These superbly crafted stories reveal an astonishing range, with settings that vary from a farm on the Canadian prairies to Bloomsbury in London, from a high-rise apartment to a mine-shaft. Vanderhaeghe has the uncanny ability to show us the world through the eyes of an eleven-year-old boy as convincingly as he reveals it through the eyes of an old man approaching senility. Moving from the hilarious farce of teenage romance all the way to the numbing tragedy of life in a ward for incurables, these twelve stories inspire belief, admiration, and enjoyment, and come together to form a vibrant chronicle of human experience from a gifted observer of life’s joys and tribulations. This is Guy Vanderhaeghe’s brilliant first book of fiction.
About the author
Guy Vanderhaeghe is the author of six books of fiction. His first two books were collections of short stories: Man Descending (1982), which won the Governor’s General’s Award, and the Faber Prize in the U.K., and The Trouble With Heroes (1983). The Englishman’s Boy (1996) was a long-time national bestseller and won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Saskatchewan Book Award for Fiction and for Best Book of the Year, and was short-listed for The Giller Prize, and the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the world’s largest monetary award for a single book.
Excerpt: Man Descending (by (author) Guy Vanderhaeghe)
I suppose it was having a bad chest that turned me into an observer, a watcher, at an early age.
“Charlie has my chest,” my mother often informed friends. “A real weakness there,” she would add significantly, thumping her own wishbone soundly.
I suppose I had. Family lore had me narrowly escaping death from pneumonia at the age of four. It seems I spent an entire Sunday in delirium, soaking the sheets. Dr. Carlyle was off at the reservoir rowing in his little skiff and couldn’t be reached — something for which my mother illogically refused to forgive him. She was a woman who nursed and tenaciously held dark grudges. Forever after that incident the doctor was slightingly and coldly dismissed in conversation as a “man who betrayed the public’s trust.”
“These stories are wonderful! I thought I’d ‘sample’ them, and I’ve read them all with that astonished gratitude you feel when you meet a real writer.”
“Technically delightful, with multi-themes and layers of meaning.…These are stories to be reread and remembered.”
–Books in Canada
“[These stories] all repay close reading with solid entertainment.”
–New York Times
“Original and stylish, written with a quirky, self-deprecating awareness of the sad shifts men are put to in order to survive.”
–Daily Telegraph (U.K.)
“Flawless.…Each of these stories circles around in the mind, weaving itself into the fabric of the imagination, until the final lines, when, as if a trap door suddenly opens, the whole world of the story drops en masse into the realm of the heart.”
–Bloomsbury Review (U.S.)
“A remarkable achievement.…The stories mark a compelling debut of an artist who sees with compassion the terror and sometimes the joy of the human condition.”
–David Staines, Ottawa Citizen
“[Vanderhaeghe] is blessed with remarkable poise and assurance.…There’s the same shiver of delight and joy of discovery that accompanied Alice Munro’s first collection of stories.”
–Globe and Mail
“Stunningly good stories.…The action and dialogue are vivid, authentic and often hilarious.…”
–Winnipeg Free Press
“[The stories] shows Vanderhaeghe’s mastery of irony and his dexterity in maneuvering from the comic to the tragic.”
“[A] remarkable selection of stories.”
–ALA Booklist (U.S.)
“Any Canadian looking in the bathroom mirror is sure to recognize one of Guy Vanderhaeghe’s people. Man Descending is the startling debut of an excellent writer.”