Recent Reviews for The Meagre Tarmac

Thomas Trofimuk in Winnipeg Review
" ...These are stories about men and women trying to span the distances between India and the U.S., India and Canada – physically and culturally. There are small revelations interwoven in these narratives that are perfectly formed parcels, and the writing is wonderfully subdued and constant throughout. In each story, we get a glimpse of a character. We see the world from diverse points of view. And we feel displacement – a profound unsettled quality.....I found this collection of stories drawn around Indian immigrants in North America to be utterly fascinating – and at times breathtaking." Read Full Review

Charles Demers in Georgia Straight
"...In his wonderful new collection of interconnected short stories, The Meagre Tarmac(Biblioasis), Blaise introduces a rich cast of characters divided spiritually, physically, and economically between India and North America....Though geographically scattered, [the] characters pass through each other’s lives, both symbolically and literally, often connected by the financial, telecommunications, and air-travel networks of the 21st century. In many ways, their lives represent both the dream and the nightmare scenarios of globalization: untold material wealth coupled with a terrifying rootlessness. The immigrant characters who attempt the reverse journey, back to India, find the transition fraught with challenges." Read Full Review

Phillip Marchand in The National Post
"...The Meagre Tarmac, a collection of short fiction by Clark Blaise, is a naked instance of appropriation of voice -a literary felony justified in this case by the results. If you're going to appropriate someone's voice, you better know how you want that voice to sound, and Blaise has spent his life and his career tuning his ear to foreign rhythms. Born in North Dakota of a French Canadian father and English Canadian mother, he grew up in various locales, mostly in the United States, and then spent 12 years teaching in Montreal with his wife, the Calcutta-born novelist Bharati Mukherjee. After a brief stint in Toronto, he and Mukherjee moved back to the U.S., where they have remained since. In 1989, he became director of the International Writing School at the University of Iowa.

Enriched by experience, knowledge of variegated literatures and personal contacts, Blaise's fiction spans the globe, exploring themes of diaspora, rootlessness and cultural identity. Two great historic cultural shifts in particular drive his work, the migration of French Canadians on this continent, and the struggle between tradition and modernity in contemporary India. The latter is the basis of The Meagre Tarmac, a sorrowful chorus of voices, men and women trying to bridge distances between India and the U.S..." Read Full Review

Steven Hayward in The Globe and Mail
"...Like all collections of linked stories, The Meagre Tarmac to some extent reads like a novel; a consistent cast of characters moves through an interconnected fictional world. What’s missing from such collections, however, is the explication that goes with a novel. Instead, there is Chekhovian incompleteness, the almost episodic impulsiveness that the short story allows.

What makes this particular collection so resonant is Blaise’s ingenious use of this hybrid form (in which the reader knows characters through other stories in a way the characters themselves do not) to mirror the experience of the people he writes about: the Indian immigrants who are often entangled in several stories – several histories – simultaneously.

Ultimately, what holds the collection together is Blaise’s mastery of the short story, his ability to give us a whole personality and the sensuous particularity of lived experience in a handful of pages. In The Quality of Life, for instance, a famed actor arrives back in Montreal after a long absence and finds that, to his dismay, the two giant Concordia buildings he remembered from his college days are gone..." Read Full Review

Nathan Whitlock on
"...Many authors, believing that people-sized stories are no longer adequate, struggle to cram the Modern World into their fictions. Blaise does so here with enviable skill, and without ever letting us forget that these characters are just as human as they are cultural archetype. Though it does not even reach 200 pages in length, this long-awaited collection is anything but meagre..." Read Full Review

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