Metcalf, John

John Metcalf, short story writer, novelist, essayist, anthologist (b at Carlisle, England 12 Nov 1938; Canadian citizen 1970). Metcalf was educated at Bristol University, receiving his BA in 1960 and a Certificate in Education in 1961. In 1962 he moved to Montréal, where he taught high school and began writing. Metcalf's stories, collected in The Lady Who Sold Furniture (1970), The Teeth of My Father (1975) and Adult Entertainment (1986), include celebrations of childhood and nature and often explore human isolation and loneliness. Characters struggle to affirm their human dignity in a modern world governed by expedience and profit and hostile to personal freedom. These concerns are evident in his 2 novels. In Going Down Slow (1972), about a young British immigrant teaching in Montréal, the school system is seen as inimical to education, misdirecting the energies of students and teachers alike into mindless activities. The protagonist of General Ludd (1980), a wide-ranging satire of Canada's spiritual malaise, is a writer-in-residence who battles modern technology and the philistines who populate the university, both threats to the increasingly isolated artist.

Metcalf's polemical writings on art and culture are collected in Kicking Against the Pricks (1982) and Freedom From Culture: Selected Essays (1994); What Is a Canadian Literature? (1988) questions the relevance of the Canadian literary canon. He has also written 2 novellas, The Girl in Gingham (1978) and Private Parts (1980), and edited numerous short story anthologies and high school texts.