Dog Run Moon. Callan Wink.

Wink, Callan. Dog Run Moon. Penguin Random Houjse, New York, 2016. F;8/18.

Following my pattern of picking up published works of writers when their short fiction I’ve run across in a periodical looks good, I started this short story collection after reading A Refugee Crisis in the New Yorker. The title story of this collection appeared there in 2011, and another longer one made the venerable magazine a few years ago.

This guy is a bit coy about writing. He’s very good, and squarely in the man’s man school where we also find Ernest Hemingway and the late Sam Shepard, Wink is also at times pretty cold and bleak, but still capable of simultaneous wry warmth. He tells us in an interview that he is quite happy as a fishing guide in Montana and that it wouldn’t bother him to end his life a couple of fiction books short and comparably long on fishing in the wilderness. The recent New Yorker story Refugee Crisis also takes a hard self-critical look at fiction writing as an abandonment of truth-telling, a bit in the same vein as what Janet Malcolm does in respect of journalism.

Some of what looked to me like failure of objective credibility creeping around in the Dog Run Moon story at first put me off, but later stories seemed more real-world. The preoccupations are both universal and local: marital fidelity and a reenactment of the Battle of Little Big Horn, life’s futility and bleakness and small towns in Montana, wealth versus poverty and Crow Indians, the problems of manhood in families and the details of flyfishing.

Mr Wink can write, and when out of the middle of a heartless or stark description or narrative he does something amazing, the contrast can be spectacular. A young boy’s dad has offered him a dollar each for the tails of as many semi-wild cats who have been breeding in a barn he could kill:

He went to the equipment shed to look for weapons. It was a massive structure, large enough to fit a full-sized diesel combine, made of metal posts skinned with corrugated sheet metal. August liked to go there when it rained. He thought it was like being a small creature deep in the bowels of a percussion instrument. The fat drops of rain would hit the thin metal skin in an infinite drumroll punctuated by the clash of lightning cymbals and the hollow booming of space.

The dry humour of rough central North America takes me back to my mother’s turn of mind, product of the 1930s in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, a few hundred miles north of Wink’s Montana:

When you get to my age, dear, you’ll think twice about buying green bananas at the grocery store.”

“Go on in front and keep an eye out for moose,” she said. “I once saw three different moose on this trail. A big old cow moose would stomp the vacuum right out of your skull so fast, and then I’d finally be rid of you.”

Callen Wink may not thrill some of today’s political humanities academics, but he strikes a chord with me. I don’t mind waiting around for him to get done this year’s fishing and maybe try his hand at longer fiction. 8.9/9.2.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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