Lit. Zine, Rob Mclennan, 19 pgs, Apostrophe Press, robmclennan.blogspot.ca, $4
Printed specifically for the University of Alberta’s Writer-in- Residence 40th Anniversary celebration, mclennan’s humble chapbook is as characteristically poignant as it is short-lived. This is no disparagement: right down to its bright yellow fly-leaves and lone, centered saddle- stitch staple, Four Stories is nifty—well worth its asking price.
Mclennan here, presents four previously published pieces, each four to five pages in length. His narrative voice rings familiar through all four, whether told autobiographically or in the third person, allowing his punchy visualizations to take the forefront both in personal observation (viz. “Reading my late afternoon newspapers at the pub, I see the sweetest looking young woman in a floral print dress stroll past bay window. She is summertime, blissful. In her left hand, fresh broccoli.” or an omniscient digression (viz. “She has been wanting to replenish their supply of preserves. Applied correctly, wax seals freshness in. / Cellar shelves by the cistern. Fresh cobwebs and field mice.” Mclennan’s loose piling of prose into stanzas suspends expectations, here, and makes a contemporary narrator feel natural throughout the timeless setting he sets out to build, word by word.
None of these four stories can be connected by time-line or geography, though thematically they express a preoccupation with Time, Absence, and Change: grand notions for the likes of a 19- page chapbook, but Mclennan does not disappoint. “Four Stories” is understated in its construction, and demands multiple read-throughs. (Joel W. Vaughan)