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Book Reviews in August 2004 Issue

Doctor Bloom's Story
by Don Coles

Knopf Canada $34.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0676976026
Book Review
A Review of: Doctor Bloom∆s Story
by Michael Greenstein
Dublin, June 16, 1904-James Joyce's "Bloomsday." Exactly one hundred years later Don Coles's Nicolaas Bloom comes into being: a cardiologist by day and writer after hours, Dr. Bloom looks out from his attic windows in Amsterdam, Cambridge, and Toronto into hearts of darkness and the lightness of being. Surveying with and through Bloom are a host of other writers: Joyce, Henry James, George Steiner, Iris Murdoch, Chekhov, Heinrich Bll, Pushkin, Isaiah Berlin, Simone Weil, Dante, Camus, Rilke, Mandelstam, Strindberg, and others who internationalize the creative writing class Bloom attends in this ...
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Muriella Pent
by Russell Smith

Doubleday Canada $29.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0385259786
Book Review
A Review of: Muriella Pent
by Michael Carbert
For all the comic and satirical wit to be found in the work, Russell Smith's fiction remains among the bleakest in Canadian literature. Largely misunderstood as a celebrant of all things cool and trendy, Smith in fact celebrates little of anything in his novels, a fact largely concealed by how funny they are. While not lacking a moral core-all satire is inherently judgmental-the work holds out little in the way of redemption. The best Smith's characters can hope for are the fleeting pleasures to be found in such things as vintage wine (alcohol is an important element in all of Smith's books), the touch ...
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Birds of the Yukon Territory
UBC Press $125 Hardcover
ISBN: 0774810122
Book Review
A Review of: Birds of the Yukon Territory
by Allan Safarik
Birds of the Yukon Territory is a handsome, well thought-out edition that is endowed with brilliant photography and excellent maps, charts and illustrations. The side bars that appear on different pages outlining traditional aboriginal attitudes and customs about birds, are a delightful touch. Features, such as "The History of Bird Study in the Yukon", "Birds in Aboriginal Culture and History", "Yukon Birds through the Seasons" all combine to give a real cultural flavour of history to this study. Birds of the Yukon is a monumental work that is beautiful enough to function as a coffee table book; its text will be ...
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Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds
by Christopher Perrins

Firefly Books $75 Hardcover
ISBN: 1552977773
Book Review
A Review of: Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds
by Allan Safarik
If you are saving your money to buy the ultimate coffee table encyclopedia of birds in the world then this book is waiting for you. The Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds is definitely the one on which to blow your hard earned cash. This is a book for long winter nights and an armchair across from the flickering flames. This is the Rolls Royce of bird books, the Glenfiddich of distilled bird cultures the most lavishly illustrated bird book in the history of the genre. This is a book of such brilliant photography that at times it almost hurts the eyes. Check out the hummingbirds on page 354-5 or on 358. This is ...
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Klee Wyck
by Emily Carr

Douglas & McIntyre $14.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1553650255
Book Review
A Review of: Klee Wyck
by Linda Morra
A friend recently quipped that the only reason for Emily Carr's continued success as an artist in Canada is because we have nothing else of genuine quality to offer. As an avid fan and literary scholar who specializes in her work, I expressed my astonishment and countered that the recent acquisition of one of her paintings, "Quiet", by a private collector for over a million dollars at an auction must surely serve as evidence of her worth-or, at minimum, her growing popularity. If that sale did not affirm either her status or popularity as an artist, the publication of four books between 2003 and 2004 that ...
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Opposite Contraries: The Unknown Journals of Emily Carr and Other Writings
by Emily Carr

Douglas & McIntyre $35 Hardcover
ISBN: 1550548964
Book Review
A Review of: Opposite Contraries: The Unknown Journals of Emily Carr and Other Writings
by Linda Morra
A friend recently quipped that the only reason for Emily Carr's continued success as an artist in Canada is because we have nothing else of genuine quality to offer. As an avid fan and literary scholar who specializes in her work, I expressed my astonishment and countered that the recent acquisition of one of her paintings, "Quiet", by a private collector for over a million dollars at an auction must surely serve as evidence of her worth-or, at minimum, her growing popularity. If that sale did not affirm either her status or popularity as an artist, the publication of four books between 2003 and 2004 that ...
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The Forest Lover
by Susan Vreeland

Penguin $36 Hardcover
ISBN: 0670044814
Book Review
A Review of: The Forest Lover
by Linda Morra
Vreeland's depiction of Carr in The Forest Lover is rendered with great complexity. Author of The Passion of Artemesia Cass (2002) about the life of artist Artemesia Gentileschi, she is once again entering into the task of collecting the elements of an artist's life and nature and weaving them together for the purposes of what she calls "speculative fiction." In The Forest Lover, she closely adheres to the factual record available on Carr, yet suspends her entire literary creation on imaginative "hooks" that are sensitive, imaginative, wise and emotionally truthful. Carr is depicted as multi-faceted: at turns, ...
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Be Quiet
by Margaret Hollingsworth

Coteau Books $21 Paperback
ISBN: 0973083174
Book Review
A Review of: Be Quiet
by Linda Morra
Hollingsworth, an originally English-born author whose publication credits include In Confidence (1994) and Smiling Under Water (1989), turns her attention to the period of Carr's artistic life in France in her new novel, Be Quiet. The novel moves back and forth in time, from Carr's generation-including her possible encounter with Frances Hodgkins, the New Zealand artist, when they apparently both painted in Brittany in 1911-to that of the fictional character, Catherine Van Duren. Van Duren is a contemporary artist who is considered to be a "loose cannon" in the academic world and who is retiring from teaching ...
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A Day's Grace: Poems 1997-2002
by Robyn Sarah

Porcupine's Quill $12.95 Paperback
ISBN: 0889842337
Book Review
A Review of: A Day∆s Grace
by Richard Carter
Anyone who reads regularly, as I do, the blurbs printed on the back of Canadian poetry books will be familiar with the phrase (or, should I say, praise?) "attention to detail." If you've taken poetry writing workshops or studied 20th Century English literature you probably know-and know instinctively-that for writers this accolade is a sought-after bestowal of initiation, as well as a necessary ready-made addition to the reviewer's toolkit. Still, it is worth considering why "attention to detail" matters. When Ezra Pound in the dawning years of the 20th Century instructed poets to "go in fear of abstractions" he ...
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Reconciliation
by Adam Getty

Nightwood Editions $18.81 Paperback
ISBN: 0889711879
Book Review
A Review of: Reconciliation
by Susan Briscoe
With his first full collection, Hamilton poet Adam Getty takes up his pen "to search for hope among Canadian peasants, / see blood pour down / running in torrents / by the side of the curb, staining snow." Reconciliation demonstrates that the People's Poetry tradition, despite such serious blood loss, lives on. In his most populist poems, the diction is that of the working man, unpretentious but also, alas, uninteresting: You can't do this the way they want, at the proper speed, so trim ...
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Book Review
A Review of: The Beaten-Down Elegies
by Susan Briscoe
In the small but complete range of poems (only twelve) presented in The Beaten-Down Elegies, Maritime poet Shane Neilson focuses on a single subject, a boy's relationship with his abusive, alcoholic father. This is heavy material, and Neilson does well to allow it its full weight in physical detail. He does not cringe at "the fist to flesh, bone-crack, jaw-snap" of a beating, and so we see "teeth eject like seeds from pumpkins" and hear the "slurred breath heavy now." This could all be too much, but Neilson explores the full complexity of this relationship, including its unique intimacy, with an honesty ...
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An ABC of Belly Work
by Peter Richardson

V+¨hicule Press $14 Paperback
ISBN: 1550651811
Book Review
A Review of: An ABC of Belly Work
by Jennifer Varkonyi
Peter Richardson's second book An ABC of Belly Work possesses the ability to fulfill Tom Wayman's fondest wish: to see the subject of daily work come into its own as a worthy theme in writing; a high-realist, dirt-under-the-nails contender to challenge the reigning big three themes of death, love and nature. This is not to say that this poets bears the mark of Wayman's agenda-driven influence. Rather, he does something much more interesting: the best poems in this book succeed in such a way as to both prove and disprove Wayman's contentions regarding art and culture in society. Perhaps that's too ...
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Flux
by Joe Denham

Nightwood Editions $16.3 Paperback
ISBN: 0889711941
Book Review
A Review of: Flux
by Jennifer Varkonyi
Peter Richardson's second book An ABC of Belly Work possesses the ability to fulfill Tom Wayman's fondest wish: to see the subject of daily work come into its own as a worthy theme in writing; a high-realist, dirt-under-the-nails contender to challenge the reigning big three themes of death, love and nature. This is not to say that this poets bears the mark of Wayman's agenda-driven influence. Rather, he does something much more interesting: the best poems in this book succeed in such a way as to both prove and disprove Wayman's contentions regarding art and culture in society. Perhaps that's too ...
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D:Day: Juno Beach, Canada's 24 Hours of Destiny
by Lance Goddard

Dundurn Press $29.99 Paperback
ISBN: 1550024922
Book Review
A Review of: D-Day: Juno Beach: Canada∆s 24 Hours Of Destiny
by Greg Gatenby
This is not so much a book as a bound TV script, meant to be, as the author says, "a companion piece to the documentary," of the same name aired on the Prime network on June 6, 2004. The documentary was comprised of interviews with thirty-three veterans of the various army and air force troops who participated in D-Day (for reasons never explained the Royal Canadian Navy barely gets a mention). The book offers transcripts of their recollections. In some cases, material left on the cutting-room floor can be found in this book, but too often the jump-cuts, which may work on screen, read, in transcript, as ...
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D-Day: The Greatest Invasion: A People's History
by Dan Van Der Vat

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC $50.33 Hardcover
ISBN: 1582343144
Book Review
A Review of: D-Day: The Greatest Invasion: A People∆s History
by Greg Gatenby
Dan van der Dat has written extensively about ships and men at sea. His D-Day: The Greatest Invasion: A People's History is a well-illustrated history, not only of the invasion day, but of the month immediately following it, when the Normandy bridgehead was consolidated. His is also the only book reviewed here which covers all of the Allied landings. Many historians have published volumes claiming to cover the D-Day landings but in almost every case the American historians scarcely allude to the Canadian contribution, writing as though they alone won the war. British historians too often ...
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Juno Beach
by Mark Zuehlke

Douglas & McIntyre $35 Hardcover
ISBN: 1553650506
Book Review
A Review of: Juno Beach: Canada∆s D-Day Victory: June 6, 1944
by Greg Gatenby
For those who want much more detail about the singular Canadian contribution to the fighting, the book you must have is Mark Zuehike's Juno Beach: Canada's D-Day Victory: June 6, 1944. This author has already written well about the under-heralded bravery of the Canadians who fought half-a-year earlier in Italy, and his empathy for the Canadians at Normandy as well as his plumbing of the D-Day archives is quite impressive. For the casual reader there is probably too much detail, but for those who want to follow the step-by-step tribulations and successes of each of the units that landed at Juno Beach, this ...
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Juno: Canadians at D-Day, June 6, 1944
by Ted Barris

Thomas Allen $34.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0887621333
Book Review
A Review of: Juno: Canadians At D-Day, June 6, 1944
by Greg Gatenby
>From a literary point of view, Juno: Canadians At D-Day, June 6, 1944 by Ted Barris is a fine book. Barris seems to have interviewed hundreds of Canadian veterans from all branches of the service and has brilliantly melded their memories into a narrative rich in anecdote and rife with emotion. Because he is such a good writer, Barris knows when and how to tell a story for maximum effect. Even when dealing with incidents also described in the other books, Barris trumps the other accounts because he knows how to make the reader cringe at the nearness of an exploding shell, duck as bullets buzz by the helmet, ...
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Stasiland: True Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
by Anna Funder

Granta Books USA $23.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1862075808
Book Review
A Review of: Stasiland
by Greg Gatenby
Journalist Anna Funder has written a brilliant book about the secret police of East Germany. Rather than give a chronological history of the Stasi, Funder, who lived in Berlin in the mid-1990s, found victims-and here recounts the tales told to her-of the Stasi as well as some of its former officers. The accounts by the victims make chilling reading yet they are rivaled in their horror by the oily self-justifications of the torturers. As an outsider, Funder is an astute observer of Berlin life; indeed, it was because she was Australian and writing in English that most of the agents agreed to ...
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The Road to There: Mapmakers and Their Stories
by Val Ross

Tundra Books $29.99 Hardcover
ISBN: 0887766218
Book Review
A Review of: The Road to There: Mapmakers and Their Stories
by Olga Stein
In The Road to There Val Ross charts the history of cartography, and thereby also the course of world history. What's in a map? The ones reproduced in this book are some of the earliest to tackle the daunting task of visually representing vast distances spanning countries and seas? The maps show the obvious: newly-charted territories, portions of coasts belonging to countries, islands, and sometimes parts of just-discovered continents, and various topographical features. Maps drawn after the early 1500s could also incorporated lines of longitude (Gemma Frisius solved the problem of ...
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The Book of Dreams (Chronicles of Faerie, Book 4)
by O.R. Melling

Penguin $22 Paperback
ISBN: 0141004347
Book Review
A Review of: The Book of Dreams: The Chronicles of Faerie
by M. Wayne Cunningham
Irish-born Canadian, Geraldine Valerie Whelan, or O.R. Melling, as we know her in North America (the pseudonym Orla Melling was the birth name of her best friend) has authored the trilogy, Chronicles of Faerie (The Hunter's Moon, The Summer King and The Light-Bearer's Daughter) and now The Book of Dreams. "We are all part of the Great Tale," a revered character says in The Book of Dreams and adds, "We are all family." Melling illustrates the wisdom of his words in her magnificent romp through history, geography, lore, language, legend and literature-bridging reality and ...
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Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale
by Holly Black

Simon & Schuster Canada $10.5 Paperback
ISBN: 0689867042
Book Review
A Review of: Tithe
by Ian Daffern
Tithe, is a brilliant, sometimes scary young-adult novel, which lets loose faeries on America's suburbs. The story is Anne Rice meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, bringing together the lush gothic-romance of the former with the feisty female protagonists of the latter. However Black's vision is a lot dirtier than Rice's-call it fantasy-grunge as it's set in the mid-nineties era of ripped stockings and bad-hair dyes. Sixteen-year-old Kaye, band-brat daughter to a perennial Courtney Love-esque rocker-mom, has been used to a life of freedom on the road. However, after her Mom is suddenly attacked by one of her ...
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New British Poetry
by Don (Ed.) Paterson

House of Anansi Press $24.95 Paperback
ISBN: 0887847013
Book Review
A Review of: New British Poetry
by Todd Swift
A poetry anthology is like a bed: the most interesting thing about it is who is, and isn't, in it. And, when you've made one, you have to lie in it. New British Poetry is of course, just such a phenomenon. But it is more. The nature of the rather outrageous statements contained in its too-many-cooks souffl of foreword, preface and introduction, presents a suave glove to the rude cheek of the "North American"-offering a duel as if it were an opportunity, and not a challenge. It is, in othewords, a cheeky, controversial collection, and a disservice will be done to all concerned (editors and ...
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The Calligraphy Shop
by Ben Downing

Zoo Press $18.81 Paperback
ISBN: 1932023097
Book Review
A Review of: The Calligraphy Shop
by Chris Jennings
The Calligraphy Shop's most consistent subject is writing, and two of the first four poems employ translation as a metaphor for intimate communication. In the opening sonnet, "No Rosetta Stone", lovers share an "inside idiom", a "middle lex / of gist and balderdash" that "bridge[s] the dialects / between [them]." The logic here is slippery though. Whether the speaker's "hermetic alphabet" and the "cryptic glyphs" of the "dear / Egyptian scribe" describe a real linguistic or cultural barrier or not, the poem seems to argue against its title. The "inside idiom" becomes their Rosetta Stone by bridging between ...
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Calling Home
by Richard Sanger

Vehicule $14 Paperback
ISBN: 1550651684
Book Review
A Review of: Calling Home
by Chris Jennings
Unlike some poets' work, Richard Sanger's poems push displays of pure skill down the list of priorities. Sanger, playwright and poet, builds poems around incident and action, even when that action is the passage of time and the incident a shifting memory. Formal decisions structure dramatic exposition. Some of Sanger's poems offer a desired kind of closure. "Blaze", for example, plays with the clich of an old flame rekindled, and the final line's "Smouldering again" seems predictable from the attentive gaze of the opening lines: "A glance you gave, a spark / Tossed deftly off ...
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Death in the Age of Steam
by Mel Bradshaw

Rendezvous Press $22.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1894917006
Book Review
A Review of: Death in the Age of Steam
by W. P. Kinsella
Death in the Age of Steam by Mel Bradshaw is set in Toronto in 1856 and is a meticulously researched portrait of the times. Bank manager Isaac Harris is too slow in courting the lovely and engaging Theresa Sheridan. She takes his shyness for disinterest and marries a wealthy tycoon, Henry Crane. Three years pass. William Sheridan, Theresa's father, a high-ranking politician, dies unexpectedly after a minor illness, and before his funeral, devoted daughter Theresa vanishes. Her husband does not seem distressed about her disappearance, but Harris knows she would never miss the funeral, and her grief would not ...
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The Second Life of Samuel Tyne
by Esi Edugyan

Knopf Canada $34.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0676976301
Book Review
A Review of: The Second Life of Samuel Tyne
by W. P. Kinsella
The Second Life of Samuel Tyne by Esi Edugyan, starts out like an award winner but mid-way through the book, bogs down and goes off in all directions, none of them satisfying. Samuel Tyne, a 40-year-old, Oxford-educated immigrant from Africa's Gold Coast, has settled into a stultifying civil service job in Calgary where he is humiliated by his superiors. He's also in a loveless, or at least sexless marriage with his wife Maud. The Tynes have twin 12-year-old daughters who are terrifyingly brilliant, contemptuous of their parents and society; they communicate in a ...
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Up in Ontario
by James Sherrett

Turnstone $18.95 Paperback
ISBN: 0888012861
Book Review
A Review of: Up in Ontario
by W. P. Kinsella
I would surmise that this was a collection of related stories, that with a few bridges became a sort of novel. I also surmise that the work is heavily autobiographical, for surely no one could create from their imagination such utterly boring material. A major problem is that everyone is sickeningly nice. The most dramatic thing that happens is that a very young boy gets a fishhook caught in his knee which his father has to cut free. There is also a scene where a couple of characters rescue a stranger who has fallen through the ice in a river. Gil Dubois grows up in the ...
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Decomposing Maggie
by Ann Eriksson

Turnstone $18.95 Paperback
ISBN: 0888012837
Book Review
A Review of: Decomposing Maggie
by W. P. Kinsella
Busy with other projects, I let three weeks go by between reading this book and beginning the review. I found I couldn't recall a single thing about it. This did not bode well. I reread the jacket copy. Oh, yes, a woman denies her dying husband's last wish (one that could well have gotten her charged as a criminal for helping him die) then withdraws from life for several years while selfishly obsessing about building the perfect basket to hold his ashes. She seriously neglects her teenaged daughter, abandons her friends and family. Eventually she heads back to the cabin she shared with her husband on one of the Gulf ...
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The Holding
by Merilyn Simonds

McClelland & Stewart $32.99 Hardcover
ISBN: 0771080654
Book Review
A Review of: The Holding
by Cynthia Sugars
What is it about Canadian women and gardens? There certainly does seem to be a Canadian tradition of women cultivating their gardens in the colonial backwoods and sowing an inheritance for future generations. Worthy precursors in this tradition include: Catharine Parr Traill's naturalist observations and drawings in her settlement narrative, The Backwoods of Canada (1836); Anna Jameson's Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada (1838); and, more than a century later, Margaret Atwood's famous account of Susanna Moodie's "bush garden" in her poem sequence The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970). More recently there ...
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The Streets of Winter
by Stephen Henighan

Thistledown Press $19.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1894345762
Book Review
A Review of: The Streets of Winter
by Nancy Wigston
In The Streets of Winter, Stephen Henigan shows us a Montreal quite different from the one we like to fantasize about. Rather than showcasing the usual images of Canada's most romantic, lively, and inclusive metropolis, this episodic tale evokes something closer to Yeats's reflective, unsentimental lines about Ireland-"Romantic Ireland's dead and gone/It's with O'Leary in the grave." Henighan takes us deep inside his multi-layered city (the year is 1988), where it's a dated clich-and politically incorrect at that-to call Montreal women the most beautiful in the world. During one of multiple ...
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Book Review
A Review of: Siegfried
by Jeff Bursey
Harry Mulisch's novels have two notable features. First, their consistent interest in questions or issues which many people consider at some point, while classifying them as difficult, if not impossible, to resolve: where and when do the repercussions of war end and do they end at all; is there life beyond the material plane; do we have free will; does science or religion offer the best guide to conduct and provide the most productive avenue of inquiry into life's mysteries. Second, there is in Mulisch's work a residing intelligence, that may initially appear too high-brow and serious, but is ultimately revealed ...
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Lost World: Rewriting Prehistory-How New Science Is Tracing America's Ice Age Mariners
by Tom Koppel

Simon and Schuster $41 Hardcover
ISBN: 0743453573
Book Review
A Review of: Lost World: Rewriting Prehistory - How New Science is Tracing America∆s Ice Age Mariners
by Brian Charles Clark
The standard model of how people first came to the America's is being busted to pieces by recent (in the last 15 years or so) archaeological research. The standard model claims that early humans trekked across the Bering Straight "ice bridge" (which turns out to have been a mini-continent, a tract of land almost a thousand miles wide), down through the Mackenzie Corridor, and into central North America. The problems with this model were evident from its inception in 1932. The most glaring problem is that the so-called Mackenzie Corridor was never ice free for long enough to permit early humans to make the ...
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Elizabeth Costello
by J.M. Coetzee

Secker & Warburg $35.36 Hardcover
ISBN: 0436206161
Book Review
A Review of: Elizabeth Costello
by Andy Lamey
In 1997 the South African writer J. M. Coetzee, the Booker Prize-winning author of Disgrace and other acclaimed novels, was invited to Princeton University to deliver the Tanner Lectures on Human Values. The Tanner Lectures normally follow a standard format, with the invited writer or academic discussing something within his or her area of expertise: two years before Coetzee's arrival, Harold Bloom had discussed Shakespeare. But when Coetzee showed up, the speech he gave was anything but standard. For starters, Coetzee didn't actually deliver lectures; he read two works of fiction instead. What ...
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If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?: Finding Common Ground
by J. Edward Chamberlin

Knopf Canada $36.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0676974910
Book Review
A Review of: If This is Your Land Where are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground
by Clara Thomas
Edward Chamberlin's book abundantly answers the question of its title. It was written as the summation of years of study of the stories of many people from the Gitksan, the aborigines of Northwest British Columbia, to the aborigines of Australia, and from the cowboys of the western plains of North America, to his own father and grandfather. The title's question was asked by an elder of the Gitskan tribe to counter a government claim on the land. Its answer is a testament to the author's abiding faith in the power of the imagination: "Can one land ever really be home to more than one people? To native and ...
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Mordecai & Me: An Appreciation of a Kind
by Joel Yanofsky

Red Deer Press $34.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0889952663
Book Review
A Review of: Mordecai & Me: An Appreciation of a Kind
by Michael Darling
Like Joel Yanofsky, I grew up idolizing Mordecai Richler. Well, maybe not idolizing exactly, but admiring his work. His wit. His bloody-mindedness. Some thirty years after my first encounter with Duddy Kravitz, my house overflows with Richler. I probably have more foreign-language editions of Richler's books than I have books by any other author. (Richler claimed to loathe the Germans: what would he have thought of Ein Geschenk fr Jakob Zweizwei?) At one time, I thought of writing a book something like Mordecai & Me, a book that tells us at least as much about its author as about its ...
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The Last Thief
by Lee Lamothe

ECW Press $18.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1550225995
Book Review
A Review of: The Last Thief
by Steven W. Beattie
The Last Thief, Lee Lamothe's novel about the Russian underworld, is many things: violent, misogynistic, repellent, and amoral. It's also fascinating, in the way that watching paramedics pry dead bodies out of the charred and twisted wreckage of an automobile accident is fascinating. The observer stands frozen at the curbside, or watches from the window of a passing car, stricken, at once appalled and unable to turn away, as the gruesome scene unfolds. In the same vein, the experience of reading Lamothe's novel is simultaneously compelling and profoundly disturbing. ...
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A Complicated Kindness
by Miriam Toews

Knopf Canada $29.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0676976123
Book Review
A Review of: A Complicated Kindness
by Lisa Salem-Wiseman
It is a truism of the teenage years that, no matter how hip and easygoing one's parents may seem to others, one will nonetheless inevitably pass through a period of acute embarrassment at every word that leaves their lips, a phase during which the mere sight of them inspires fantasies of fleeing to faraway places to reinvent oneself, free from the taint of association with such hopeless cretins. If adolescence is tough for most, it is infinitely more so for Nomi Nickel, the narrator of A Complicated Kindness, the third novel by Winnipeg writer Miriam Toews. Poor Nomi is saddled with not only the ...
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Book Review
A Review of: Mary of Canada: The Virgin Mary in Canadian Culture, Spirituality, History, and Geography
by Patricia Robertson
Joan Skogan's idiosyncratic journey towards Mary begins, appropriately enough, at sea. Appropriate because that's where Skogan first encountered her, in the shape of colour magazine clippings of sixteenth-century Orthodox icons, on board the Russian and Polish fishing ships where Skogan worked as a Canadian fisheries observer. It's entirely typical of the author's erudite yet whimsical approach that she observes that "Mary and the Playmates pinned to the bulkhead were usually the only other women on board." Appropriate, too, because Mary after all arrived in Canada by sea, most likely with the newly ...
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The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light
by Tom Harpur

Thomas Allen $34.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0887621457
Book Review
A Review of: The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light
by Gwen Nowak
Christians today are caught on the cusp of a conundrum of mythic proportions. In fact, the issue at hand is the nature of myth itself. The area under intense scrutiny is that undefined interface between history and myth. Christian fundamentalists argue that the Bible should be read as history-as literal history. Other interpreters, most recently Tom Harpur, argue that the Bible must be read metaphorically, as myth. Many others have argued that the Bible needs to be read both ways, including historian D. H. Akenson [Surpassing Wonder, 1998] and theologian Marcus Borg [The Heart of Christianity, 2003]. ...
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Mary: A Flesh-And-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother
by Lesley Hazleton

Bloomsbury USA $34.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 1582342369
Book Review
A Review of: Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother
by Gwen Nowak
Christians today are caught on the cusp of a conundrum of mythic proportions. In fact, the issue at hand is the nature of myth itself. The area under intense scrutiny is that undefined interface between history and myth. Christian fundamentalists argue that the Bible should be read as history-as literal history. Other interpreters, most recently Tom Harpur, argue that the Bible must be read metaphorically, as myth. Many others have argued that the Bible needs to be read both ways, including historian D. H. Akenson [Surpassing Wonder, 1998] and theologian Marcus Borg [The Heart of Christianity, 2003]. ...
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Uncommon Readers
by Christopher Knight

University Of Toronto Press $53 Hardcover
ISBN: 0802087981
Book Review
A Review of: Uncommon Readers: Denis Donoghue, Frank Kermode, George Steiner and the Tradition of the Common Reader
by Eric Miller
Christopher J. Knight's Uncommon Readers celebrates three strong intellects that have expressed themselves extensively in the format of the review-Denis Donoghue, Frank Kermode and George Steiner. The celebration is also an intermittent critique, on the understanding that opposition is sometimes true friendship. For Knight, each of these critics has, at the heart of his generous attention, a characterizing emphasis-Donoghue on the imagination, Kermode on canonicity, Steiner on elegy. To compose a long book (Knight's work runs to 506 pages) about the ...
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The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia
by Annette M. D'Agostino Lloyd

McFarland & Company $81.79 Hardcover
ISBN: 0786415142
Book Review
A Review of: The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia
by Jim Roots
The fact that Harold Lloyd's name is today almost totally unknown to anyone under the age of 80, other than silent comedy fanatics, is nobody's fault so much as Harold's. Throughout the 1920s, Lloyd (1893-1971) was universally acknowledged as one of "The Three Geniuses of Silent Comedy," and for most of those years his films out-grossed those of the other two geniuses, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Even today the image (from Safety Last, 1923) of Harold clinging desperately from a tower clock high above the streets remains an instantly recognizable icon for the entirety of ...
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Cocteau
Centre Pompidou $75.5 Paperback
ISBN: 190347017X
Book Review
A Review of: Cocteau
by George Fetherling
Jean Cocteau, whose work seemed to touch and sometimes helped shape most of the art forms of his time, was the subject of a truly massive exhibition mounted by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 2003. In May this year, it moved to the Muse des Beaux Arts in Montreal, where it will run through the summer. I dearly wish I could get there to see it. But I've done the next best thing and spent a good deal of time with the catalogue entitled simply Cocteau or at least the English translation of it by Trista Selous. In the version of the North American curatorial tradition that's in ...
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Against Love: a Polemic
by Laura Kipnis

Pantheon $36 Hardcover
ISBN: 0375421890
Book Review
A Review of: Against Love: a polemic
by Ron Stang
"To begin with, who would dream of being against love?" Laura Kipnis asks at the start of her 200-plus-page polemic Against Love. "No one," she answers. "Love is, as everyone knows, a mysterious and all-controlling force, with vast power over our thoughts and life decisions." But "love is boss, and a demanding one too: it demands our loyalty. We, in turn, freely comply-or as freely as the average subject in thrall to an all-powerful master, as freely as indentured servants." Kipnis, a professor of media studies at Northwestern University and ...
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The Secret Life of Laszlo Almasy: The Real English Patient: The Real English Patient
by John Bierman

Viking $39 Hardcover
ISBN: 0670914177
Book Review
A Review of: The Secret Life of Laszlo Almasy: The Real English Patient
by Christopher Ondaatje
One of the most uncomfortable articles about my brother's book The English Patient appeared in 1997 in Queen's Quarterly, published in Canada. The article was entitled "Philosophy, Morality and The English Patient" and was written by the philosopher Thomas Hurka. John Bierman, the author of a new book The Secret Life of Laszlo Almasy: The Real English Patient, paraphrases Hurka as arguing that the film made of the book portrayed the fictional Almasy as a man who put his personal desires above his higher obligation to combat the evil of Nazism and made a philosophically indefensible choice in striking a ...
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Juno: Canadians at D-Day, June 6, 1944
by Ted Barris

Thomas Allen $34.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0887621333
Book Review
A Review of: Juno: Canadians At D-Day June 6, 1944
by Nathan Greenfield
Juno: Canadians at D-Day, June 6, 1944, is obviously occasioned by this year's sixtieth anniversary of that famous day. Ted Barris's popular history avoids the genre's most common fault: the rounding off of numbers so that general readers will not be bored by minutia.' Canadian paratrooper Jan de Vries landed at 12:08 A.M., hours before the bombardment began at 6:50; 30 of his unit landed on target, 110 didn't. Why is it important to know these facts and, additionally, that the Allies put ashore 9,989 vehicles (not ten thousand)? Part of the answer concerns Barris's own credibility; details equal trust. ...
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Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers: Canada's Second World War
by Jeffrey A. Keshen, Jeff Keshen

University of British Columbia Press $56.62 Hardcover
ISBN: 077480923X
Book Review
A Review of: Saints, Sinners and Soldiers: Canada∆s Second World War
by Nathan Greenfield
Though published by a university press, Jeffrey A. Keshen's Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers: Canada's Second World War is easily accessible to a general reader. This history of Canada's "home front" is an amalgam of insight and post-modern drivel. On the positive side, Keshen punches a rather large hole in the received wisdom that one third of the men joined up to escape the Depression. Most of the volunteers who flocked to recruitment centres in Toronto had both a job and families. In 1943, fully 91% of soldiers said they were fighting for "democracy." Commitment to building a better world was so ...
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Canadians Behind Enemy Lines, 1939-1945
by Roy MacLaren

Ubc Press $25.95 Paperback
ISBN: 0774811005
Book Review
A Review of: Canadians Behind Enemy Lines: 1939-1945
by Nathan Greenfield
The decision of UBC Press to republish Roy McLaren's 1981 book, Canadians Behind Enemy Lines, 1939-1945, was a good one. The 25 Canadians who served with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Europe represented less than two per cent of both organizations' total, but their contributions were important. The war's most unlikely paratrooper, Major William Jones, a one-eyed WWI veteran who finagled his way first into the RAF and then in 1942 into the operation to make contact with Tito's partisans, was the "most popular Allied officer in Yugoslavia." French-born Gustav Bieler, who had come to Canada to ...
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A Birder's Guide to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland
by Vancouver Natural History Society

Whitecap Books $18.95 Spiral-bound
ISBN: 1552852075
Book Review
A Review of: The Birder∆s Guide to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland
by Allan Safarik
The Birder's Guide To Vancouver And The Lower Mainland, is a practical guide to the birds of this region. Well designed and beautifully produced, this guide book covers the over 400 species of birds that can be found in the Vancouver area, one of the most remarkable bird locations on the continent. The Fraser River estuary area is an important part of the Pacific Flyway. "Millions of shorebirds and waterfowl pass through here on their migratory routes between Siberia, Alaska and northern Canada, and California, Central America and South America. The region is also an important wintering area for raptors." ...
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A Birds-Eye View: A Practical Compendium for Bird-Lovers
by David Bird

V+¨hicule Press $17.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1550651196
Book Review
A Review of: Birds-Eye View: A Practical Compendium for Bird-Lovers
by Allan Safarik
According to David Bird, author of Bird's Eye View, "One in every four North Americans now casually watches birds, and bird watching is only secondary to gardening as the number-one recreation world wide." Readers never seem to grow weary of reading about birds and millions of them spend a considerable amount of their recreational time bird watching in various regions of different countries. "In 1991, almost 25 million Americans travelled somewhere specifically to watch birds. Twenty-five million! In that year, birders spent a half-billion dollars on goods and services related to bird feeding and watching." ...
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Dictionary of Birds of the United States
by Joel Ellis Holloway

Timber Press $26.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0881926000
Book Review
A Review of: Dictionary Of Birds Of The United States (Scientific and Common Names)
by Allan Safarik
The pantheon of books about birds is greatly enriched by the addition of this title. This book is written, edited, and published by people who know their subject matter and care greatly about how they present the information they have gathered about our feathered friends. The Dictionary of Birds Of the United States, a volume devoted to the scientific and common names of birds, might seem like one of those academic tomes that could be offputting to youngsters. True, this book is not enriched by colour plates and it relies on modest black and white drawings to illustrate its esoteric information. However, ...
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Book Review
A Review of: Birds of Yorkton-Duck Mountain (No 6 Manley Callin Series)
by Allan Safarik
Birds of Yorkton-Duck Mountain is a regional Saskatchewan publication that compiles the work of several lifetimes of study and record keeping to provide an immense social history of the people who kept track of birds and the information that they have gleaned. The material is presented in a dozen scientific ways in order to leave behind more than a centuries worth of information about birds in this region. Imagine if you will, Stuart Houston and his beloved wife Mary Houston, banding over 125,000 birds of 206 species including 7,204 Great Horned Owls in their amazing lives together as pioneers in ...
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