Mark Anthony Jarman

Mark Anthony Jarman, novelist, short story writer, travel writer (born 1955 in Edmonton, AB).
Mark Anthony Jarman, novelist, short story writer, travel writer (born 1955 in Edmonton, AB).

Mark Anthony Jarman, novelist, short story writer, travel writer (born 1955 in Edmonton, AB). Mark Anthony Jarman is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, has taught at the University of Victoria and the Banff Centre, and now teaches at the University of New Brunswick, where he is fiction editor of the literary magazine The Fiddlehead. Jarman has produced the collection of poetry Killing the Swan (1986) and the travel memoir Ireland's Eye: Travels (2002) but it is his fiction, and particularly his short fiction, that has garnered him much acclaim.

After Dancing Nightly in the Tavern (1984) and New Orleans is Sinking (1998), Jarman's third collection of short stories, 19 Knives (2000), attracted wide critical interest and brought Jarman into the Canadian literary spotlight. The bitterly humorous "Burn Man on a Texas Porch," which explores the life and thoughts of a man disfigured in a propane explosion, was short-listed for the prestigious O. Henry Award. "Eskimo Blue Day" artistically yet agonizingly captures any parent's worst nightmare of utmost helplessness while remaining free of overt emotionalism.

Jarman's 2008 collection of short fiction, My White Planet, picks up where Knives left off, once again showcasing his unique ability to take typical subjects and approach them from unexpected directions. The title story reinvents the Snow White tale when an arctic castaway washes up into the lives of seven men working a forgotten observation station where only hungry polar bears can relieve the intense boredom. "A Nation Plays Chopsticks" looks at hockey from the point of view of a beer league narrator who tries to explain his love for the game - the injuries, the violence, the long winter drives - as much to himself as to the reader.

Hockey also forms the subject matter of Jarman's lone novel, Salvage King, Ya! (1997), which follows the downward trajectory of Drinkwater, a semi-professional player struggling to come to grips with the failings of both his career and his love life. Discarding such conventions as a recognizable plot arc, a climax or a resolution, Jarman's strength exists in his ability to create interesting sentences and paragraphs that pull readers through a story which splashes and swirls as nicely as it flows. Subtitled "a herky-jerky picaresque," Jarman's use of language lives up to the billing.

Mark Anthony Jarman's fiction deftly avoids classification in terms of both style and overarching theme; it remains true only to his own paradoxically image-driven yet stripped-down prose, whether the subject is hockey, Canada's multi-faceted relationship with Margaret Atwood, or heroin addiction. His intentionally disruptive lyrical cadence and penchant for surprising turns of phrase has cemented his reputation as a master of short fiction, earning comparisons, not in style and substance but in artistic ability, to that of Alice Munro.