cover image From Ink Lake: 2canadian Stories

From Ink Lake: 2canadian Stories

. Viking Books, $24.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83339-9

In his introduction to this rewarding collection of short fiction dating from the 1930s to the present, Ondaatje ( In the Skin of a Lion ) says that he chose stories that ``mapped the geographical, emotional, and literary range of the country, from fable to chronicle to intimate moment.'' He has succeeded admirably; one absorbs, in addition to the high literary quality of most of these 50 tales, an idea of the vast breadth of Canada: its plains and maritime provinces and cities; its extremes of weather--from cold so frigid that eyelashes freeze together, to heat dense with mosquitoes and horseflies. Generally these stories eschew minimalism; they evoke emotion and compel involvement. Characters in memorable narratives by Guy Vanderhaeghe, Morley Callaghan, Clark Blaise and Sinclair Ross come from French- and English-speaking backgrounds. Bharati Mukherjee, Rohinton Mistry, Matt Cohen, Mordecai Richler and Joy Kogawa add other perspectives to the ethnic mix. Pieces by Wallace Stegner and Gabrielle Roy might be classified as memoirs; Glenn Gould's quirky ``The Search for Petula Clark'' eludes definition. Moreover, any collection that offers Alistair MacLeod and Margaret Atwood (each with two stories), Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence is well worth the price. (Dec.)