is the case with all-devouring dragons? Where was the boundary line between self and surround? Were roots a good thing to have, or did they render you parochial and xenophobic? What is “belonging,” and why exactly would you want it? If you ‘belong,” do the demands of others exceed anything you may expect to gain from them in return? What do “national boundaries” mean, anyway? In asking such questions, Clark was well ahead of his times. This clutch of themes was to preoccupy him in his fiction, appearing in many variations and through many personae over the next fifty-odd years.

***

Did Clark know he would become one of the preeminent story writers of his generation? Probably he did not. But probably he intended to bust himself trying. We were nothing if not dedicated.

“What was that writing thing I was doing, then? Why was it so important?” another writer—an octogenarian—said to me recently. It’s a good question, especially now; in the midst of so many crises—environmental, political, social—why write? Isn’t it a useless thing to be doing? Maybe, but so maybe is everything else. We know what we know about the Great Mortality of the fourteenth century because some people wrote things down. They bore witness.

Let’s suppose that this is what Clark Blaise has been doing.

So, future readers—or even present-day readers—if you want to understand something about what life was like in the restless, peripatetic, striving, anxiety-ridden, simmering cultural soup of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, read the stories of Clark Blaise. He’s the recording angel and the accuser, rolled into one. He’s the eye at the keyhole. He’s the ear at the door.

Reviews

Praise for This Time, That Place

“[Blaise] paints a restless, uneasy portrait of society at the turn of the 21st century. ”—New York Times

"These stories cover ground not only geographically. They are also crowded with character and incident, always fiercely and smartly observed . .. Blaise has gathered here a smart, sprawling collection of stories about family, rootlessness, and identity. "—Kirkus Reviews

"The adolescent yo-yo takes many forms in This Time, That Place (Biblioasis), which recalls an old cigar box filled with undated and often cryptic postcards. [. ..] Individually or as a group, these loosely linked stories will reward multiple readings. "—Literary Review of Canada

"This selection contains a life’s work from one of the most important short story writers to ever live in North America. No artist before Blaise, and nobody since, has moved through the continent with so much sensitivity, compassion, and intelligence. Most at home when they are lost, Blaise’s characters search hardest for belonging when the conditions are least hospitable. For fifty peripatetic years, his beautifully crafted stories have shown us a way though. In our desperation, whenever we ask: 'Where am I now?' Clark Blaise provides the honest answer we need: 'Right here. '"—Alexander MacLeod, author of Animal Person

"A dazzling gallery of portraits of North American lives rendered in Blaise's emotionally evocative style. "—Joyce Carol Oates

Praise for Clark Blaise

“Blaise is probably the greatest living Canadian writer most Canadians have never heard of. ” Quill & Quire

“On the leading edge of world literature. ” —John Barber, Globe and Mail

“What holds the collection together is Blaise’s mastery of the short story, his ability to give us a whole personality and the sensuous particularity of lived experiences in a handful of pages. ” —Steven Hayward, Globe and Mail

“Blaise meticulously conveys a sense of connection and isolation in the lives of Indian immigrants who are detached from their former lives and country, ‘untethered to any earth,’ and yet are shape and guided by that absence … Such connection is beautifully contrasted by the way the opening stories fracture a single family’s narrative into multiple perspectives, illustrating the divide that separates people from one another and rendering it more tangible than any geographical border. In the end, The Meagre Tarmac is like a slow exclamation caught halfway between a sigh and laughter, between hope and despair, connection and dissonance. ”—Canadian Literature

“You know it’s going to be a stellar year for fiction when Clark Blaise publishes something. The Meagre Tarmac … demonstrates yet again that Blaise is one of the continent’s master authors. ” —Uptown

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