This All Happened. Michael Winter reviewed. In the Argo Catalog.
The buzz around Michael Winter has been growing over the past few years. I was given a free copy of his year 2000 effort This All Happened and thought I would give it a go. Some people argue there is nothing interesting happening in the Canadian fiction and I constantly argue with them because I think there is lots happening. Reading Mr. Winter has given me a new name to add to my list of Canlit writers that are young and doing intriguing things, even if his name seems the quintessential one for a boring Canadian writer that focuses on how cold it is here.
The story follows a group of people in St. John’s Newfoundland. All the regular tropes are present. The characters drink rum and drive around, they make fun of the people in Corner Brook, they talk about each other and everyone knows everyone’s business. True to Atlantic writing they talk about fish and how much they have had to eat, they play pool at bars (there seem to only be 2 or 3 in town), and they encounter more than one moose. On the surface this is exactly whatÂ the anti-Canlit folks despise. Without debating the value of writing about actual life, and places where we actually live (things I am for), I would like to argue that the Canlit haters ought to read this book.
Winter is a clever writer. In the book he plays with the line between fiction and non-fiction. The story is told through the diary of a writer that is working on a novel. From his view we watch relationships of a group of people in St John’s Newfoundland. You cannot help but wonder if all this happened. The writing is short, fast, to the point and moves. You piece together what is going on, but you also have to wonder if the narrators perspective on the events is fair/accurate. The probing into the psyche of the characters is deep and compelling. Why the author thinks people are doing what they are doing remains absorbing throughout the book. The blurring of lines requires all the previously mentioned clichÃ©s found in the book, it also makes the book terribly interesting.
In employing a perspective other than straight forward chronological fiction with an omniscient narrator Winter is only being a product of his times. He does it well. His times are interesting ones for readers and writers. He demonstrates that even in “backwards Canada’s backwoods” great writing can appear that deserves our attention. Winter has written several other books, including a very new one. I plan to read, I hope you will give him a chance.