Book Reviews in December 2006 Issue

Note from Editor
Editor's Note
by Olga Stein
Caesar, the name still shakes the world. Moguls, barons, tycoons, raconteurs, billionaires¨the world throws up these mountains of ego, ambition, and energy, and biographers, historians, and writers are left to make sense of their lives, or to pick up the wreckage around them when they leave the historical scene. Different eras have different degrees of tolerance for these larger-than-life figures. The Cesarean impulse still beats in the hearts of some men.

by Michael Redhill

Doubleday Canada
474 pages $32.95 cloth
ISBN: 0385659504
Book Review
Consoling Discoveries
by Nicholas Maes
Historical fiction can be a problematic genre. Either the historical component is so overwhelming that readers are left wondering why they didn't start with pure history to begin with; or the fictional element preponderates, in which case `history' becomes something of a prop, a convenient series of events and fashions that serve as a mere backdrop to the author's more pressing concerns.
The View from Castle Rock
by Alice Munro

McClelland and Stewart
349 pages $34.99 cloth
ISBN: 0771065264
Book Review
Saving the Best for Last
by John Moss
Alice Munro's new book, The View from Castle Rock, is a delightful fraud. Whether through failure of imagination on her publisher's part, or a lack of confidence in the reader, or a shrewd authorial gambit, it is offered as a book of "Stories", the author's eleventh. But it is something else, a major achievement, and an exciting revitalisation of a somewhat exhausted genre. Resounding flyleaf rhetoric issues a denial: "So is this a memoir? No." Well, yes. It is.
DeNiro's Game
by Rawi Hage

House of Anansi
282 pages $29.95 cloth
ISBN: 0887841961
Book Review
Death and Parataxis
by David H. Evans
Before Iraq there was Lebanon, and more thoughtful policy-makers might have learned from its example that it is far easier to immerse a nation in the destructive element, to plunge it into chaos, violence, and civil war, than to lead it out of such calamity. The metaphor of `nation-building', like all metaphors carried beyond the point at which, to quote Robert Frost, we can safely ride them, becomes a risky mount
Home Schooling
by Carol Windley

Cormorant Books
300 pages $22.95 paper
ISBN: 1896951910
Book Review
Modernity's Children
by Lyle Neff
As our era's best short-story practitioners know, we tend to mark time generationally, more so than by historical events or the calendar. A number of Carol Windley's eight new stories in Home Schooling acknowledge this tendency. The finest of them embody it. As Graham, the grieving widower in "The Reading Elvis", tells it: "Without Annette, time had no measure or quality; seasons loped past like small fleet animals. First one year passed, then two, then three . . .
The Friends of Meager Fortune
by David Adams Richards

Doubleday Canada
384 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 0385660944
Book Review
Prophetic and Retrospective
by T.F. Rigelhof
"One cannot, somehow, think of him as a revolutionary, in the sense that James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence are revolutionaries, yet his contribution to literature is as original as theirs. He has given us a new formula. He is of the generation and yet not of it. His novels are only possible because he has cut himself off from twentieth-century civilization, and yet could not have been written in no other century than this
This is My Country, WhatĂs Yours: A Literary Atlas of Canada
by Noah Richler

McClelland & Stewart
496 pages $37.99 cloth
ISBN: 0771075332
Book Review
Hearing the Stories of Canada
by Clara Thomas
This is a big book that grew out of a ten-part CBC radio series. Its author, Noah Richler, describes it as "a cultural portrait of the country and at times an argument for it." He travelled all over Canada, interviewing about one hundred authors, from the far north of Igloolik in Nunavut, to the east- and west-coast islands. "I thought this book would take about a year to write. It took four . . .
The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation
by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Col=n

Douglas & McIntyre
120 pages $21 paper
ISBN: 0809057395
Book Review
Review of The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation
by Roland Brown
Since the Second World War, American comics have consistently played a role in America's conflicts. In one of the famous images from the golden age of comics, Jack Kirby's red, white, and blue-clad Captain America was shown delivering a powerful blow across Hitler's exaggerated nose amidst a host of desperate Nazis. Serving in the U.S. military during that era, Spirit creator Will Eisner turned to illustrating Army manuals such as Army Motors and Preventive Maintenance Monthly.
The Aviary
by Miranda Pearson

Oolichan Books
102 pages $17.95 paper
ISBN: 0889822301
Jaguar Rain: the Margaret Mee Poems
by Jan Conn

Brick Books
109 pages $18 paper
ISBN: 1894078489
Book Review
Almost Invisible
by Linda Besner
In her author's note at the back of Jaguar Rain, Jan Conn celebrates Margaret Mee's "inspiring" sketchbooks and paintings, and singles out Mee's journals for their "valuable" influence on her poems. "She was a gifted observer and a fine writer," writes Conn, and "I hope these poems will contribute to rekindling an interest in her remarkable legacy." Here's the problem: in the set of poems that makes up Jaguar Rain, Margaret Mee is almost invisible.
White Salt Mountain
by Peter Sanger

Gaspereau Press
102 pages $17.95 paper
ISBN: 1554470048
by Anchorage Press

Peter Sanger and Thaddeaus Holownia
80 pages $150 hardcover
ISBN: 1895488265
Book Review
A Bravura Of Sticks
by Jeffery Donaldson
Peter Sanger is quickly establishing himself as the go-to guy for maritime cultural history. Since publishing critical work on the poets John Thompson and Richard Outram, Sanger has focussed on a series of critical and creative projects on the Maritimes that are as Blakean in their visionary reach as they are exacting in their historical and geographical specificity.
Out to Dry in Cape Breton
by Anita Lahey

Signal Editions/Vehicule Press
80 pages $16 paper
ISBN: 1550652095
Book Review
Wherever That May Be
by Olivia Cole
From washing lines, to high dives from bridges, Out to Dry in Cape Breton is a debut in which Lahey¨personable, emotive and stylistically witty¨makes her home, fearlessly on the line. "Hung out to dry" becomes an emblem as much of vulnerability and abandonment as of fearlessness and the fearfulness that taking risks can entail.
Anatomy of Keys
by Steven Price

Brick Books
141 pages $18 paper
ISBN: 1894078519
Book Review
Stacked Vowels and Clustered Consonants
by Patrick Warner
In Anatomy of Keys, Steven Price lifts the lid off the life of Harry Houdini and slips inside. It is a deft trick and a remarkable one for many reasons, not the least of which is how thoroughly the poet tests the capacity of a single metaphor. Over the course of this 122-page poem, Price entangles himself in biographical chains, locks himself up in rhyme, straps himself into straightjackets of form and immerses himself in a relentless and bloody-minded flow of prose and verse.
Phil Hall
by An Oak Hunch

Brick Books
96 pages $17 paper
ISBN: 1894078446
Book Review
Just So
by Andrew Vaisius
Leafing through Hall's latest book, An Oak Hunch, I wonder what I'm reading. Poetry? Narrative? Word games? I can't quite relate it to anything else. Yet for all its rips and jags and run-ons, Hall's writing is grounded in the shield rock north of Belleville. When he pens lines like "my parents as kids wrapped in quilts that smell pissy¨sockless/ in rubbers in the red snow . . ." Hall is neither proud nor ashamed, but there is pain.
Orson Welles: Hello Americans
by Simon Callow

Vintage Books
400 pages $23.95 paper
ISBN: 0099462613
Book Review
Welles Reinflated
by Todd Swift
Orson Welles would have greatly enjoyed the recent midterm elections in America¨and not from the sidelines either. Had he been alive today, Welles would have been orating on the festooned platform with all the rhetorical grandeur that we associate with his role as Charles Foster Kane. If this seems like an unfamiliar way to begin a review of that seemingly all-too-familiar subject, Welles, the meteoric super-kid and ultimate failure, then look again
Caesar: The Life of a Colossus
by Adrian Goldsworthy

Weidenfield & NicolsonĂs Orion Publishing and Yale University Press
583 pages $39.95 cloth
ISBN: 0300120486
Book Review
Master of All He Surveyed
by David A. Furlow
"Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a colossus," the conspirator Cassius says of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play. "And we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves." Caesar has long fascinated dramatists, and, more recently, has won the favour of film-makers, novelists, and television producers.
Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall & Redemption of the Beach BoysĂ Brian Wilson
by Peter Ames Carlin

342 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 1594863202
Book Review
Rock and Roll's Icarus
by Ray Robertson
Once upon a time, whenever I felt like messing with people's minds when they were over at the house, I'd slip one of my Smile bootlegs into the stereo without announcing what it was we were going to be listening to.
America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It
by Mark Steyn

Regnery Publishing Inc.
256 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 0895260786
Book Review
Steyn and Company
by David Solway
It seems appropriate to begin by citing a recent review of Mark Steyn's America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, which will no doubt serve as a token of what that intrepid and politically incorrect author can expect to meet in the book pages of most of our major dailies. Writing in The Globe and Mail, William Christian opines that America Alone "is quite possibly the most crass and vulgar book about the West's relationship with the Islamic world I have ever encountered.
Does American Democracy Still Work?
by Alan Wolfe

Yale University Press
189 pages $24.94 cloth
ISBN: 0300108591
On Political Equality
by Robert A. Dahl

Yale University Press
120 pages $27 paper
ISBN: 0300116071
Book Review
Not Well For All in America
by Paul Drolet
All is not well in the great Republic to the south, or so argue two of America's most distinguished political scientists, Robert Dahl and Alan Wolfe. Two recent releases, Dahl's slim volume, On Political Equality, and Wolfe's more muscular, Does American Democracy Still Work?, examine the state of the American polity and find it wanting.
I Still Love You: Five Plays
by Daniel MacIvor

Playwrights Canada Press, Toronto
256 pages $25 paper
ISBN: 088754858X
Book Review
by Martin Morrow
MacIVOR'S LIVELY GHOSTS Nova Scotian playwright-actor Daniel MacIvor's new collection of plays, which has won this year's Governor General's Award for English drama, is called I Still Love You¨but if Ibsen hadn't already beat him to it, he could just as easily have titled it When We Dead Awaken, or maybe even Ghosts.
Love in the Time of Cholesterol
by Cecily Ross

296 pages $29 cloth
ISBN: 0670063754
Arab Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead: Recipes and Recollections
by Habeeb Salloum

Canadian Plains Research Centre University of Regina
316 pages $29.95 paper
ISBN: 0889771820
Canadians at Table: A Culinary History of Canada
by Dorothy Duncan

Dundurn Press
160 pages $35 cloth
ISBN: 155002647X
Chow: From Canada to China: Memories of Food & Family
by Janice Wong

Whitecap Books
190 pages $24.95 paper
ISBN: 155285650X
Vij's elegant and inspired Indian Cuisine
by Vikram Viz and Meeru Dhalwala

Douglas & McIntyre
205 pages $40 paper
ISBN: 1553651847
Book Review
Food Culture
by Brian Fawcett
A culinary history of Canada is long overdue, even if most of us don't believe we have either a cuisine or a history that is profound interesting. Dorothy Duncan has given us an interesting version of what that might be with Canadians at Table: A Culinary History of Canada. Alas, this is a volume heavy on historical interpretation and light on food, because in reality, she has given us only a paleontologist's history of Canadian cuisine. Ms
Literally Across Canada
by Olga Stein
Interview with Noah Richler Noah Richler was raised in Montreal and London, England. He was a prize-winning producer and host of documentaries and features for BBC Radio for fourteen years before returning to Canada in 1998. He joined the National Post and became its first books editor. He has contributed to publications here and in England
Mayhem for the Masses: The Year of 9/11 Cinema
by Roland Brown
United 93 Directed by Paul Greengrass World Trade Center Directed by Oliver Stone After a long, timid approach by filmmakers over the past four years, American cinema has dropped the curtain on its new genre: the 9/11 film. Indeed, despite the reservations of some, there was never any reasonable chance that 9/11 would remain unexamined by commercial cinema.
Auto da FÚ: Conrad Black, Corporate Governance, and the End of Economic Man
by Adrian Stein and Olga Stein
At a black tie party at the Four Season's in Manhattan last November 2005, the literary, social and business elite of New York gathered to mark the annual Kenyon Review award for literary distinction. The propinquity of New York wealth and philanthropy, with the glitterati of the publishing and literary world made for a special frisson. The atmosphere was further excited by the presence of Michael Bloomberg who had just won a landslide mayoral victory...
Empress of Asia
by Adam Lewis Schroeder

Raincoast Books
409 pages $29.95 cloth
ISBN: 1551929872
First Novels
First Novels
by Nancy Wigston
Empress of Asia by Adam Lewis Schroeder (Raincoast Books, 409 pages, $29.95 cloth, ISBN: 1551929872). This terrific tale of love and war opens as narrator Harry Winslow mourns his beloved wife. As a last request, Lily had asked him to contact a friend from the distant past. So Harry leaves Vancouver for Thailand, in search of his wartime comrade, Michel Ney. As the skein of memory unspools in a final, one-sided conversation with Lily, we get to know Harry better than he knows himself
Lullabies for Little Criminals
by Heather OĂNeill

330 pages $17.5 paper
ISBN: 0060875070
First Novels
First Novels
by Nancy Wigston
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill (HarperCollins, 330 pages, $17.50, paper ISBN: 0060875070). This strikingly original portrait of a year in the life of a young Montrealer opens with dash and optimism. Baby, almost twelve, and her father, Jules, twenty-six, have taken up residence at a once-stylish downtown hotel. Like all their friends, Jules exudes style: fur hat, long leather jacket, slippery leather boots. He also has a heroin habit.
Dead ManĂs Float
by Nicholas Maes

VThicule Press
438 pages $22.95 paper
ISBN: 1550652117
First Novels
First Novels
by Nancy Wigston
Dead Man's Float by Nicholas Maes (VThicule Press, 438 pages, $22.95, paper, ISBN: 1550652117). Nathan Gelder, thirteen, is rescued from the impending destruction of the Jews of Holland when a visiting uncle from Montreal leaves him an "open ticket" for a ship to Canada.
Friday Night with the Pope
by Jacques J. M. Shore, illustrated by Amalia Hoffman

Gefen Publishing House
40 pages $21 cloth
ISBN: 9652293709
Children's Books
Kids' Lit
by Olga Stein
Looking back on childhood, one can sometimes be amazed by those who were there to share one's modest but also joyful beginnings. In Jacques Shore's book, it just so happens that Lena had grown up in Poland at the same time as a boy called Karol Wojtyla. Lena remembers hearing of this boy who had loved sports, as well as acting and poetry, and of his kindness and empathy, qualities that were apparent in him even at a young age.
The Christmas Tree: Two Tales for the Holidays
by David Adams Richards

Viking Canada
64 pages $16 cloth
ISBN: 0670065587
Children's Books
Kids' Lit
by Olga Stein
As I read these stories, I had the feeling that if David Adams Richards ever decided to make a real go of writing for young readers, he would do exceptionally well. These days there are so many fine writers penning adventure, science fiction & fantasy, and historical fiction for youngsters that praise would probably do little to motivate a writer of Richards' literary status.
Ancient Thunder
by text and illustrations by Leo Yerxa

34 pages $18.95 cloth
ISBN: 0888997469
Children's Books
Kids' Lit
by Olga Stein
Leo Yerxa won the 2006 Governor General's Award for children's book illustration, and it's hard to argue with the judges' decision. Every double-page spread in Ancient Thunder is beautifully composed, full of depth, texture, and colour that captures the tactile qualities of each piece in what is always a sumptuous arrangement. Leo Yerxa has pioneered a technique that "makes paper look like leather.
Beyond the Northern Lights
by text and illustrations by Lynn Blaikie

Fitzhenry & Whiteside
30 pages $19.95 cloth
ISBN: 1550051237
Children's Books
Kids' Lit
by Olga Stein
Batik is the chosen medium of illustrator and artist Lynn Blaikie. This book relies mostly on elements from First Nations narratives and figurative art, especially in its representations of the natural world. There are symbols from Christianity here as well, integrated with taste and subtlety into the more traditional evocations of man's spiritual connection to animals in their various habitats.

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