Sto­ries in an­thol­ogy have lo­cal con­nec­tion

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS & LIFE - By Bob Arm­strong

— does he there­fore work, or does he there­fore play?

His con­stant grip­ing about in­juries and ag­ing is a front for a child­like joy that oozes from ev­ery page of Run­ning with the Pack.

Nim­ble young Mark likes to run as fast and as far as he can. De­crepit “old” Row­lands likes to en­gage Spinoza and Descartes and even Plato.

So as he runs, he strives to use the metronome of his steps to im­pel his quest, re­ally, for the mean­ing of life.

We learn soon enough the whin­ing is a mask for the joy be­cause of the sec­ond theme that shapes the book. Not only does Row­lands love his job as philoso­pher, not only does lit­tle Mark love run­ning, but they both love an­i­mals. Dogs specif­i­cally.

Row­lands’ pro­fes­sional writ­ing con­sis­tently en­gages the ques­tions in and around the na­ture of an­i­mals and our treat­ment of them. Through­out his en­tire life, he has been ac­com­pa­nied by dogs.

The prin­ci­pal ca­nines in this part of his story are all now ex­traor­di­nar­ily dearly de­parted but they live on in sto­ries and at least one life.

The main char­ac­ter here is Brenin, a mas­sive dog whose long part­ner­ship with Row­lands was chron­i­cled in his best­selling The Philoso­pher and

(2009). Through much of Run­ning with the Pack, Brenin is teamed with younger Nina and Tess. This trio forms a daily quar­tet with Row­lands as he wan­ders so briskly.

Does Row­lands run with them be­cause he needs them to be ex­hausted? Does he run with them to clear his mind? Does he run to en­joy their hu­man­like com­pan­ion­ship?

As all run­ners do, Row­lands ends where he started: with the frame-story of his 2011 marathon at­tempt. This.mighty en­deav­our was mas­sively hin­dered by yet an­other re­cent in­jury and, for this cranky prof, too lit­tle proper home­work/ train­ing done.

As he stretches, runs, walks, limps, thinks and runs again, he must de­cide whether to stop at the temptress, the half-marathon, or go for the gold.

En route, he has a fi­nal philo­soph­i­cal epiphany (this time with Sartre) and pre­sum­ably now can die in peace.

This, though, is not be­cause he fin­ished the marathon. That’s not the point. The point is Row­lands had al­ready named his first child “Brenin.” THREE sto­ries with Win­nipeg con­nec­tions will be pub­lished by McClel­land & Ste­wart in this year’s Jour­ney Prize an­thol­ogy, col­lect­ing the best short sto­ries pub­lished in Canada in 2012.

Win­nipeg book­seller and writer Steven Ben­stead was se­lected for his story Me­gan’s Bus, orig­i­nally pub­lished in Saskatchewan’s Grain mag­a­zine. Ben­stead, who has pub­lished sto­ries in sev­eral other lit­er­ary jour­nals, has re­cently fin­ished writ­ing a novel, en­ti­tled Sol­dier, Sol­dier.

Two sto­ries orig­i­nally pub­lished in Win­nipeg’s Prairie Fire mag­a­zine also made the Jour­ney Prize an­thol­ogy: The Egyp­tians, by Toronto’s Jay Brown; and Team Ninja, by Thun­der Bay’s Amy Jones.

Is the book re­view dy­ing or get­ting a new life? If you’re in Carl Sand­burg’s City of the Big Shoul­ders, it de­pends on which news­pa­per you look at.

The U.S. trade jour­nal Pub­lish­ers’ Weekly re­ports that the Chicago Sun-Times is shut­ting down its books sec­tion, which had al­ready dwin­dled to the point where it was mostly wire­ser­vice re­views.

The Sun-Times — a once-proud news­pa­per that was home to na­tion­ally known writ­ers like Mike Royko and Roger Ebert — has ob­vi­ously fallen on hard times, hav­ing also laid off its pho­tog­ra­phers.

The “new life” side of the story comes from the Chicago Tri­bune, which last year launched a stand­alone 24-page weekly tabloid called Print­ers Row Jour­nal, con­tain­ing re­views, in­ter­views, book news and short fic­tion.

Ev­ery­one knows that the Wolver­ine is a Cana­dian. And doesn’t Su­per­man have a se­cret base in the Far North?

Maybe that ex­plains the depth of comic book fan fer­vour in Canada.

A re­cent Pub­lish­ers Weekly blog post­ing sur­veys at­ten­dance at North Amer­i­can comic book ex­pos and ranks Toronto’s Fan Expo Canada, with at­ten­dance of 91,000, as the third-big­gest comic and science-fic­tion gath­er­ing in North Amer­ica.

Calgary’s Comic and En­ter­tain­ment Expo, with more than 60,000 at­ten­dees, is the sixth largest.

Re­viewed by Lau­rence Broad­hurst

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