The Woodpecker Toy Fact and Other Stories
McPhee Gribble Penguin, 143 pp, $7.95
About a year ago, when The Woodpecker Toy Fact and Other Stories was just a gleam in its author’s eye, I chanced to hear this very fancifully dressed woman read a story about childhood perception, semantic confusion, and small-town gossip. It was one of those welcome breaks at an academic conference, when we turned our attention from the analysis of art to the thing itself. And it was perhaps the context, along with the exceptional performance of the reader, which made this particular story stand out so vividly. For while it satisfied, they (by then quite desperate) desire to be enthralled by something fictive, it also played up cleverly to the critic in us all.
The reader in question was Carmel Bird and the story was the title track from her new collection. The principal characters of the narrative are ‘maggers’, country matrons in sensible shoes and chiffon scarves who gossip all day over the back fence while washing flutters on the rotary clothesline.