Reviewed by Alex Binkley
Ottawa author Charles de Lint is best known for the quirky characters that inhabit the worlds he has crafted for the last few decades. However the collection of stories he’s included in The Best of Charles de Lint shows he doesn’t shy away from the tough social issues of the modern world.
Not surprisingly the collection contains many stories based on the tales of de Lint’s Neufield crowd including Jilly Coppercorne and the Crow Girls. Then there are plenty of others that show de Lint’s vivid imagination and storytelling at its best. In them, the author weaves his usual blend of characters and imaginary creatures.
But there are also brushes with the law, the challenges of living in poverty, homelessness, mental illness, betrayal and child abuse. De Lint describes the life of society’s marginalized by choice and misadventure in an unvarnished way that conveys the grinding reality of their existence.
In addition to all these stories, I enjoyed the book immensely in no small part because he included one of my favourite short stories—Mr. Truepenny’s Book Emporium and Gallery. It’s a wonderful tale about the power of dreams and imagination.
Now I have another entry on my favourite list. The Fields Beyond the Fields is a nearly 20-year-old piece that I hadn’t come across before. It’s about our other selves—the pieces we shed as we grow because we aren’t comfortable with or don’t understand them. But we need to keep trying to understand them because the other self is out there.
The following lines from the story resonated with me.
“I wasn’t always like this, but I’m good at hiding how I’ve changed, from those around me, as well as from myself.”
“But we still need enchantment in our lives. We still need mystery. Something to connect us to what lies beyond the obvious, to what perhaps, is the obvious, only seen from another, or better perspective.”
The Very Best of Charles de Lint is published by Triskell Press.