Reviews

Between Quips and Dreams

Anson Ching

Richard Van Camp’s latest short story collection, Moccasin Square Gardens (Douglas & McIntyre), seems meant to be read aloud. Behind the words is a storyteller. You can picture Van Camp leaning over the dinner table or hunching over his microphone on stage. In between witty quips about what it means to belong to a colonized group of people and to inhabit a small town in the north is a series of comical and heartwarming stories. Most of the time, the stories appear to be written for people who’ve shared similar life experiences. But then there are these deep empathic moments that flicker at the margins: a character shares a joint with his grandfather, the two of them separated by language and history; another character talks about sleeping on the beds left behind by hotel guests, if only to dream their dreams; a man tries to be rid of his girlfriend’s overly dependent son only to gain a son. Van Camp’s writing is quirky and non-uniform. Sometimes it is poignant and other times it is lighthearted. Some stories read as introspective reflections, thought out over many years, and yet, there’s also a few stories that seem to unravel into rambling, as if Van Camp is trying to capture as many fleeting moments and thoughts as possible. It can be a bit jarring to move through the stories because of this, but you’re rewarded whenever he strikes gold.

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