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Vanderhaeghe, Guy 1951-

VANDERHAEGHE, Guy 1951-

PERSONAL: Born April 5, 1951, in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, Canada; son of Clarence Earl and Alma Beth (Allen) Vanderhaeghe; married Margaret Elizabeth Nagel (a painter), September 2, 1972. Education: University of Saskatchewan, B.A. (with honors), 1972, M.A., 1975; University of Regina, B.Ed., 1978.

ADDRESSES: Home—Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Office—c/o Writers Union of Canada, 24 Ryerson Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5T 2P3.

CAREER: Writer and educator. University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, archivist, 1973–75; Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Regina, Saskatchewan, editor, 1976–78; high school English and history teacher in Herbert, Saskatchewan, 1978–79; Access Consulting (health care consultants), Saskatoon, researcher, 1979–81; Saskatoon Public Library, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, writer-in-residence, 1983–84; University of Saskatchewan, Saint Thomas More College, member of creative writing faculty. Member of Saskatchewan Arts Board, 1983–.

MEMBER: Writers Union of Canada, Saskatchewan Writers Guild.

AWARDS, HONORS: Governor General's Award for English fiction, 1982, for Man Descending, and 1996, for The Englishman's Boy; City of Toronto Book Award (co-winner), 1990, for Homesick; Canadian Authors Association award for drama, 1993, for I Had a Job I Liked, Once; D. Litt., University of Saskatchewan, 1993.

WRITINGS:

Man Descending (short stories), Macmillan of Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1982, Ticknor & Fields (New York City), 1985.

The Trouble with Heroes (short stories), Borealis Press (Ottawa, Canada), 1983.

My Present Age (novel), Macmillan of Canada, 1984, Ticknor & Fields, 1985.

Homesick, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1989, Ticknor & Fields, 1990.

I Had a Job I Liked, Once: A Play, Fifth House (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada), 1992.

Things as They Are?: Short Stories, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1992.

Dancock's Dance, Blizzard Publishers (Winnipeg, Canada), 1996.

The Englishman's Boy, Picador (New York, NY), 1997.

The Last Crossing, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Work represented in anthologies, including Aurora: New Canadian Writing, Doubleday, 1978, 1979, and 1980; Best Canadian Short Stories, Oberon Press, 1980; Best American Short Stories, 1982; and The Journey Prize Anthology, 1993. Contributor to magazines, including Saturday Night, Wascana Review, Prism International, Journal of Canadian Fiction, Malahat Review, and Quarry.

ADAPTATIONS: Cages, a film version of Vanderhaeghe's short story of the same title, was released by Beacon Films (Norwood, MA), 1996; The Last Crossing has been made into an audio book by HighBridge, 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Guy Vanderhaeghe once told CA: "I have been described as a writer with a singularly bleak outlook. I reject that description. I regard myself as a writer who celebrates endurance—particularly the endurance of the ordinary person whose life is a series of small victories fashioned from small resources and whose hard-won realism is the result of a life lived without the buffers that privilege brings."

One of the anti-heroes from Vanderhaeghe's story collection Man Descending, Ed of the story "Sam, Soren, and Ed," became the protagonist of his novel My Present Age. Alberto Manguel wrote, in a review for Books in Canada, that "[Vanderhaeghe] has built his novel around (and in the style of) Ed's paranoia: My Present Age is the portrait of one man seen by himself in the distorted mirror of his own mind. Too witty for his contemporaries ('Any idea what genius is? The infinite capacity for taking pains?'), too ill-suited for an acceptable place in this world ('I found myself in the unfamiliar position of having no one to disappoint'), Ed is a hero who is also the village idiot." Douglas Barbour in Canadian Literature observed that "Vanderhaeghe masterfully shows everything from [Ed's] point of view yet also reveals his failings as an observer. Nevertheless, for all his faults, Ed has an unerring eye and ear for phoniness, and Vanderhaeghe allows that to emerge again and again."

Vera Miller in Homesick is a long-suffering anti-heroine, who tells the story of leaving Toronto with her twelve-year-old son Daniel in 1959 to return to her family in a remote Saskatchewan town. She has been estranged from them for seventeen years, and according to Douglas Bauer in the New York Times Book Review, has struggled to rear her son "sustained by grit and considerable self-denial." In a drawn-out monologue, Vera voices her grievances "in the guise of selfless strength."

In a lengthy review of Vanderhaeghe's The Englishman's Boy, John Bemrose of Maclean's chronicled the author's career up to that point. His first book, the short story collection Man Descending, had earned him a Governor General's Award, along with "praise from Canada's master of the genre, Alice Munro, who called the book 'wonderful.'" But though Vanderhaeghe had received great praise for works such as My Present Age and Homesick, "critical respectability has not translated into financial success," noted Bemrose, who went on to point out that, to help support his family, the author, "as he drolly puts it, begs for grants. Yet the begging may end with The Englishman's Boy."

The Englishman's Boy is really two stories, one set in Montana and Canada during the 1870s, the other in Hollywood in the 1920s. The earlier tale, based on a real event, chronicles the massacre of a group of Native Americans by American and Canadian trappers. A former valet, part Indian, serves as their guide; half a century later, he reappears in Hollywood as an aging cowboy, Shorty McAdoo, whose life is about to become the subject of a blockbuster motion picture intended to rival D. W. Griffith's 1915 epic Birth of a Nation. The movie, wrote John Motyka in the New York Times, is intended to embody "the rather hazy concept of a mythic American identity," and The Englishman's Boy, which Motyka called a "fine new novel" exposes the reality behind this myth. With the unfolding of McAdoo's story "into the stuff of patriotic, big-screen legend," noted Megan Harlan in Entertainment Weekly, "irony [is set] against idealism" to portray both the American West and Hollywood. Barbara Love in Library Journal suggested that it was refreshing to have a gritty adventure tale which doubled as a literary triumph.

In his novel, The Last Crossing, Vanderhaeghe tells the story of two brothers, the failed painter Charles and the disgraced soldier Addington. The brothers are sent by their wealthy father in the year 1871 to search the northwestern territories to find Simon, Charles's twin brother, who has disappeared while traveling as part of a Christian ministry that set out to convert the Indians. As the brothers head out to the wild Western borderlands of the United States and Canada, they are accompanied by a wide cast of characters, including the real-life historical figure of Jerry Potts, who was half Indian and half Scottish. Also along are a laundress who is looking for the murderer of her sister and a Civil War veteran who is in love with her. Calling the novel a "sweeping epic," a Publishers Weekly contributor went on to note that Vanderhaeghe "is a prodigiously gifted writer who makes the West, its fierce weathers, rugged landscapes and contrary, characters come to life." Jonathan Derbyshire, writing in the New Statesman, commented: "The narrative, alternating between first and third persons, is divided between all the characters-even the most minor. Each of these voices is fully and carefully inhabited." Derbyshire also wrote: "The plotting is ingenious and delivers a finale that is both credible and unexpected." Booklist contributor Keir Graff stated that the author "moves deftly between present and past, between exterior and interior landscapes, choosing unique and telling details." Writing in the National Post, Marina Endicott called the effort "an absolutely wonderful book, the kind of literature that reminds other writers of why they want to create, and convinces readers the world is a vast and mythic enterprise, larger than our individual crises or triumphs."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 41, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1987.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 1, 2003, Keir Graff, review of The Last Crossing, p. 648.

Books in Canada, October, 1984, Alberto Manguel, review of My Present Age, p. 31.

Canadian Literature, summer, 1985, Douglas Barbour, review of My Present Age, pp. 151-152.

Commonweal, June 19, 1998, Frank McConnell, review of The Englishman's Boy, p. 20.

Entertainment Weekly, October 31, 1997, Megan Harlan, review of the The Englishman's Boy, p. 100; February 20, 2004, Jennifer Reese, review of The Last Crossing, p. 68.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2003, review of The Last Crossing, p. 1340.

Library Journal, September 1, 1997, Barbara Love, review of The Englishman's Boy, p. 221.

Maclean's, September 23, 1996, John Bemrose, review of The Englishman's Boy and interview with author, pp. 46-47; October 7, 2002, Brian Bergman, review of The Last Crossing, p. 54.

National Post, October 12, 2002, Marina Endicott, review of The Last Crossing, p. BK1.

New Statesman, April 19, 2004, Jonathan Derbyshire, review of The Last Crossing, p. 55; November 29, 2004, brief review of The Last Crossing, p. 42.

New York Times, October 5, 1997, John Motyka, review of the The Englishman's Boy.

New York Times Book Review, June 17, 1990, Douglas Bauer, review of Homesick, section 7, p. 15.

People, April 5, 2004, Allison Adato, review of The Last Crossing, p. 50.

Publishers Weekly, January 5, 2004, review of The Last Crossing, p. 39.

Star Phoenix (Saskatoon, Canada), March 28, 1998, James Parker, "Feet Firmly Planted—Vanderhaeghe Remains Regular, Humble Guy."

ONLINE

Aurora Online, http://aurora.icaap.org/ (August 30, 2005), Jeremy Mouat, "Prairie Storyteller: An Interview with Guy Vanderhaeghe."

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