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Book Reviews in October 2005 Issue

Note from Editor
Editor's Note by Olga Stein
by Olga Stein
BiC congratulates Colin McAdam. Some Great Thing is an arresting novel in many ways. There are the contrasts it sets up: Jerry McGuinty, whose story we hear, is a plasterer, a labourer with an artist's soul. Refined civil servant Simon Struthers, the other main character, was born into privilege and wealth, but lacks imagination and drive, and is immured in the solitary, prosaic dailyness of a life empty of passion for someone or some thing
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The Book of Loss
by Julith Jedamus

McArthur & Co
244 pages $24.95 paper
ISBN: 0297848607
Empress Orchid
by Anchee Min

Thomas Allen
346 pages $19.95 paper
ISBN: 0618562036
Book Review
Formidable Women at Court
by Nancy Wigston
Born in China, Anchee Min experienced the Cultural Revolution first hand. She has written about her country in several books, notably the bestseller Becoming Madame Mao. This edition of her new novel, Empress Orchid, comes with book club questions and a short interview, in which she clarifies her goals in writing about China's last Empress. "In China," she says, "children learn that the collapse of every dynasty was the fault of the concubine . .
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The Nettle Spinner
by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

Goose Lane Editions
326 pages $25 cloth
ISBN: 0864924224
Book Review
Northern Ontario Woods Transformed
by Theresa Kishkan
As a girl, my favourite fairy tale was "The Wild Swans". In Hans Christian Andersen's story of loyalty and resourcefulness, a beautiful maiden, Elise, weaves shirts of stinging nettles for her brothers, changed to swans by a wicked stepmother. When the shirts are pulled over the swans' heads, the birds become young men again.
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Woolf in Ceylon; an Imperial Journey in the Shadow of Leonard Woolf 1904-1911
by Christopher Ondaatje

HarperCollins
326 pages $39.95 cloth
ISBN: 0002007185
Book Review
Candour in Kandy
by Nick Smith
In a world where new books are increasingly drafted by marketing departments and commissioned by accountants, it's good to see HarperCollins, if not exactly bucking the trend, then at least making a genuine editorial contribution in the form of Christopher Ondaatje's best book to date¨a refreshingly creative illustrated biography of Leonard Woolf in the pre-Great War years.
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Through Siberia by Accident
by Dervla Murphy

McArthur & Company
302 pages $39.95 cloth
ISBN: 0719566630
Book Review
Crossing Siberia not by Express
by Erling Friis-Baastad
Over the summer of 2002, the Irish traveller and author Dervla Murphy journeyed from Moscow by train, steamer and decrepit bus across the Volga, through the Urals, over the steppes and along Lake Baikal, venturing as far east as Tynda and Yakutsk. Murphy is a famous long-distance cyclist. A bicycle expedition in 1963 became the basis for her break-in book, Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle (John Murray, 1965).
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Artistic License: Three Centuries of Good Writing and Bad Behavior
by Brooke Allen

Ivan R. Dee
244 pages $19.95 paper
ISBN: 1566636655
Book Review
Libertines, Liars, and Other Writers
by Matt Sturrock
It was the book's sub-title that spoke to me: Three Centuries of Good Writing and Bad Behavior. Those feelings of apprehension, envy, and even animus that can threaten when first cracking the spine of a review copy were instantly banished by spiking levels of prurient interest¨an interest that peaked with my reading of the author's preface.
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The Writer's Voice
by Al Alvarez

Norton
126 pages $32 cloth
ISBN: 039305795X
Book Review
Guiding Back to Poetry
by Todd Swift
Al Alvarez (he no longer uses A.) is one of the twelve most important "poet-critics" that English-language poetry produced in the 20th century. If one stops to consider who the others might be¨Pound, Eliot, Empson, Auden, Jarrell, Stevens, Hamilton, Heaney, and Hill come quickly to mind¨this might seem like opulent praise; in a way, it is. Alvarez makes it onto such a list not because of his poetry, which is far better than most people think but not as good as posterity may demand.
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Steve Luxton: Luna Moth and Other Poems
DC Books
81 pages $14.95 paper
ISBN: 0919688918
Salvatore Ala: Straight Razor and Other Poems
Biblioasis
61 pages $18.95 paper
ISBN: 0973588101
Erling Friis-Bastaad. Wood Spoken: New and Selected Poems
Northbound Press
101 pages $14.95 paper
ISBN: 189675810X
Book Review
Fluttering Without Soaring
by Linda Besner
Almost all of Erling Friis-Bastaad's poems address, in some form, Yukon landscape and lifestyles. The early poems in Wood Spoken (which contains selections from one previous book and three chapbooks) give us bears and bartenders, gold prospectors and dancing girls who stay for a season and vanish, leaving the author behind for the winter's long endurance.
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An Angel Around The Corner/Un ange autour du coin
by Anne Cimon

Borealis Press
82 pages $15.95 paper
ISBN: 0888872291
Book Review
The Comfort of Unique Society
by Michelle Ariss
"I went to heaven, 'twas a small town Lit with a Ruby, lathed with Down. Stiller than the fields, as the full Dew, Beautiful as pictures no man drew. People like the Moth of Mechlin frames. Duties of Gossamer, and Eider- names almost ű Contented I could be 'mong such unique society
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Remember, Remember: A Victorian Mystery
by Sheldon Goldfarb

UKA Press
240 pages $19.59 paper
ISBN: 1904781438
Book Review
Review of: Remember, Remember: A Victorian Mystery
by M. Wayne Cunningham
UBC professor Sheldon Goldfarb's doctorate in Victorian literature, his life-long interest in history and his previous publications on William Makepeace Thackeray have served him extremely well for his debut young adult historical mystery novel, Remember, Remember. His story is an intriguingly entertaining mix of blackmail, murder, and youthful romance, shot through with large dollops of tension and suspense, and set in an age in England when the East India Co
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Riding With Rilke: Reflections on Motorcyles and Books
by Ted Bishop

Penguin
272 pages $32 cloth
ISBN: 0670063851
Book Review
Riderly Obsessions
by Barbara Julian
The subtitle of Ted Bishop's road memoir is Reflections on Motorcycles and Books, which may make some readers wary. These are disparate subjects, and devotees of one¨ books, for instance¨may be fairly indifferent to the other subject of motorcycles. But on the whole, Bishop makes this marriage work, and he even conveys the lure of both of these passions
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An Innocent In Cuba
by David W. McFadden

McClelland & Stewart
353 pages cloth
ISBN: 0771055064
Book Review
The Cuban Realm
by Gordon Phinn
David McFadden has always been partial to a bit of a jaunt. He just loves to open himself to the spirit of place and embrace all the sentient beings he discovers there, or at least as many as he can stuff into his suitcase-sized heart. In this he is as much a bodhisattva of the commonplace and curmudgeonly as a fancier of the elfin and ineffable.
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Bastardi Puri
by Walid Bitar

The Porcupine's Quill
96 pages $14.95 paper
ISBN: 0889842671
Book Review
Small Beacons
by Patrick Warner
Playful, disingenuous, bitter, comic, ironic, and randy for ambiguity, the poems of Walid Bitar's third collection, Bastardi Puri, present us with a not altogether unfamiliar postmodern window on the world. He has a gift for opening lines: "The hours promenade without a pedigree" or "The places we've never been to are only moods".
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Malraux: A Life
by Olivier Todd/Translated by Joseph West

Knopf Canada
541 pages $50 cloth
ISBN: 0375407022
The Way of the Kings
by AndrT Malraux/translated by Howard Curtis

Raincoast Books
172 pages $19.95 paper
ISBN: 1843914069
Book Review
Review of: Malraux: A Life; The Way of the Kings
by George Fetherling
People are writing about Malraux: A Life, Olivier Todd's new biography of the French writer and activist AndrT Malraux, as though it were another example of what Joyce Carol Oates once called pathography (like the pathographic bestseller of the moment, Edward Klein's The Truth about Hillary). True, Todd doesn't usually flatter or even defend his subject.
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The Cat Who Came in from the Cold
by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Ballantine Books
107 pages $22.95 cloth
ISBN: 0345478665
Wittgenstein and the Goshawk
by Patrick Watson

McArthur & Company
145 pages $19.95 cloth
ISBN: 1552784495
Book Review
Beastly Understanding
by Barbara Julian
These stories, both subtitled "A Fable", are witty, delightful and tinged with sadness. Appearing in print simultaneously, both are by well known writers whose combined careers embrace psychiatry, animal studies, history and broadcasting.
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When Canadian Literature Moved to New York
by Nick Mount

University of Toronto Press
210 pages $45 cloth
ISBN: 080203828X
Book Review
Early CanLit and the Lure of New York
by W. J. Keith
The provocative title of Nick Mount's book draws attention to a historical phenomenon that students of early Canadian literature have recognized but have failed to explore to any depth: the fact that Canada and Canadians in the late nineteenth century wanted a distinctive Canadian literature but were not prepared to pay for it.
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Snow
by Orhan Pamuk

Vintage International
448 pages $21 paper
ISBN: 0375706860
Istanbul: Memories and the City
by Orhan Pamuk

Knopf
400 pages $35.95 cloth
ISBN: 1400040957
Book Review
Pamuk and his "Second Self"
by Michael Harris
Both of Orhan Pamuk's recent books have heroes who hail from Istanbul. In both, the protagonist is a world-weary writer. One of these offerings, Istanbul, is a memoir of the author's youth. In it, Pamuk describes (with formidable skill) a city rent by an all- consuming depression and pained by the memory of its lost grandeur, as a lover might be on losing his beloved.
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Collected Prose: Autobiographical Writings, True Stories, Critical Essays, Prefaces, and Collaborations with Artists
by Paul Auster

Picador
512 pages $24 paper
ISBN: 031242468X
Book Review
Obeisance to Art and Bizarre Coincidence
by Ron Stang
Paul Auster's Collected Prose: Autobiographical Writings, True Stories, Critical Essays, Prefaces and Collaborations with Artists, helps fill in the gaps for any fan of this contemporary American writer's work, from his novels to nonfiction, screenplays and poetry. It has been approximately 20 years since Auster's first major novels, City of Glass, Ghosts, The Locked Room (compiled in the New York Trilogy), first appeared.
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Yann Arthus-Bertrand: Being a Photographer
by Harry N.

Abrams, Inc.
240 pages $67.5 cloth
ISBN: 0810956160
Book Review
Perspectives by Arthus-Bertrand
by Christopher Ondaatje
Being a Photographer is a book about the extraordinarily versatile French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. The text of the book by Sophie Troubac has been translated from the French by Simon Moore. It is an interesting character study of a determined photographer who broke several barriers with his masterpiece, Earth from Above, published in 1999. That book's first printing of 120,000 copies sold out in a mere two weeks
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When They Severed Earth from Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth
by Elizabeth Wayland Barber & Paul T. Barber

Princeton University Press
290 pages $36.25 cloth
ISBN: 0691099863
Book Review
New Principles for Decoding Ancient Myths
by Gwen Nowak
Elizabeth Wayland Barber and Paul T.
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Gravity's Plumb Line
by Ross Leckie

Gaspereau Press
94 pages $18.95 paper
ISBN: 1554470021
Book Review
A Larger Heart
by Eric Miller
Ross Leckie's third book of poetry, Gravity's Plumb Line, feels permanent. It evokes the work of writers such as Wallace Stevens, Theodore Roethke, Elizabeth Bishop and Eric Ormsby. Yet the cadence and phrasing of most of the poems are unmistakably Leckie's. If the book's title should cause readers to imagine that the poems consistently prize velocity over obliquity or free-fall over artful, careful hovering, they will be surprised.
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From Sarajevo, With Sorrow
by Goran Simic, translated by Amela Simic

Biblioasis Editions
80 pages $20 paper
ISBN: 0973597151
Book Review
Clear Vision
by Zach Wells
Deceptively simple: the shopworn phrase of the blurbing alchemist who would make gold a leaden text. When in the opening poem of From Sarajevo, With Sorrow Goran Simic announces that he "would like to write poems which resemble newspaper reports," the poetry connoisseur is apt to balk.
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Guests of Chance
by Colleen Curran

Goose lane Editions
310 pages $29.95 cloth
ISBN: 0864924380
Book Review
The Charms of the Sink or Swim Approach
by Ann Diamond
Wanted: one very strict fiction editor. With a little 'training and discipline', Montreal playwright Colleen Curran could really be a novelist, possibly an excellent one. And if she ever hooked up with Robert McKee, popular guru of dramatic writing, there would be no stopping her. Armed with a few of his recipes for bringing order out of chaos, she could be a Canadian Maeve Binchy or Barbara Pym
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The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
by Umberto Eco/Translated from the Italian by Geoffrey Brock

Harcourt Inc
469 pages $36.95 cloth
ISBN: 1896951872
Book Review
Mnemonic Collage
by Patricia Robertson
In Umberto Eco's playful, nostalgic new novel, a man wakes up "suspended in a milky gray" and discovers he's in a hospital bed. His mind fills with quotations about fog from the world's literature¨Poe, Simenon, Hesse, Sandburg¨but he has no idea what has happened to him or who he is. "A slight case of retrograde amnesia," his doctor tells him. He still retains the memory of common objects and information, but he has lost the episodes of his own life.
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Wild Roses
by Deb Caletti

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
304 pages $21.95 paper
ISBN: 0689867662
Book Review
Review of: Wild Roses
by M. Wayne Cunningham
Living with a world renowned musical genius on Seabrook Island, Washington, isn't always fun, especially for 17-year-old Cassie Morgan, whose cellist mother has dumped the dull but steadying company of her accountant father for the volatility of a life with violinist and composer Dino Cavalli. Dino's official biography trumpets his boot-strap rise from the poverty-stricken obscurity of a small town in Italy to the riches and applause of the world's concert stages.
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Yesterday, at the Hotel Clarendon
by Nicole Brossard/Translated from the French by Susanne de LotbiniFre-Harwood

Coach House Books
237 pages $27.95 cloth
ISBN: 155245150X
Book Review
Femininscription
by David Ingham
I can't imagine anyone reading this review who doesn't know of Nicole Brossard's work. She is, after all, a celebrated poet, novelist, feminist, and theorist, author of over thirty books, winner of two Governor General's Awards and the Prix Athanase-David, among other distinctions. Still, knowing of her work isn't the same as knowing her work; though much has been translated into English, I fear that too few anglophones have grappled with her writing.
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The Wreckage
by Michael Crummey

Doubleday Canada
368 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 038566060X
Book Review
The Rain of Incident and Circumstance
by Cynthia Sugars
"There is a tide in the affairs of men," says Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. At the flood, it yields up riches; if passed over, the voyage of one's life "is bound in shallows and in miseries." These lines provide an apt summation of a central theme in Michael Crummey's new novel The Wreckage: the ebb and flow of human destiny. A recurring scene in the novel describes a tidal wave that plows through a coastal community in Newfoundland, leaving wreckage in its wake.
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Hiding in Plain Sight
by Valerie Sherrard

The Dundurn Group
221 pages $12.99 paper
ISBN: 1550025465
Books on Kids
MYSTERIES/THRILLERS FOR TEENS
by Heather Birrell
In this, the fourth in Valerie Sherrard's Shelby Belgarden Mystery series, our eponymous heroine finds herself embroiled in some back-handed office politicking right in her own home town of Little River, New Brunswick. Supposedly alone for the summer¨with her boyfriend Greg away with his father and her bosom buddy Betts on vacation¨Shelby follows her nose, and an ambulance, only to find that an acquaintance, the elderly Mr. Stanley, has broken his hip.
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East
by Edith Pattou

Harcourt Inc
512 pages $25.95 cloth
ISBN: 0152045635
Books on Kids
Kids' Lit
by OR Melling
This is a retelling of the classic fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", better known as "Beauty and the Beast." Thankfully Pattou's rendering bears no resemblance to the Disney version, but is reminiscent of CS Lewis's haunting interpretation in his novella Till We have Faces (A Myth Retold). When fairy tale is translated into literary form, it either rises to the art of mythic fiction or descends into pulp fantasy. Pattou is a fine myth-maker
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Interviews
Interview: Tracking the Other Woolf. Interview with Christopher Ondaatje
by Olga Stein
John Fraser, the current Master of Massey College, said that "in Canada, his adopted home, Christopher Ondaatje is an officially controversial person, much served up in the media and sometimes dressed down. He elicits both admiration and anger, depending on what he is up to¨his unpredictability being as fascinating to journalists as his great success . .
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Essays
An Ambassador of Sorts
by David Solway
The garden flew round with the angel, The angel flew round with the clouds, And the clouds flew round and the clouds flew round And the clouds flew round with the clouds.
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Sebastian's Arrows: Letters and Momentoes of Salvador Dalf and Federico Garcfa Lorca
by Edited, translated from the Spanish, annotated, and with a prologue by Christopher Maurer

University of Chicago Press
231 pages $63.5 cloth
ISBN: 0967880882
Brief Reviews
Brief Reviews. Non-Fiction
by Jeff Bursey
This collection of letters and addresses reads like a handful of scribbled mash notes from one artistic schoolboy to another. The notes are filled with affectionate, sweeping pronouncements¨Dali to Lorca (1927): "I think no epoch has ever known the perfection of ours"¨encomiums or imprecations against those who just don't get what's new¨ Lorca to Dali (1927): "All of us are a little like St.
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Alphabet
by Kathy Page

McArthur & Company
261 pages $29.95 cloth
ISBN: 029760788X
Brief Reviews
Brief Reviews. Non-Fiction
by R. Gray Mitchem
As Kathy Page in her astute novel, Alphabet, has demonstrated, one emotionally cleft young man, examined or deconstructed, yields up his pathetic yet hopeful passage through the penal system as an example of our undying belief that corrupted individuals can be not only punished but simultaneously redeemed. It is a painful but uplifting saga.
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First Novel Award
2004 Amazon.ca/Books in Canada. First Novel Award: Judges' Comments
by BILL GASTON
As I feared, this was a tough go, not because of the uniformly high quality of the work¨ which I expected¨but because the five books were so utterly different from each other. All five had wonderful qualities. What is Remembered leapt from a strong, almost relentless premise, and was a stately piece of writing. Skinny was a painfully accurate portrait of family, sisterhood, and the dangerous fragility of self-image.
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First Novel Award
2004 Amazon.ca/Books in Canada. First Novel Award: Judges' Comments
by MICHAEL WINTER
A fine shortlist, a wide range of subjects and styles. I congratulate W. P. Kinsella for choosing an excellent stack of novels. What's Remembered by Arthur Motyer was a reading experience that reminded me of the summer when I was twenty-three and read The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary. It's that sort of roiling, intellectual, very male book that requires a lot of drinking and reflection in a kitchen full of food.
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First Novel Award
2004 Amazon.ca/Books in Canada. First Novel Award: Judges' Comments
by CAMILLA GIBB
As a judge, you sincerely hope you're going to like/love the books you're asked to consider. Let's face it, since much of your summer reading has been determined for you, you at least want to enjoy it. But even if you do enjoy each one in its own way, as I did, you don't want to end up feeling they are all good, good enough, but none great, none worthy of being set apart and awarded. But my job has been easy, thanks to Colin McAdam.
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