The stories in Matt Rader’s first collection What I Want to Tell Goes Like This (Nightwood 2014) split their attention between history—specifically, the early twentieth-century history of the labour movement in British Columbia, and the violent clashes between coal miners and police forces—and a present day version of a blue-collar Vancouver Island still reverberating with those traumas and early conflicts. Rader has previously published two collections of poetry and the stories—though verging toward the hardbitten and genre grimness of detective stories and westerns (i.e. stories where Violent Men Do Violent Things)—still reflect a poet’s intense fascination with language and structural juxtaposition, which is to say that these stories evoke the violence of genre fare, but refuse the rote plot points in favor of something accretive, character-driven, and internal. What Rader seems finally to be doing—as made clear in the ultimate story, “All This Was a Long Time Ago,” in which a teacher on a late-night ferry off the coast of B.C. has a conversation with the ghost of James Joyce—is bridging the gap between past and present, between genre and poetry, as a way of building a new aesthetic for an underserved corner of Canada’s literary landscape.
Matt Rader, What I Want to Tell Goes Like This: Stories. Published by Nightwood (2014). 256 pages.