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Despite the annoying title of the first in a trilogy by Hamilton, Ont.’s Gordon j. h. Leenders, the idea of interconnecting stories set in Canadian cities intrigued me. It’s unfortunate that Leenders decided to remind his readers of that title by repeating it on an otherwise blank page separating every single short story, each usually not longer than six pages. The structure of brief conversations and interconnected scenes makes for easy reading, so easy that it’s almost like watching television. It’s enjoyable that his stories take place in familiar Canadian settings, predominantly in Hamilton and Toronto in this first volume (because, of course, Leenders promises it will be continued). Regrettably, however, he tends to locate the stories by mentioning city names, failing to bring these settings to life for someone who has not actually visited them. Similarly, he drops the names of famous and infamous Canadians like Sarah McLachlan and Evelyn Dick. He also frequently and, seemingly unnecessarily, mentions brand names like Old Navy, Starbucks, and Calvin Klein, to name a few. This name and place dropping is interesting because of the reoccurring theme of superficiality that plagues Leenders’s characters. His stories are dominated by the conversations and thoughts of his characters yet he skimps on description of them. It seems Leenders is trying to comment on the shallowness that pervades our culture by showing characters who are frustrated or corrupted by it. Unfortunately he often succumbs to merely mimicking that shallowness without providing much insight. Still, the book is entertaining and I find the idea promising. Hopefully volume two will be a more rewarding and challenging read. (Nancy Duncan)

by Gordon j. h. Leenders, $19.95, 232 pgs, ECW Press, 2120 Queen Street East, Suite 200, Toronto, ON, M4E 1E2

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