The Annex: The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood

by Jack Batten
ISBN: 1550464019

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A Review of: The Annex: The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood
by Greg Gatenby

I once toyed with the idea of editing an anthology of work by authors who had lived in a small area of Toronto known as "The Annex." After cursory research I gave up the idea because I realized more authors had lived in that tiny adjunct of the city than in any other neighbourhood in Canada and an authoritative anthology would run to several volumes. That life in the Annex has also been the subject of scores (if not hundreds) of novels and stories would have further complicated my editorial task. The wealth of that history is fetchingly well mined in Jack Batten's The Annex: The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood. While clearly a regional history, the book has international appeal in the way that histories of other literary neighbourhoods do: Bloomsbury or Montparnasse or Greenwich Village, for example. In addition to a discussion of some of the prominent literary figures, Batten relates the political, cultural and architectural history of this community with assurance and with the warmth that comes from having himself been a resident. The photos, unfortunately, are merely functional, black and white, and lack the charisma of de Visser's work. But here it is the text that matters most. A major Canadian publisher told me she once considered using "Annex Books" for a new line of classic Canadian fiction titles-such is the importance of the area to our nation's literature. Batten understands this, but also does not shy away from the unhappy, the messy, and too often prim history of the place. One hopes his balanced view inspires the publication of histories of other such neighbourhoods elsewhere in the land.

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