MAY I COMMENT on I. M. Owen's review of my Beyond the Blue Mountains, not in complaint, since it is a fair and understanding treatment of the book, but in explanation of the absence of pages 268?9, which he rightly notes and speculates on. This was, alas, due to no attempt at suppression from any direction, which might have been interesting, but to one of those tedious accidents that sometimes befall a writer ?? a printer's error. I suppose in the long run imperfect issues of books, Eke imperfect issues of postage stamps, acquire their own collector's value, but that is no consolation for reader and writer in the present, and I understand that perfect copies are on their way.
I. M. Owen suspects "another omission," in the chapter entitled "Medals and Men," but everything is there, and though he complains that there are no literal Medals in this chapter, the term was being used in alliterative metaphor to indicate the Molson Award, which I would have thought was "medal" enough.
George Woodcock Vancouver
BETWEEN THE SEXES
IT WAS WITH amusement, if not surprise, that I read Al Purdy's criticism of E.J. Pratt for having "never dealt with the relations between men and women in any meaningful way." Is the dissection of heterosexuality the only legitimate goal of any serious writer? The editors of Books in Canada seem to think so. I am a gay male reader, and can think of a number of promising Canadian gay male poets, novelists, story?writers, and playwrights whose work has gone unacknowledged by your reviewers. The silence seems deliberate.
D. French's slipshod and antigay review of Two Voices confirms my suspicions. The sentence "yet a homo?affectional tone infuses the six other stories, and the few female characters are not well served" is telling. Notice the conjunction "and." Notice the neat connection between Edmundson's "homo?affectional tone" and his alleged inability to write about women. Notice the tired (if inaccurate) connection between misogyny and men who choose to write about the dynamics, homosexual or otherwise, of same?sex relationships. "The hunger for companionshipis sneeringly referred to as the I singular value" of Edmundson's work. French then admonishes the author to "broaden his range." I assume he is warning the author to graduate from the passe world of "homo?affection" to heterosexual fiction. Relax, Bruce Edmundson, according to D. French, "homo?affection" is only a phase. Tim Lowrey Queenston, Ont. D. French replies:
LOWREY SEES rather too deliberate a stance in a review he considers "slipshod." If he will read the review as it exists on the page, he will note only the "macho retaliation" (of the offensively homophobic title story) is referred to "sneeringly." No such tone is taken with "the hunger for companionship," where I state "Edmundson is best [at exercising] human sympathy." Note: human. And nowhere is it suggested that Edmundson writes less well about women than men: my statement was that women were not well served in the author's fictive world. (I've stopped reading Updike for this reason; I think noting the stories' misogyny is valid.)
This narrow emotional spectrum homophobia and misogyny are not so distant ?? is the range I wished Edmundson would broaden.Lowrey himself makes the leap from "homo?affectional" to "gay." I don't know, or care, if Edmundson is gay (which neither determines nor defends objectionable attitudes towards women, or other men), but Lowrey includes him in a group whose "work has gone unacknowledged by your reviewers," and I certainly care about an accusation of deliberate silence. Not only did I aknowledge Two Voices, I did so in a review that ended with "promising."
D. French Ottawa
RICK SALUTIN'S essay "The Future of Our Past" (January February 1988) is a stimulating look at an intriguing subject. Salutin should always write so well.
I noticed a couple of blind?sided arguments, however.
First, a non sequitur on page 8: "1837 wanted to be history in the Shakespearean sense ... but the elements of humour and irony emerged very strongly." Of course, Shakespeare's histories are half full of his most comic characters, from Mistress Quickly to Sir John Falstaff (whose "discretion is the better part of valour" is surely ironic). So the "but" in Salutin's sentence is a puzzler. 1837 has its comic and ironic moments, but it is "more of a docudrama."
Second, on page 10, Salutin asks "What is the Canadian project? Are there any contenders? and concludes that "Canada ... lacks a believable project" without even considering the major contenders. Can there be any doubt that Canada's project is peace? Mere order is, perhaps, an unworthy national project; good government, it seems, is an impossible one. But as America's project is independence or revolution, France's liberty or equality, Canada's project is peace: that "positive peace" that Martin Luther King called "the presence of justice."
Pierre Trudeau clearly named Canada's project in 1968: the Just Society. However cynically we regard that slogan, it does answer Salutin's requirement for a national project: that it "provide a worthy standard against which to measure the degree of one's failures." Canadians measured the degree of Trudeau's failures in 1980; they will have the chance to perform the same service for Brian Mulroney in 1988.
So it seems that Salutin's problem ?? Canada's lack of a project ?? is a nonproblem. I suppose Canadians' instinct for justice is even strong enough to withstand freer trade with the United States. Stressful as it would be to endure 95 per cent free trade instead of the present 80 per cent free trade, Canadians are unlikely to abandon their peaceful ways and begin to carry handguns with them to the supermarket. They are certainly not about to change our national project (because Salutin says we have none) from justice to mere un?Americanness, as he recommends.
?? Cohn Morton Ottawa