Diamond Grill

Blaine Kyllo

NeWest Press does a better job with Diamond Grill by Fred Wah. Wah is one of Canada's best contemporary poets but he is new to prose, and the appeal of a poet writing fiction is too tasty to pass up. The Diamond Grill was the cafe Wah's "Canadian-born Chinese-Scots-Irishman raised in China" father owned and operated in Nelson, B.C. in the fifties. Wah grew up in The Diamond, and here uses the restaurant as a means of exploring his "hyphenated identity" through family, culture and generation. It's a biotext, which means Wah has constructed these tales as best he can remember and interpret. As he explains in his aclanowledgements: "These are not true stories but, rather, poses or postures, necessitated, as I hope is clear in the text, by faking it." These stories run the gamut of emotional experience. They could be cut from the spine, shuffled and dealt to family members seated around the formica table, each waiting impatiently for a turn. The order of the stories is not as important as their function. They return Wah to the past and provide him with an opportunity to relive, discover and understand. More selfishly, they provide us with a chance to sit in The Diamond, where we can order the mixed grill and enjoy the fluidity of language that only a poet could convince us was prose.

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