Mark Anthony Jarman is one of Canada’s most original and compelling writers of short fiction. My White Planet is his latest collection of fourteen new stories, many of which have previously won or been short-listed for literary magazine awards. Jarman’s use of language and metaphor is unique in the Canadian literary pantheon. With extraordinary linguistic energy, he pushes the boundaries of fiction and story-telling. Every sentence reverberates with subtle meaning and every reading of a Jarman story brings out ever deeper layers of complexity and nuance. Here is a protean writer who bends form and enters into worlds and people with panache and a verve that is breath-taking.
The range of his fiction is stunning: troops undertake a nightmarish march following Custer’s last stand; a father’s dogs tear apart his son and he is accused of cowardice and neglect; seven marooned men at a remote polar station save the life of a naked young woman; domestic squabbles and infidelity abound amidst west coast chainsaws and floatplanes; a dropout skateboarder falls off a railway bridge and drowns in the river; a city bus ride ends up crossing the entire country; a time traveler witnesses Louis Riel’s botched execution of Thomas Scott; a young woman removes her bra from under her shirt and her male friend is paralysed by possible meanings; an outsider plays old timer hockey in the wilds of New Brunswick; Victorian fashion is mixed up with the violent deaths of Custer, Louis Riel and Sitting Bull; a flight attendant is able to read passengers’ minds. A master of literary conceit and a hewer of breakneck language, Mark Anthony Jarman defies categorization and offers us instead a narrative freshness that surprises and offers up a world of wonders.
...the prose has been married to consequential, urgent, and memorable evocations of character and mood.
Jarman is a master of auditory experience...[he] understands that the story with true fidelity is one that operates on the plane of language. It is a story that performs, that perseverates eloquently, and that expends everything yet is never spent...My White Planet is a book that deserves respect. Supercharged and racing, it is all dressed up with everywhere to go.
Jarman's insistence that we focus on his writing as much as his content makes him an unreconstructed modernist.
...Jarman brings a vigorous freshness of vision to stories that read like poems and essays that read like stream-of-consciousness stories.
He writes with immediacy and verve, cutting out the unnecessary to leave only the most vivid.
Although they could be read in any order, there is a pleasure in taking them as they come--there's a kind of inhale-exhale arrangement to them--there are nice breaks between the harshest, most violent pieces; even when the bodies are getting dragged out, there's just enough wry humour to keep the reader from weeping.
...a riveting and original collection of challenging fiction...Jarman's exceptional account of the experience of living is matched in importance and relevance by the style in which he writes...this book will resonate with you, begging to be picked up again and again.
The 14 stories in My White Planet display an author who is positively word-drunk, delighting in twisting language into bizarre shapes, pushing and straining to test its resilience and its torque. There is a palpable giddiness to many of these stories; Jarman writes like a free jazz musician riffing on a central theme, or like a Beat poet jiving to the rhythms of his prose...