My sister was walking down a street in the fashion district of Montreal, her purse a ballast for the dirigible rapture of her daughters as they plied the doors of designer label stores, and somehow, pushed perhaps by an unseen hand, she bumped into a stranger. My sister is a freelance editor for a health magazine that delivers news, advice and advertisements to most of the hospitals in Montreal. To my knowledge she has never written a novel, but she says she will when she finds the time. Maybe when she’s older and the kids have all left home. As a mother of five teenagers, her home life is like a soundstage at Paramount Studios in the early nineteen seventies. The one where the Brady Bunch was filmed. Except the world has grown more complicated since then. And there’s no script. And even if there was a script, there would be no maid in the script. And even if there was a maid in the script, who would want it? Not my sister. She knows perfectly well how clean bedroom scripts, for instance, can undermine marriages. I only know of one article that she wrote for the magazine. It was a day-in-the-life think piece, breezy and readable. But I’m an unrepentant student of Freud and Jung with the added benefit of being her brother, so to me it read more like a confessional. Right now she’s going back to school to get her masters and I really don’t know how she found those extra hours in the day. Maybe they were forged in the fire of her will. Then again, if they’re night-time hours, they might be a fringe benefit of her recent diagnosis. In terms of familial traits, her diagnosis goes a long way in explaining why I find stimulants so utilitarian. Anyway, my vivacious sister, who I love dearly, got talking to this wise old Mennonite stranger and he said his name was Alfred Warkentin and that he had a manuscript of a novel he wrote—a novel he wanted reviewed. I’m not sure on the semantical implications, but I don’t think he meant for it to be critically reviewed as much as he meant for it to be read and then expedited with due diligence toward the printing press of the nearest major publishing house. I say this because I found a link to a story he wrote back in 1990. Dalhousie Review thought it good enough to publish. It’s a sophisticated story written by someone in full command of their craft. In fact, it’s one of the best goddamn things I’ve read. Salinger, Vonnegut, Wolfe, Vidal, Borges, none of them have anything on Warkentin. When I finished the story I smiled an insecure smile as I thought about my sister and how she told Alfred that her brother was a writer and that her brother’s novels are published and that her brother might be interested in ‘reviewing’ the manuscript, which, rather curiously, involves a trip from Russia to Kansas, and a taxi or two.
Here is a link to Alfred Warkentin’s, The Sagging Marx.