The characters of Moccasin Square Gardens inhabit Denendeh, the land of the people north of the sixtieth parallel. These stories are filled with in-laws, outlaws and common-laws. Get ready for illegal wrestling moves (“The Camel Clutch”), pinky promises, a doctored casino, extraterrestrials or “Sky People,” love, lust and prayers for peace.
While this is Van Camp’s most hilarious short story collection, it’s also haunted by the lurking presence of the Wheetago, human-devouring monsters of legend that have returned due to global warming and the greed of humanity. The stories in Moccasin Square Gardens show that medicine power always comes with a price.
To counteract this darkness, Van Camp weaves a funny and loving portrayal of the Tli?cho? Dene and other communities of the North, drawing from oral history techniques to perfectly capture the character and texture of everyday small-town life. “Moccasin Square Gardens” is the nickname of a dance hall in the town of Fort Smith that serves as a meeting place for a small but diverse community. In the same way, the collection functions as a meeting place for an assortment of characters, from shamans and time-travelling goddess warriors to pop-culture-obsessed pencil pushers, to con artists, archivists and men who just need to grow up, all seeking some form of connection.
“Reading Van Camp’s stories is like sitting around the kitchen table, sipping strong tea and listening to the aunties share some really good gossip. And, like that gossip, you need to pay attention because he is saying just as much in his silences as he is with his words.”
“Van Camp’s keen ear for dialogue and lithe storytelling breathe hope and humour even into the darkest corners of human existence. His boldest, most compelling collection yet.”
“Richard Van Camp has gleaned the old in the new. He holds the endangered precious out, and shows us where it is kept.”