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Metcalf, John

Metcalf, John (1717–1810). Road-builder, known as ‘Blind Jack of Knaresborough’. Blinded by smallpox at the age of 6, Metcalf proved extraordinarily adaptable, and became successively travelling fiddler and horse-dealer, recruiting for Cumberland's army in 1745, and was present at both Falkirk and Culloden, trading thereafter in Aberdeen stockings. He set up a stage-wagon to York (1754), and traded in horses and provender, before securing his first road-building contract in 1765, eventually constructing 180 miles in northern England, and employing at peak 400 men. He was perhaps the first to apply coherent principles to construction, based upon the excavation of firm foundations, ditch drainage, and convex section. Metcalf retired in 1792, and set down his achievements in his autobiography (1795).

J. A. Chartres

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Metcalf, John (Wesley)

METCALF, John (Wesley)

Nationality: Canadian. Born: Carlisle, Cumberland, England, 12 November 1938. Education: Bristol University, 1957-61, B.A. (honors) in English 1960, Cert. Ed. 1961. Family: Married 1) Gail Courey in 1965 (marriage dissolved 1972), one daughter; 2) Myrna Teitelbaum in 1975, one stepson and two adopted children. Career: Taught at a secondary school and a boys' borstal, Bristol, 1961; Rosemount High School, Montreal, 1962-63; Royal Canadian Air Force Base, Cold Lake, Alberta, 1964-65; at a Catholic comprehensive school in England, 1965; and at schools and universities in Montreal, part-time, 1966-71. Writer-in-residence, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, 1972-73, Loyola College, Montreal, 1976, University of Ottawa, 1977, Concordia University, Montreal, 1980-81, and University of Bologna, Italy, 1985. Awards: Canada Council award, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1986; University of Western Ontario President's medal, for short story, 1969. Agent: Denise Bukowski, The Bukowski Agency, 125B Dupont St., Toronto, Ontario M5R 1V4. Address: P.O. Box 2700, Station D, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5W7, Canada.

Publications

Novels

Going Down Slow. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1972.

Girl in Gingham. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1978; as Private Parts: A Memoir, Scarborough, Ontario, Macmillan-New American Library of Canada, 1980.

General Ludd. Downsview, Ontario, ECW Press, 1980.

Kayhut: A Warrior's Odyssey. Minneapolis, Minnesota, Four Directions, 1998.

Short Stories

New Canadian Writing 1969, with C.J. Newman and D.O. Spettigue. Toronto, Clarke Irwin, 1969.

The Lady Who Sold Furniture. Toronto, Clarke Irwin, 1970.

The Teeth of My Father. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1975.

Dreams Surround Us: Fiction and Poetry, with John Newlove. Delta, Ontario, Bastard Press, 1977.

Selected Stories. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1982.

Adult Entertainment. Toronto, Macmillan, 1986; New York, St. Martin's Press, 1989.

Shooting the Stars (novellas). Erin, Ontario, Porcupine's Quill, 1993.

Other

Kicking Against the Pricks (essays). Downsview, Ontario, ECW Press, 1982.

Freedom from Culture. Vancouver, Tanks, 1987; revised edition published as Freedom from Culture: Selected Essays 1982-1992. Toronto, ECW Press, 1994.

What Is Canadian Literature? Guelph, Ontario, Red Kite Press, 1988.

Acts of Kindness and of Love. Oakville, Ontario, Presswerk Editions, 1995.

An Aesthetic Underground. Guelph, Ontario, Red Kite Press, 1999.

Editor, with others, Wordcraft 1-5 (textbooks). Toronto, Dent, 5 vols., 1967-77.

Editor, Razor's Edge, by Somerset Maugham. Richmond Hill, Ontario, Irwin, 1967.

Editor, The Flight of the Phoenix, by Elleston Trevor. Scarborough, Ontario, Bellhaven House, 1968.

Editor, Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey. Richmond Hill, Ontario, Irwin, 1968.

Editor, with Gordon Callaghan, Rhyme and Reason. Toronto, Ryerson Press, 1969.

Editor, with Gordon Callaghan, Salutation. Toronto, Ryerson Press, 1970.

Editor, Sixteen by Twelve: Short Stories by Canadian Writers. Tor-onto, Ryerson Press, and New York, McGraw Hill, 1970.

Editor, The Narrative Voice: Short Stories and Reflections by Canadian Authors. Toronto, McGraw Hill Ryerson, 1972.

Editor, Kaleidoscope: Canadian Stories. Toronto, Van Nostrand, 1972.

Editor, The Speaking Earth: Canadian Poetry. Toronto, Van Nostrand, 1973.

Editor, with Joan Harcourt, 76 [77]: Best Canadian Stories. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 2 vols., 1976-77.

Editor, with Clark Blaise, Here and Now. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1977.

Editor, with Clark Blaise, 78 [79, 80]: Best Canadian Stories. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 3 vols., 1978-80.

Editor, Stories Plus: Canadian Stories with Authors' Commentaries. Toronto, McGraw Hill Ryerson, 1979.

Editor, New Worlds: A Canadian Collection of Stories. Toronto, McGraw Hill Ryerson, 1980.

Editor, First [Second, Third] Impressions. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 3 vols., 1980-82.

Editor, with Leon Rooke, 81 [82]: Best Canadian Stories. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 2 vols., 1981-82.

Editor, Making It New: Contemporary Canadian Stories. Toronto, Methuen, 1982.

Editor, with Leon Rooke, The New Press Anthology 1-2: Best Canadian Short Fiction. Toronto, General, 2 vols., 1984-85.

Editor, The Bumper Book. Toronto, ECW Press, 1986.

Editor, with Leon Rooke, The Macmillan Anthology 1-2. Toronto, Macmillan, 2 vols., 1988-89.

Editor, Carry On Bumping. Toronto, ECW Press, 1988.

Editor, Writers in Aspic. Montreal, Véhicule Press, 1988.

Editor, with Kent Thompson, The Macmillan Anthology 3. Toronto, Macmillan, 1990.

Editor, with Sam Solecki and W.J. Keith, Volleys (critical essays). Erin, Ontario, Porcupine's Quill, 1990.

Editor, The New Story Writers. Kingston, Ontario, Quarry Press, 1992.

Editor, with J.R. Struthers, Canadian Classics. Toronto, Ryerson, 1993.

Editor, with J.R. Struthers, How Stories Mean. Erin, Ontario, Porcupine's Quill, 1993.

*

Manuscript Collections:

Special Collections, University of Calgary, Alberta; University of Maine, Orono.

Critical Studies:

On the Line by Robert Lecker, Downsview, Ontario, ECW Press, 1982; article by Douglas Rollins, in Canadian Writers and Their Works 7 edited by Lecker, Jack David, and Ellen Quigley, ECW Press, 1985; "John Metcalf Issue" of Malahat Review 70 (Victoria, British Columbia); John Metcalf by Barry Cameron, Boston, Twayne, 1986; two essays in Feat of the Open Heart by Constance Rooke, Toronto, Coach House, 1989.

* * *

When one realizes why so little commentary has been devoted to John Metcalf's fiction, one also understands the unique quality of his work: his prose is so chaste, so uncompromisingly direct, that exegesis often seems to be redundant. But to be seduced by this directness is to ignore the extraordinary narrative compression which multiplies the weight of Metcalf's words, and thus to miss the ideas he develops through his concentration on things. As a mature writer, Metcalf advises the novice to "avoid literary criticism which moves away from the word on the printed page" and to "stick to the study of the placement of commas." Only through this study, and by knowing "the weight, color, and texture of things " will the writer create "the distillation of experience" that makes fiction valid.

The terminology here suggests that Metcalf is a traditionalist, and he is. He believes that a plot should be interesting, mysterious, and constructed in such a way that it will endure. He is concerned with the morality of his characters and their culture. His stories are generally realistic in their emphasis on the details of time and place. Above all, he is preoccupied with a traditional theme: the relationship between art and human experience. Consequently his stories explore the nature of the aesthetic process and the ingredients from which his own art is composed.

The Lady Who Sold Furniture contains several stories in which the nature of art and the nature of learning about art are explored through a central character who is sensitive, intelligent, and in the process of learning about himself as he learns about his world. In the title novella, Peter's encounter with Jeanne forces him to examine his own values and his responsibility as a teacher. "The Tide Line" presents a younger protagonist, but one who must also define his futurehere explicitly connected with artagainst the influence of his parents and the various forms of tradition their presence implies. "Keys and Watercress," one of Metcalf's most anthologized stories (along with "Early Morning Rabbits" from the same collection), again focuses on the initiation of a young boy into a world of symbols, and, by extension, into a new world that can be transformed through imagination. If the stories seem self-conscious it is because they are actually self-critical. Here, as in his later fiction, Metcalf uses the story to explore the value of storytelling itself.

This self-critical stance is certainly revealed in his first novel, Going Down Slow, through the character of David Appelby, a teacher who is obviously involved with the conflict between his idealsboth aesthetic and politicaland those held by a provincial social order that would stifle all forms of personal expression, be they social, sexual, or cerebral. The novel's episodic form suggests that it is the first long work of a writer who really feels most at home in the short story mode. Nevertheless, it provides a strong sense of Metcalf's finicky attention to detail, and to the linguistic precision that is the hallmark of all his writing.

The Teeth of My Father, a second short story collection, revealed a much more mature writer than the earlier works. Metcalf's language is tighter than before; his attention to structure is more sophisticated and complex; and the stories are increasingly autobiographical and overtly concerned with the implications of storytelling. Five of the stories focus explicitly on art and artists, often in allegorical terms. Metcalf is most successful in "Gentle As Flowers Make the Stones," a bitter, complex, and ultimately poignant record of one day in the life of the poet Jim Haine; in "The Years in Exile," a moving record of a senescent, displaced writer's thoughts; and in the title story, in which the antiphonal structure suggests an implicit exchange between writer and critic, significant because it allows Metcalf to assume the role of self-commentator, the role his fiction seems to seek from its inception.

In Girl in Gingham his commentary is expressed through Peter Thornton, whom we meet after the divorce that isolates him, shakes his sense of identity, and forces him to attempt some form of personal recovery by finding a new, ideal woman. The juxtaposition of Peter's educated sensibility with the tastelessness and frequently grotesque lifestyles of successive CompuMate dates invests the novella with a sustained level of comedy that tends to mask Peter's tragic desperation. Peter's encounters with the CompuMate women provide a fertile ground for Metcalf to satirize the debased values of contemporary society. But Peter's failure in those encounters, and Anna's fate, are connected with a death of taste that Metcalf increasingly mourns. As the story develops it becomes clear that for Peter the pursuit of true art is inseparable from the pursuit of true love. Because the search for an ideal girl in gingham is part of Peter's quest for aesthetic fulfillment, he becomes more and more preoccupied with art as his relationship with Anna takes form.

This preoccupation is even more obvious in Private Parts, Metcalf's third published novella. Here the narrator is all-too-conscious of the aesthetic implications arising from the autobiographical fragments he presents. "Life," as T.D. Moore sees it, is "mainly lies." In short, life in Private Parts is private art. It comes as no surprise to discover that Moore is himself a writer dedicated to mythologizing those autobiographical fragments which constitute the private parts of memory. In him we find the qualities and frustrations that define all of Metcalf's highly articulate first-person narrators: an ability to fashion life through meaning; a rejection of contemporary taste and the threat it poses to genuine creativity; an involvement in others' art; and a consciousness of being involved in the narrative structure of his tale.

Metcalf's second novel makes his criticism of contemporary society hard to ignore. General Ludd takes its name from the nineteenth-century Luddite movement's radical opposition to so-called "progress" through technology and mechanization. Metcalf's Jim Wells is a contemporary Luddite, and a poet, who takes exception to the debased forms of communicationbe they audiovisual, sartorial, or verbalthat seem ever-present in his world. No summary of this kind can do justice to the range of Metcalf's ferocious satire, his exposition of a host of characters through powerful vignettes, or the continual purity of his language. Similarly, the title Adult Entertainment hardly describes the lives one meets in the book's two novellas and three short stories. These are images of failure, men who would love to experience the fulfillment of lust, but who are instead surrounded by frustration. The collection serves to further confirm not only Metcalf's dedication to his craft, but also his reputation as one of Canada's most accomplished fiction writers.

Robert Lecker

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Metcalf, John

Metcalf, John (b Swansea, 1946). Welsh composer. Assoc. art. dir. (from 1986) and comp.-in-residence (from 1991), Banff Centre, School of Fine Arts, Alberta. Works incl. operas The Journey (1981), Tornrak (1989); mus. th. The Crossing (1981); The Boundaries of Time, cantata (1985); hn. conc. (1972), cl. conc. (1982), Music of Changes, orch. (1981), Orchestral Variations (1990); pf. trio (1988); and songs.

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Metcalf, John (Wesley)

METCALF, John (Wesley)

Nationality: Canadian. Born: Carlisle, Cumberland, England, 12 November 1938. Education: Bristol University, 1957-61, B.A. (honors) in English 1960, Cert. Ed. 1961. Family: Married 1) Gale Courey in 1965 (marriage dissolved 1972), one daughter; 2) Myrna Teitelbaum in 1975, one stepson and two adopted children. Career: Taught at a secondary school and a boys' borstal, Bristol, 1961, Rosemount High School, Montreal, 1962-63, Royal Canadian Air Force Base, Cold Lake, Alberta, 1964-65, at a Catholic comprehensive school in England, 1965, and at schools and universities in Montreal, part-time, 1966-71; writer-in-residence, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, 1972-73, Loyola College, Montreal, 1976, University of Ottawa, 1977, Concordia University, Montreal, 1980-81, and University of Bologna, Italy, 1985. Lives in Ottawa, Ontario. Awards: Canada Council award, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1985; University of Western Ontario President's medal, for short story, 1969; Ottawa-Carleton Literary award, 1987; gold medal for fiction in the National Magazines awards, 1996.

Publications

Short Stories

New Canadian Writing 1969, with C. J. Newman and D. O. Spettigue. 1969.

The Lady Who Sold Furniture. 1970.

The Teeth of My Father. 1975.

Dreams Surround Us: Fiction and Poetry, with John Newlove. 1977.

Girl in Gingham (novellas). 1978; as Private Parts: A Memoir, 1980; as Shooting the Stars, 1993.

Selected Stories. 1982.

Adult Entertainment. 1986.

Novels

Going Down Slow. 1972.

General Ludd. 1980.

Other

Kicking Against the Pricks (essays). 1982.

Freedom from Culture. 1987.

What Is A Canadian Literature? 1988.

Volleys (critical essays), with Sam Solecki and W. J. Keith. 1990.

Acts of Kindness and of Love, with Tony Calzetta. 1993.

A Passion and Delight: Selected Essays. 1993.

Editor, with others, Wordcraft 1-5 (textbooks). 5 vols., 1967-77.

Editor, Razor's Edge, by Somerset Maugham. 1967.

Editor, The Flight of the Phoenix, by Elleston Trevor. 1968.

Editor, Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey. 1968.

Editor, with Gordon Callaghan, Rhyme and Reason. 1969.

Editor, with Gordon Callaghan, Salutation. 1970.

Editor, Sixteen by Twelve: Short Stories by Canadian Writers. 1970.

Editor, The Narrative Voice: Short Stories and Reflections by Canadian Authors. 1972.

Editor, Kaleidoscope: Canadian Stories. 1972.

Editor, The Speaking Earth: Canadian Poetry. 1973.

Editor, with Joan Harcourt, 76 [77]: Best Canadian Stories. 2 vols., 1976-77.

Editor, with Clark Blaise, Here and Now. 1977.

Editor, with Clark Blaise, 78 [79, 80]: Best Canadian Stories. 3 vols., 1978-80.

Editor, Stories Plus: Canadian Stories with Authors' Commentaries. 1979.

Editor, New Worlds: A Canadian Collection of Stories. 1980.

Editor, First [Second, Third] Impressions. 3 vols., 1980-82.

Editor, with Leon Rooke, 81 [82]: Best Canadian Stories. 2 vols., 1981-82.

Editor, Making It New: Contemporary Canadian Stories. 1982.

Editor, with Leon Rooke, The New Press Anthology 1-2: Best Canadian Short Fiction. 2 vols., 1984-85.

Editor, The Bumper Book. 1986.

Editor, with Leon Rooke, The Macmillan Anthology 1-2. 2 vols., 1988-89.

Editor, Carry On Bumping. 1988.

Editor, Writers in Aspic. 1988.

Editor, Cape Breton Is the Thought-Control Centre of Canada, by Ray Smith. 1989.

Editor, Victims of Gravity, by Dayv James-French. 1990.

Editor, with Kent Thompson, The Macmillan Anthology 3. 1990.

Editor, Quickening, by Terry Griggs. 1991.

Editor, Blue Husbands, by Don Dickinson. 1991.

Editor, The Happiness of Others, by Leon Rooke. 1991.

Editor, The New Story Writers. 1992.

Editor, Flight Paths of the Emperer, by Steven Heighton. 1992.

Editor, Man and His World, by Clark Blaise. 1992.

Editor, Bad Imaginings, by Caroline Adderson. 1993.

Editor, with J. R. Struthers, How Stories Mean. 1993.

Editor, with J. R. Struthers, Canadian Classics. 1993.

Editor, City of Orphans, by Patricia Robertson. 1994.

Editor, Lives of the Mind Slaves, by Matt Cohen. 1994.

Editor, On Earth as It Is, by Steven Heighton. 1995.

Editor, Influence of the Moon, by Mary Borsky. 1995.

Editor, Help Me Jacques Cousteau, by Gil Adamson. 1995.

Editor, Lovers and Other Strangers, by Carol Maylon. 1996.

Editor, Telling My Love Lies, by Keath Fraser. 1996.

Editor, The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Meeka Walsh. 1996.

Editor, Kiss Me, by Andrew Pyper. 1996.

Editor, Cuento canadiense contemporáneo. 1996.

Editor, Best Canadian Stories. 1997.

Editor, Buying On Time, by Antanus Sileika. 1997.

Editor, If I Were Me, by Clark Blaise. 1997.

Editor, Small Change, by Elizabeth Hay. 1997.

Editor, Promise of Shelter, by Robyn Sarah. 1997.

*

Critical Studies:

"Metcalf Issue" of Fiddlehead Magazine, Summer 1977; On the Line: Readings in the Short Fiction of Clark Blaise, Metcalf, and Hugh Hood by Robert Lecker, 1982, and article by Douglas Rollins, in Canadian Writers and Their Works 7 edited by Lecker, Jack David, and Ellen Quigley, 1985; "Metcalf Issue" of Malahat Review 70, March 1985; in The Montreal Story Tellers edited by J. R. Struthers, 1985; Metcalf by Barry Cameron, 1986; by Louis K. MacKendrick, in Profiles in Canadian Literature 8 edited by Jeffrey Heath, 1991; Coming of Age: Metcalf and the Canadian Short Story edited by J. R. Struthers, 1993; John Metcalf issue of The New Quarterly, Fall 1996.

* * *

John Metcalf's early work is characterized by a clean, spare prose, a refusal to pronounce judgment on the behavior of his characters, and a flair for the bizarre and eccentric. In the novella-length story "The Lady Who Sold Furniture," for example, the reader is presented with what seems a normal situation. The eponymous lady, Jeanne, a housekeeper with a young daughter, is having an affair with a schoolteacher, one of the boarders named Peter. The first hint that something may be wrong comes when two detectives turn up asking for the woman's whereabouts. Shortly afterward a van pulls up, and Jeanne disappears with the proceeds of all the furniture in the house. It turns out that she does this scam regularly and is being hunted by the police. At the end she tells Peter that she is very fond of him, "But I'm not ironing five years of shirts for you."

The strength of the story lies in its quite dispassionate observation of bizarre behavior and in its vivid portraits of eccentric characters. The man who comes to collect the furniture, for example, laughs so hard at his own joke that he almost has a seizure, and the headmaster at Peter's school has difficulty in finishing a sentence. Apparently disconnected incidents follow one another without any attempt to link them. There is a conversation between two old men in a pub in which their speech is rendered with marvelous accuracy, though what they are doing in the story is not clear. We are told very little about the main characters but merely left to infer what we can from their actions.

Most of the early stories are similarly enigmatic. "Keys and Watercress" concerns an encounter between a young boy named David and an eccentric old man who insists that the boy come home and have lunch with him and who then shows him a succession of objects, culminating in a bullet taken out of his leg during the Boer War. Again, the prose is scrupulously cold and objective. It merely describes and records without comment, as it does in "Dandelions," a story about an aging, overweight man who runs a book store that is not doing very well.

David reappears in a number of stories as a kind of alter ego of the author. In "The Children Green and Golden" he and a couple of friends indulge in fairly harmless mischief—buying cigarettes, baiting a pair of lovers—until they join a religious fanatic on the beach. Again, Metcalf's observation is meticulous, his refusal to point to any obvious significance scrupulous. In "Single Gents Only" David is a university student, as he is again in "Beryl." In "The Estuary" the narrator is a 20-year-old boy named David who is receiving psychiatric treatment after it is believed that he has attempted to commit suicide. It is in this story that the element of the bizarre combines with a tendency toward self-reflexivity that becomes much more common in Metcalf's later work. At one point the narrator says,

And then I told him about explaining that with two tickets you could take out one Fiction and one Non-Fiction but not two Fiction or two Non-Fiction; that Fiction means a story book that isn't true and Non-Fiction means for example a book about history or science; and, no madam, biography is Non-Fiction although yes it is a story—the story of somebody's life—but the difference is that it's a true story and not an untrue story. Which is a funny way of dividing things up but no not even this once and the book must be replaced because the library has strict rules.

It is the first questioning of the nature of art.

One of Metcalf's finest stories, "The Teeth of My Father," takes up many of the concerns of "The Estuary," especially that of the relationship between truth and fiction. The story opens with the narrator and a friend swapping yarns about their respective fathers. The narrator observes, "And it was on Forest Hill, although I'd often told the story of his teeth, that I realized for the first time how genuinely and entirely eccentric my father had been." He then tells the story of how his father had all of his teeth removed to spare the expense of going to a dentist and for the rest of his life experimented with different kinds of dentures: "It was not until years later that I understood that had he produced an undeniably perfect pair it would have broken his heart."

Metcalf sometimes employs the device of fiction within fiction. "Many years ago I wrote the following story," he tells us. It is titled "Biscuits," and the point of it, as he goes on to explain in his deconstruction of the work, is that the child in the story is engaged in the act of defining his identity, with the father a largely absent figure. The child signs himself David Hendricks of Hampshire, England. There are shades of Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man here, as there later is a reference to Ulysses. Despite its movement between life and art, the story ends on a note of conventional affirmation. "I did not cry," the narrator tells us in reference to the news of his father's death. "I was not moved to tears…. I am crying now."

"The Eastmill Reception Centre" takes this preoccupation with life and art to even greater lengths. The protagonist, a university graduate named Cresswell, is teaching at a reform school. The first part of the story is quite conventional, a typically low-key but ruthlessly observant view of the school and of the variously eccentric characters, until the narrator loses his temper and shakes one of the boys. He then allows another boy, an arsonist to whom he has been drawn, loose from the school for an hour. Metcalf comments, "Well, even that, I suppose, could do as an ending." But the story becomes self-reflexive, and the author cites comments that have perhaps been made of his own work: "… marred in its conclusion by an inability to transcend the stylistic manner of his earlier work…." He discusses specifically the relationship between fiction and fact and then tells us, "It was while I was writing this story that something happened which disturbed me, which made the task of writing not only tedious but offensive." Driving home on a school night, he sees the town dump on fire and immediately thinks of Dennis, the boy whom he had allowed to escape and who, of course, had not come back. The narrator concludes, in a self-lacerating mood, that his superficially successful, satisfying life is empty at the core: "That, quite simply, you in your stupid, feckless way have enjoyed life more than I have…. I've never escaped, you see, Dennis. I've never lived off hostile country."

Many of Metcalf's later stories concern writers and writing. "The Years in Exile" reads more like an autobiographical memoir than a story. The narrator is an aging, apparently successful writer. As he waits to be interviewed, he goes back to his very early years, to Christchurch, the Von and Stour Rivers, and, above all, the spoiled mansion, Fortnell House, which he visited several times and which is filled with historical memories. "Gentle as Flowers Make the Stones," about an impecunious poet, shifts radically in mood from satire of the academic world to a more respectful treatment of the integrity, even obsessiveness, of Haine's pursuit of his art, despite being utterly broke. Even as he makes love to a woman who drove him home from a literary meeting, he is thinking about a poem or translation. In "Travelling Northward," another longish story, the protagonist Robert Forde receives an invitation to read in North Potage, Ontario, and, to the chagrin of his wife, accepts it. The story is an ironic parable on the fate of a writer in Canada. Forde has written 12 novels and established a considerable reputation, but he has made almost no money from them. After more than 20 years devoted to his art, he can claim a regular audience of only 2, 000 readers. Any tendency to romanticize him, however, is undercut by the monstrous nature of Forde's treatment of his family. "Every morning of his life," we are told, "Robert Forde awoke in a state of intense and mounting irritation…. His body he believed to be a kind of corporal ark which housed his ability to write; this ability was a thing mysterious, so fickle, so fragile, so frangible that it had to be borne with exquisite care." The self-mockery here is a part of Metcalf's makeup as a writer. He combines clearheaded observation and thoughtfulness with a wicked sense of fun and a love of the ridiculous.

—Laurie Clancy

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Metcalf, John (Wesley)

METCALF, John (Wesley)

METCALF, John (Wesley). Canadian (born England), b. 1938. Genres: Novels, Literary criticism and history, Essays, Novellas/Short stories. Career: Teacher, Rosemount High School, Montreal, 1962-63, Royal Canadian Air Force Base, Cold Lake, Alberta, 1964-65, at a Catholic comprehensive sch. in England, 1965, and at schools and universities in Montreal, part-time 1966-71; Writer-in-Residence, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, 1972-73, Loyola College, Montreal, 1976, University of Ottowa, 1977, Concordia University, Montreal, 1980-81, and University of Bologna, 1985. Publications: (with C.J. Newman and D.O. Spettigue) New Canadian Writing 1969, 1969; The Lady Who Sold Furniture (short stories), 1970; Going Down Slow (novel), 1972; The Teeth of My Father (short stories), 1975; (with J. Newlove) Dreams Surround Us: Fiction and Poetry, 1977; Girl in Gingham (novel), 1978, as Private Parts: A Memoir, 1980; General Ludd (novel), 1980; Selected Stories, 1982; Kicking Against the Pricks (critical essays), 1982; Adult Entertainment (short stories), 1986; What Is a Canadian Literature?, 1988; (with S. Solecki and W.J. Keith) Volleys, 1990; Shooting the Stars (novellas), 1993; (with J.R.T. Struthers) How Stories Mean (literary criticism), 1993; Freedom from Culture: Selected Essays 1982-92, 1994. EDITOR: (with others) Wordcraft 1-5 (textbooks), 5 vols., 1967-77; The Razor's Edge, by Maugham, 1967; The Flight of the Phoenix, by Elleston Trevor, 1968; Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey, 1968; (with G. Callaghan) Rhyme and Reason, 1969; (with G. Callaghan) Salutation, 1970; Sixteen by Twelve, 1970; The Narrative Voice, 1972; Kaleidoscope, 1972; The Speaking Earth: Canadian Poetry, 1973; (with J. Harcourt) Best Canadian Stories, 2 vols., 1976-77; (with C. Blaise) Here and Now, 1977; (with C. Blaise) Best Canadian Stories, 3 vols., 1978-80; Stories Plus, 1979; New Worlds, 1980; First Second, Third Impressions, 3 vols., 1980-82; (with L. Rooke) Best Canadian Stories, 2 vols., 1981-82; Making It New, 1982; (with L. Rooke) The New Press Anthology 1-2, 2 vols., 1984-85; The Bumper Book (essays), 1987; Carry On Bumping, 1988; Writers in Aspic, 1988; (with L. Rooke) The Macmillan Anthology, vols. 1-2, 1988-89, vol. 3 (with K. Thompson), 1990. Address: P. O. Box 2700, Station D, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1P 5W7.

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