Hollingshead, Greg 1947-
HOLLINGSHEAD, Greg 1947-
PERSONAL: Born February 25, 1947, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; son of Albert (a clothier) and Joyce (an office clerk; maiden name, McGlashan) Hollingshead; married Rosa Spricer (a psychologist), 1983; children: David Benjamin. Ethnicity: "Caucasian" Education: University of Toronto, B.A., 1968, M.A., 1970; University of London, Ph.D. (English), 1974. Politics: Left.
ADDRESSES: Home—11731 91st Ave., Edmonton, Alberta T6G 1B1, Canada. Office—Department of English, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E5, Canada. Agent—Anne McDermid and Associates, 92 Willcocks St., Toronto, Ontario M5S 1C8, Canada. E-mail—[email protected].
MEMBER: Writers' Guild of Alberta, Writers' Union of Canada, PEN Canada.
AWARDS, HONORS: Alberta Foundation for the Literary Arts intermediate grants, 1985-86, 1991, 1994-95; Ontario Arts Council grant, 1986; Canada Council "B" grant, 1986-87, 1995-96, 1997-98; best contribution designation, Fiddlehead, 1989, for "The Side of the Elements"; Georges Bugnet Award, Writers Guild of Alberta, and SmithBooks/ Books in Canada First Novel Award nomination, both 1992, both for Spin Dry; Howard O'Hagan Award for short fiction, and Commonwealth Writers' Prize nomination (Canada and Caribbean region), both 1993, both for White Buick; Governor-General's Literary Award for fiction, 1995, and Howard O'Hagan Award for short fiction, 1996, both for The Roaring Girl; Writer's Trust Rogers Fiction Prize, 1999; Georges Brynet Award and Giller Prize nomination, both 1998, both for The Healer.
Famous Players (stories), Coach House Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1982.
Spin Dry (novel), Mosaic Press (Oakville, Ontario, Canada), 1992.
White Buick (stories), Oolichan Books (Lantzville, British Columbia, Canada), 1992.
The Roaring Girl (stories), Patrick Crean/Somerville House (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995, Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.
The Healer, HarperFlamingo, (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998, HarperFlamingo (New York, NY)1999.
Work represented in anthologies, including Best Canadian Stories, Canadian Forum, HarBrace Anthology of Literature (2nd edition), Hearts Wild, Parallel Voices/Voix Paralleles, Stag Line: Stories by Men, The Story So Far, and Great Stories from the Prairies.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Bedlam, a novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Greg Hollingshead has said that his fiction is about people who do not see or understand "what's there," according to Maclean's contributor Charles Foran. A patient writer who requires some time for his stories to reveal their courses, Hollings-head took decades to find his voice as an author. Foran noted that the author credits his wife, a prominent psychologist, with teaching him to become aware of the motivations residing in the human heart and mind.
"Though Famous Players is a wildly uneven collection, the successful stories outnumber the failures," opined Erling Friis-Baastad in Books in Canada. "That makes this a worthwhile book." While maintaining that Hollingshead's writing, jokes, and insights range from the marvelous to the silly, Friis-Baastad commended one story in particular as "a masterpiece of the bittersweet" and wrote that by its end it reveals that "Hollingshead understands some of the most intricate maneuvers of the human heart." Paul Roberts in Quill & Quire declared that Hollingshead's improbable stories, when considered individually, "are often strikingly original and entertaining," but he claimed the overall effect of Famous Players on readers is a bitter taste and a mournful emptiness. Although Roberts criticized the characters as having little substance, he delighted in the tales' "numerous flares of genuine humour." Anne Collins in Maclean's suggested that a recurring activity in these stories is the male characters' "quests in search of the world," adding that "nothing at all typical happens in Famous Players." Collins noted how "Hollingshead specializes in assembling incomprehensible signs into stories using such careful and clear language that you begin to think him logical." The reviewer concluded that Hollingshead's work and humor here are the antithesis of any attempt "to understand the real world."
Hollingshead's second story collection, White Buick, was lauded as "fine" and "accomplished" by Anne Denoon in Books in Canada. "In [Hollingshead's] world one must expect and accept the worst, without excuse or explanation," Denoon determined, "and he makes this bleak vision utterly convincing." She found these tales—involving such subjects as madness and psychosis, disturbed killers, terrified parents, and extremely destructive relationships—to be grim evocations of "the dominant nightmares" of the present day.
Conceding in Canadian Literature that White Buick presents a bleak, humorless, and misanthropic view of the world, reviewer Barbara Pell nonetheless praised Hollingshead's craftsmanship, clean style, convincing voices, compelling details, and ability to employ plots ranging in style from the traditional to the postmodern. "His is an impressive talent," Pell remarked. "But this is not a pleasant book."
"Wild, weird, and wonderful" is how a Kirkus Reviews contributor perceived Hollingshead's next story collection, The Roaring Girl. Labeling these as tales crafted "with astonishing skill," the Kirkus reviewer was struck by the unambiguous quality of Hollingshead's narrative voice: grave and strong, even in the midst of the stories' most comical and bizarre circumstances. Comparing Hollingshead's work with that of Southern U.S. author Flannery O'Connor, David Mazerolle in Quill & Quire wrote: "With the doomed Southern Gothic writer, Hollingshead shares an eagle-eyed ability to evoke the secret madnesses, the memories of past abuse, and the conflicts over guilt that seethe under the surfaces among middle-class, middle-aged people's fair-to-middling way of life." Mazerolle also applauded Hollingshead's controlled, subtle writing and "scenes of quiet humour." Charles Foran, who judged these stories "beautifully crafted" in Maclean's, called Hollingshead's sensibility "at once contemplative and spontaneous, whimsical and harsh" and the collection "exhilarating" to read.
Douglas Hill dubbed Hollingshead's 1992 novel Spin Dry "downright funny" and "engrossing" in his Books in Canada review. "Hollingshead writes a quirky, offcentre, arrhythmic prose that skewers every manner of middle-class incongruity and absurdity," Hill noted. In telling this story of Rachel and Leon Boseman, who live in a town of exploding garbage bags, mobsupported shopping malls, quackish dream-deprivation clinics, competing manias, and insanity, Hollingshead presents a witty satire of contemporary suburban life and angst. Sandra Birdsell, appraising the novel for Books in Canada, deemed Spin Dry "a wacky, wonderful, rowdy, comic novel" and "a wonderfully inventive, gentle satire, delivered in a fresh and vivid voice." Birdsell concluded that "there are no loose ends" in Spin Dry, and that its author "makes us laugh at ourselves." Fellow Books in Canada contributor Jack Hodgins pronounced Spin Dry "a novel of energy and crazy humour," while another Books in Canada contributor, Douglas Glover, appraised it as "really a very good postmodern novel" reminiscent of similar works by kindred American writers of the 1960s and 1970s.
In his 1998 novel The Healer, Hollingshead tells the unlikely love story of Caroline Troyer, who is reputed to have the power to heal the sick, and journalist Tim Wakelin, who has come to her hometown to write a story about her. Wakelin finds himself mixed up with Caroline's dysfunctional family as he tries to sort out his feelings about her and the grief he feels about his wife's recent suicide. James Urquhart, in his Guardian review, reflected on this emotionally charged story and noted that "Hollingshead does not burden the reader with solutions but allows the unfathomable impulses of love and hurt to enmesh these fractured and dislocated lives." The critic also commented that the author's "unhysterical comprehension of the human capacity for harm is convincing and unsettling." John Bemrose, writing for Maclean's acknowledged that "although the novel sometimes feels overworked, it fascinatingly explores issues of identity, will and the human relationship to nature," while Library Journal contributor Barbara Love credited Hollingshead for writing with "breathtaking beauty."
Hollingshead once told CA: "For me writing has been a slow process of learning what writing is, and that is mostly revision, which is a means to allow the story to reveal itself and how it needs to be told. There is my own emotional makeup, changing over the years, and there is what I am capable of technically, and it is changing too. But what I am actually conscious of doing when I write is trying this and that, and the next day reading over what I have done and not liking it, and trying something else, and reading that over the next day and still not liking it, and trying something else, and doing this day after day until the thing is just right, meaning as artful, which is to say as natural, as I have been able to make it, and the story has been told as it needs to be told. A story—or a sentence— that has gone through seventy revisions, twisting and turning day by day, like a living time-lapse vine, embodies the history of its own development. Revision 32 could not have happened without Revision 31, and so on. A good story is like the performance of a musical piece, the constant practice of which has enabled the artist to communicate all the strength and subtlety of which he and the piece together are capable. Tomorrow is another matter. Tomorrow they may be capable of more, but today he needs to get right what he can do today, because what is possible tomorrow is not going to be unrelated to what has been possible today. It's the same with revision, and it's the same with writing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1997, p. 1110.
Books in Canada, February, 1983, p. 19; October, 1992, pp. 43-44; March, 1993, p. 53; April, 1993, pp. 8-13.
Canadian Forum, October, 1999, Charles Gordon, review of The Healer, p. 45.
Canadian Literature, fall/winter, 1994, pp. 223-225.
Guardian, February 6, 1999, James Urquhart, review of The Healer, p. 10.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1997, p. 161.
Library Journal, January, 1999, Barbara Love, review of The Healer, p. 150.
Maclean's, August 9, 1982, p. 50; November 27, 1995,p. 71; December 7, 1998, John Bemrose, review of The Healer, p. 69.
New York Times Book Review, February 21, 1999, Abby Frucht, review of The Healer, p. 17.
Prairie Fire, summer, 1996, Kristjana Gunnars, interview with Hollingshead, pp. 6-18.
Publishers Weekly, January 27, 1997, p. 76; November 30, 1998, review of The Healer, p. 51.
Quill & Quire, November, 1982, p. 24; October, 1995,p. 26; February, 1996, p. 38.
Times (London, England), January 30, 1999, Francis Gilbert, review of The Healer, p. 17.
Greg Hollingshead Web site,http://www.greghollingshead.com/ (May 15, 2003).
Mote MGZN,http://moregoatthangoose.com/ (September 13, 2002), Gabino Travassos, interview with Hollingshead.
Writer's Union of Canada Web site,http://www.writersunion.ca/ (September 13, 2002), "Greg Hollings-head."