Jack Hodgins | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jack Hodgins

Jack Hodgins, novelist, short-story writer (b at Comox, BC 3 Oct 1938). Vancouver Island is both Jack Hodgins's home and his fictional landscape.
Hodgins, Jack
Much of Hodgins's fiction deals with characters reconstructed from the author's Vancouver Island childhood (courtesy Old Masters Studio Ltd, Victoria).

Jack Hodgins, novelist, short-story writer (b at Comox, BC 3 Oct 1938). Vancouver Island is both Jack Hodgins's home and his fictional landscape. He grew up in the hamlet of Merville, in the Comox Valley. Hodgins attended the University of British Columbia, where he met poet Earle Birney. He taught high school in Nanaimo for 18 years before becoming a full-time writer. Hodgins has served as writer-in-residence at a number of universities across Canada, and has lectured in many countries around the world, including Spain, Finland, Australia, and Japan. Jack Hodgins taught Creative Writing at the University of Victoria from 1984 until his retirement in 2002, and he has also published a well-known guide to writing fiction, A Passion for Narrative (1993).

Like his first collection of short stories, Spit Delaney's Island (1976), many of Jack Hodgins's works feature characters reconstructed from the author's Vancouver Island childhood. In his hands, they are eccentric but realistic individuals, deployed with stylistic suppleness in life-affirming situations. Spit Delaney's Island was nominated for a Governor General's Award and won the Eaton's BC Book Prize. Many of the characters introduced here return in his 1981 collection, The Barclay Family Theatre. Three stories from these collections, adapted for stage by Jack Hodgins, were the basis for an opera composed by Christopher Donnison, which premiered in Victoria in 2001.

Jack Hodgins's fiction, while sometimes experimental, displays a love of narrative. The Invention of the World was published in 1977 and won the Gibson's First Novel Award. Hodgins draws on the genres of magic realism and tall tales to relate the story of Donal Kenealy, a charismatic religious leader who, like the infamous Brother Twelve, forms a colony on Vancouver Island. Larger-than-life characters and surreal situations also abound in The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne, for which Hodgins won the 1979 Governor General's Award. In 1983 Jack Hodgins published Beginnings: samplings from a long apprenticeship: novels which were imagined, written, re-written, rejected, abandoned, and supplanted.

Jack Hodgins won a Commonwealth Writers Prize for his next novel, The Honorary Patron (1987). The protagonist is Professor Jeffrey Crane, who returns home to Vancouver Island, after many years away, to direct a Shakespeare Festival. Hodgins looks back to 1880s Victoria for his historical novel Innocent Cities (1990). The Macken Charm (1995) focuses on the very extended Macken family, whom readers first met in Hodgins's short fiction collections. The Macken Charm, which opens in the 1950s, is also the first of what Hodgins calls the "Portuguese Creek" novels, which are set in Waterville, a fictional community modelled on Hodgins's hometown of Merville, Vancouver Island. Broken Ground (1998) tells the story of the founding of Portuguese Creek, in the 1920s, by veterans of the First World War. Broken Ground won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and was nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize.

Jack Hodgins's 2003 novel, Distance, also takes place partly in Portuguese Creek, although its settings include Ottawa and the Australian outback. As the title suggests, Distance is a road narrative, charting the epic geographic and psychological journey of a middle-aged Ottawa businessman and his elderly Portuguese Creek father. Hodgins published his third collection of short stories, Damage Done by the Storm, in 2004.

In addition to his fiction, Jack Hodgins has written a children's book, titled Left Behind in Squabble Bay (1998), and the travel book Over Forty in Broken Hill (1992), which is about the Australian outback. Australian characters and settings feature in a number of his works, and Hodgins was awarded the Canada-Australia Prize in 1986.

Jack Hodgins received his first honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the University of British Columbia; on the occasion of its 75th anniversary, Hodgins was also recognized as one of the university's "75 most distinguished graduates." Hodgins is the subject of the NFB film Jack Hodgins' Island, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2006 Jack Hodgins received both the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence and the Terasen Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia.

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