Sharp and funny.”Publishers Weekly
“These four related fictions follow a British boy’s coming-of-age and his older self enduring a world that rarely lives up to his standards
Brings to mind variously Wodehouse, Waugh, [and] Kingsley Amis
This is a book that could restore anyone’s faith in the pleasure of reading.”Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Metcalf is a gifted satirist and very, very funny...But [he] is much more than simply a jester, poking fun at the nonsensical world around him: he is beneath all of the grumbling and gruff a sentimentalist. For these stories have, at their core, a tenderness, a sadness, that is, at times, heart-rending.”The Toronto Star
“Metcalf’s humour follows the tradition of Wodehouse, Waugh and Amis (Kingsley, not Martin)... it’s never dull to read Metcalf. He is such a gifted stylist that you can just let yourself be taken by his sentences.”The National Post
“Metcalf is one of Canada’s most heralded practitioners of the short story, and Museum assembles work...which revels enticingly in the texture of the English language. He excels at both the wondrous...and the grotesque”Maclean's
“Ottawa’s literary lion has hit a sweet spot.”The Ottawa Citizen
“If you yearn for comedy worthy of Waugh, or Powell, or Wodehouse, relish his savage wit. If you suspect that our culture has easily forgotten and carelessly dismissed things of real value, let Metcalf remind you what they are. The Museum at the End of the World is a wise book written by a master of short fiction, a celebration of the painstaking, exhilarating business of making art.”Guy Vanderhaeghe
“Metcalf is best when he pokes bitchy fun at Canadian universities and the literary scene.”Winnipeg Free Press
“Metcalf draws Forde as an observer, a noticer of life, as a passionate stylist and devoted reader of his old heroes, and a great listener and absorber of the tales and lives recounted to him by others. But Forde’s tragedy, perhaps, is that he lacks insight, in a way that Metcalf does not.”Hamilton Review of Books
A noted teacher and editor as well as a writer, Canada-based Metcalf offers his first fiction since the widely hailed Adult Entertainment was published three decades ago. It was worth the wait. The linked stories here form a cohesive whole as they render the life of Robert Forde from his early adolescent escapades with friend Jimbo through education at Bristol University (he went for a young woman and a Shakespeare scholar, both disappointments), a hilarious near-seduction, an eye-opening teaching job, a sojourn in New Orleans, and the abandonment of luscious Jenny because he fears she'll fade on him. He also embarks on a move to Canada and first publication (a review suggested that "Albertans, commonsensical and down-to-earth as they were, would only be repelled by the book's so-called sophistication"), marriage to the prickly Sheila, and a final, ill-fated tour of post-Soviet territory. Throughout, the dialog is rat-a-tat and the wit drily delicious, but beneath the surface there's a sense of vaguely unfulfilled longing. VERDICT Masterly entertainment for most readers.
★ Sept. 7, 2016
These four related fictions follow a British boy’s coming-of-age and his older self enduring a world that rarely lives up to his standards.In the opening novella, Medals and Prizes, Robert Forde first appears in 1950s England at age 14 as he shares with his best friend a love of words, art, and jazz records. After university, Forde immigrates to Canada and turns to writing. He receives an Order of Canada medal the day he visits a fellow novelist suffering from Parkinson’s whose career Forde is asked to help revive. In the short story “Ceazer Salad,” Forde walks about Ottawa and rails at misused apostrophes and other abominations after his latest book is panned. The title story shows him with a travel group venting his spleen during a guided tour of Turkish cultural attractions. Both short stories also feature Forde’s wife, Sheila, and the combative affection of their conversation, recalling Nick and Nora Charles of Hammett’s Thin Man. Metcalf (An Aesthetic Underground, 2015, etc.), a highly regarded Canadian writer born in 1938 whose life resembles Forde’s, also brings to mind variously Wodehouse, Waugh, Kingsley Amis, and Kyril Bonfiglioli. The jewel of the collection is the other novella, Lives of the Poets, in which Forde plays willing ear as the granddaughter of a 19th-century poet reminisces over the course of a long slow day and night in page after page of marvelous dialogue, the two discovering their shared tastes for precision in language, forgotten rituals, obscure artifacts, and drinking. Metcalf applies wit, humor, and fine writing to themes of friendship, culture, commitment, and integrity—and all the petty things in life that seek to quash them. This is a book that could restore anyone’s faith in the pleasure of reading.