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His Life In Part
by Paul Stuewe

I WOULD LIKE to express my admiration for the mastery of the book?reviewer's art exhibited by George Woodcock in his notice of my The Storms Below: The Turbulent Life and Times of Hugh Garner in your November issue. One of my pet peeves is the reviewer who tells you all about a book before you've had a chance to read it, and Woodcock certainly can't be faulted on that score. The first three paragraphs of the review are almost entirely devoted to his own ideas about Garner's place in the Canadian literary firmament, which enables him to completely ignore my book's arguments for the selective appreciation of Garner's better work. This is cleverly reinforced when Woodcock subsequently takes care to inform us that his views reflect the consensus of the "critical establishment." Obviously the opinions of such a personage are much more significant than those of some nonperson such as myself, who has in Woodcock's damning phrase ?and I must confess I gasped here at my own effrontery "kept aside from the critical establishment." If I haven't disgraced myself irrevocably, perhaps someone will be kind enough to send me an application form.

I was also impressed by the manner in which Woodcock spent most of the remainder of the review reminiscing about his own brief encounters with Garner. This relieved him of the tedious burden of informing your readers that The Storms Below contains many examples of the inebriated misbehaviour to which he was a one?time witness, which would have in turn permitted them to conclude that Woodcock's contribution should be viewed as additional evidence rather than revelatory discovery. But in a review that devotes more than two?thirds of its space to an account of the reviewer's attitudes, opinions, and experiences, I suppose such an admission would have disturbed the general air of noblesse oblige that allows Woodcock to largely ignore his putative subject. Let me close by thanking George Woodcock for those sentences ?and parts of sentences in which he does allude to The Storms Below, and by saying that I can hardly wait for the next installment of his autobiography to appear in your review pages.


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