Book Reviews in November 2006 Issue

Note from Editor
Editor's Note
by Olga Stein
This year's Giller gala took place on November 8 at the Four Seasons Hotel. It was, as you'd expect, quite the shindig. Food and service were superb. Even the short films made from the shortlisted booksłcomprised of dramatizations and author readings/commentaryłwere engaging, as was Justin Trudeau himself, the evening's Master of Ceremonies. One of the memorable parts of the evening was the conversation at our table before the winner was announced

Governor of the Northern Province
by Randy Boyagoda

240 pages $32 cloth
ISBN: 0670065641
Book Review
Comedy of Errors
by Max Fawcett
Book reviewers don't have an easy job. Reviewing a book is qualitatively different from almost any other critical activity in which people regularly and enthusiastically engage. You won't see Joanna Cates, for example, reviewing the food served at your local Fox and Fiddle, or Beppi Crosariol evaluating the nuances of that the nine-dollar bottle of red table wine from Albania you picked up at the LCBO.
The Good Bacteria
by Sharon Thesen

96 pages $18.95 paper
ISBN: 0887847463
by Tim Bowling

Gaspereau Press
96 pages $18.95 paper
ISBN: 1554470161
Book Review
Giddy Vertigo
by Bryan Sentes
Bowling and Thesen both anchor their latest volumes on Canada's Pacific coast. Bowling's thirty-four poems might be taken to be yet another rewriting of Wordsworth's Prelude, relating as it does the narrative of his childhood and youth at the mouth of the Fraser River from his present-life perspective as a father in Edmonton. Thesen's collection is looser, four sequences framing twenty-nine poems. However similar the matter of the two poets, their manners seem vigorously opposed.
The Silver Palace Restaurant
by Mark Abley

McGill-QueenĘs University Press
91 pages $16.95 paper
ISBN: 0773529985
Standing Wave
by Robert Allen

Vehicule Press
82 pages $16 pape
ISBN: 1550651986
Book Review
Aw Shucks
by Andrew Vaisius
More than anything else Robert Allen in Standing Wave gives the impression of having a conversation, an intimate conversation with us, whom he regards as old friends. Here's his handle on loneliness: I am increasingly alright. What would you want me to say? I have no grid on which to reckon sure things. I am talking and singing to myself at an accelerating rate, which argues mental problems, or the lonely recursiveness of language, when it is directed at no other
No Great Mischief
by Alistair MacLeod

Scirocco Drama, Winnipeg
96 pages $14.95 paper
ISBN: 0771055706
The Dishwashers
by Morris Panych

Talonbooks, Vancouver
132 pages $16.95 paper
ISBN: 0889225249
Book Review
by Martin Morrow
Most of us have had a boring, cruddy job when we were younger that we did temporarily for the money. And we probably met an older person there who had somehow got stuck in the same job for life, and who, like Dressler in The Dishwashers, had come up with some rationale for being there so as not to slit his wrists.
The Droughtlanders [Triskelia Book 1]
by Carrie Mac

Puffin Canada
347 pages $25 cloth
ISBN: 0670065455
Book Review
Review of The Droughtlanders [Triskelia Book 1]
by M. Wayne Cunningham
The Maddox familyłof Vancouver author Carrie Mac's adrenalin-pumping futuristic novel, The Droughtlandersłbrings heightened meaning to being dysfunctional. Edmund, the father and Chief Regent of the water-rich East Keylanders, never did take to his French-speaking wife, Lisette, a former Droughtlander. He despises one twin son, Eli, as a wimp and tolerates the other twin, Seth, as a suck-up who promises to join the Keyland Guards when he turns sixteen in a few months.
The Custodian of Paradise
by Wayne Johnston

Alfred A. Knopf Canada
522 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 0676978150
Book Review
Overdoing the Gothic
by Steven W. Beattie
Wayne Johnston's Newfoundland is a vast, expansive place composed of rugged, jutting outcroppings of land and roiling seas. It is mammoth, larger than life, and fiercely unpredictable.
The CommunistĘs Daughter
by Dennis Bock

324 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 000200528X
Book Review
Cross-sectioning Norman Bethune
by Doug Brown
In The Communist's Daughter, Dennis Bock takes a controversial subjectłthe sweeping story of the medical innovator, social maverick, and anti-fascist Communist, Norman Bethunełand approaches it from an angle that renders that story narrower in scope, but difficult to tell. Bock is interested principally in exploring not Bethune's political significance, but his all-too-human life
The Meaning of Night
by Michael Cox

McClelland & Stewart
608 pages $36.99 cloth
ISBN: 0771023057
Book Review
A Victorian Psycho
by Tim McGrenere
Michael Cox took 30 years to write his first novel, a Victorian revenge story entitled The Meaning of Night. Thirty years! In an age of instant books, and instant culture, this is a shocking amount of time for anyone to spend on anything, let alone their first book. The results of Cox's patience and care are obvious, though, and readers will be thankful for his painstaking efforts
Serfdom, Society, and the Arts in Imperial Russia: The Pleasure and the Power
by Richard Stites

Yale University Press
586 pages $68 cloth
ISBN: 0300108893
Book Review
Serfdom and the Arts in Imperial Russia
by Clara Thomas
This work of history by Richard Stites, a Professor at Georgetown University, has been described by one of his academic colleagues as "the latest of Stites' panoramic yet densely detailed studies of Russian culture and it will undoubtedly prove as invaluable to scholars, students, and general interest readers as his previous books have done.
JosipoviciĘs Survey The Singer on the Shore: Essays 1991-2004
by Gabriel Josipovici

347 pages $40.95 paper
ISBN: 1857548442
Book Review
Josipovici's Survey
by Jeff Bursey
Since 2000, Gabriel Josipovici has published a memoir of his mother, two novels (Goldberg: Variations was positively reviewed here in September 2004), and had another come out, Everything Passes, in September. Despite this prolific output, he is not well known. "Gabriel Josipovici is one of the major contemporary British authors," one critic states in the online Literary Encyclopedia.
Interim: Essays and Meditations
by Patrick Friesen

Hagios Press
143 pages $17.95 paper
ISBN: 097397270X
The Reservoir: Essays
by Eric Miller

Ekstasis Editions
95 pages $19.95 paper
ISBN: 1894800702
Strange Ghosts: Essays
by Darren Greer

Cormorant Books
174 pages $24.95 paper
ISBN: 1896951635
Book Review
On Misapprehensions that Blight and Bless Us
by T.F. Rigelhof
My fingers were tightly crossed that this year's Governor General's jury for non-fiction would show at least a little of the literary taste and sense of adventure of the Fiction crew and nominate either Eric Miller's The Reservoir or Darren Greer's Strange Ghosts (preferably both): they deserve far wider readership and greater critical acclaim than collections of literary essays generally find in this country.
Book Review
Lewis Buzbee
by Matt Sturrock
Michel de Montaigne had already identified the phenomenon over four hundred years ago, complaining that "there are more books about books than about any other subject: we do nothing but write glosses about one another.
Two Lives
by Vikram Seth

McArthur & Co.
504 pages $85 cloth
ISBN: 1552784967
Book Review
Unfolding Two Lives
by Olga Stein
Vikram Seth's great-uncle, Kunj Behari Seth, a district and sessions judge in India, was a family archivist. In 1906, he published a family history, The Seths of Biswan. This precedent likely spurred Vikram Seth to embark on a comparable project, a biography of his great-uncle, Shanti Behari Seth, with the aim of paying tribute to a remarkable man.
History of the Book in Canada, Volume Two: 1840-1918
by Yvan Lamonde, Patricia Lockhart Fleming, Fiona A. Black, editors

University of Toronto Press
659 pages $85 cloth
ISBN: 080208012X
Book Review
At the Sign of the Book
by Cynthia Sugars
On July 8th, 1892, the Newfoundland publishing enterprise of Dicks and Company was forced to relocate its shop after its premises were destroyed by the great fire that ravaged most of the buildings along Water Street in downtown St. John's. The company, which had begun as an unlikely merger between a local sailmaker and bookbinder in the 1830s, was one of the city's first businesses dedicated to the selling of books. Within a few weeks, the company was in business once more.
Bay of Spirits: A Love Story
by Farley Mowat

McClelland & Stewart
360 pages $34.99 cloth
ISBN: 0771065388
Book Review
So Many Farleys Having Fun
by John Moss
In his mid-eighties, Farley Mowat can be whatever age he likes. That's one of the nice things about growing old. You have access to all those younger selves inside. You don't have to be gracious, modest, or precise. You do have to be honest; it's expected of you, and there isn't time enough to waste on lies.
Reluctant Genius: The Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bell
by Charlotte Gray

467 pages $36.95 cloth
ISBN: 0002006766
Book Review
For Whom Bell Rings False
by James Roots
People who aren't deaf have no idea what a divisive figure Alexander Graham Bell was and continues to be in the world of the deaf. With his giant belly and snow-white beard, he is generally seen as a Santa Claus, bringing deaf children the precious gift of lipreading and speech therapy, enabling them to slip through the world of the hearing as pretend-hearing people.
The Letters of Stephen Leacock
by David Staines, editor

Oxford University Press
564 pages $39.95
ISBN: 0195408691
Book Review
George Fetherling
Stephen Leacock's most successful book by far was his first one, a political science text published in 1906. Of course, everyone knows him for his endless collections of comic stories and pieces, beginning with Literary Lapses, published in 1910. For three decades thereafter he was famous as a humorist. Since his death, it has taken a bit longer for people to take him seriously.
David Suzuki: The Autobiography
by David Suzuki

Greystone Books
378 pages $39.95 cloth
ISBN: 067697810X
Book Review
Tireless Activist
by Paul Keen
David Suzuki's decision to run for high school president (he won, of course) offers a suggestive reflection on the two very different perspectives which have defined his life. For the endlessly successful academic, TV presenter, and environmental activist, triumph in a school council race at London Central Collegiate Institute seems natural if not inevitable. How could he possibly have lost? That would have been newsworthy.
The More Easily Kept Illusions: The Poetry of Al Purdy
by Robert Budde, editor

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
80 pages $14.95 paper
ISBN: 088920490X
Book Review
Purdy Redigested
by Jeremy Lalonde
Upon reading that Wilfred Laurier Press was putting together a selected edition of Al Purdy's poetry that included "lesser-known gems [along] with Purdy's greatest hits," I feared the worst. I didn't know anything about the editor of this book, Robert Budde, but I worried that the gems in question were none other than those poems of the 1940słthat Purdy himself referred to as "crap"łgussied up for the occasion.
Sorry, I DonĘt Speak French: Confronting the Canadian Crisis That WonĘt Go Away
by Graham Fraser

McClelland & Stewart
340 pages $34.99 cloth
ISBN: 0771047665
Book Review
Plus D'Excuses
by John Lennox
This thoughtful book about language, which "has always been, and remains, at the heart of the Canadian experience," claims Graham Fraser, is at once instructive and provocative. It's instructive in reminding us of the centrality of the language issue, and provocative in arguing that the ability and need of anglophones and francophones in Canada to understand one another "has slipped into the background in Canadian public life.
A Stranger on Earth: The Life and Work of Anna Kavan
by Jeremy Reed

Peter Owen Publishers
207 pages $32.82 cloth
ISBN: 072061273X
Book Review
Unveiling Anna Kavan
by Christopher Ondaatje
Devotees of Anna Kavan may well be surprisedłand perhaps a little put offłthat Peter Owen Publishers has brought out another biography of the acclaimed and esoteric author (Asylum Piece, Sleep Has this House, Ice, and Mercury). However, Jeremy Reed's prying book, A Stranger on Earth, has unearthed original material that uncovers a whole lot about someone who went to great lengths to turn herself into an enigma for posterity
Book of Longing
by Leonard Cohen

McClelland & Stewart
240 pages $32.99 paper
ISBN: 0771022344
Book Review
Gypsy Boy
by Asa Boxer
One of the most horrifying moments in Leonard Cohen's oeuvre occurs in his novel The Favourite Game, when the young protagonist, Lawrence Breavman hypnotises Heather, the house maid. He has her undress and hold his penis, exulting in his magical prowess, then has her dress and forget everything. Excitedly, he rushes through the de-hypnosis process, but in his haste, he fails to completely release her suspended psyche.
over the roofs of the world
by Olive Senior

Insomniac Press
109 pages $11.95 paper
ISBN: 1894663829
Imaginary Origins
by Cyril Dabydeen

Peepal Tree
251 pages $23.95 paper
ISBN: 1900715945
Book Review
Carribean Snow Birds
by Michael Greenstein
In the Introduction to his selected poems, Imaginary Origins, Cyril Dabydeen claims to find his poetic self in crossing boundaries and looking in different directions. Drawn to Columbus who displaces Adam as the first man, both Dabydeen and fellow Caribbean Canadian poet, Olive Senior, explore his figure and in their poetry rediscover America.
You Made Me Love You
by Joanna Goodman

400 pages $22 paper
ISBN: 0143017314
Book Review
Review of You Made Me Love You
by Ann Diamond
In choosing to read this book, you are choosing to move in with an irrepressible, bagel-loving Jewish family living in Toronto (the parents, nightclub singers Milt and Lilly, moved there from Montreal in the early '60s, when Milt got a job at CBC, and brought with them their music and their love of bagels). The year is 2003. The Iraq War is underway, but Saddam Hussein has not been captured yet.
by Bill Gaston

House of Anansi
256 pages $29.95 cloth
ISBN: 0887847498
Book Review
There's Life in the Ol'Boom Yet
by Lyle Neff
Sure, everyone's enjoying the advancing decrepitude of the Baby Boomers. But the start of that demographic's twilight reveals that one of their chief literary innovations, the narrative of the mid-life crisis, is a bit winded. The themes of the postwar babies' literature as they hit their 40słthe curse of wealth, dewy new spouses, flailing spiritual-not-religious questsłseem as dated now as the 1980s themselves.
Matthew Fox
by Mona Awad
Montreal author and Maisonneuve editor Matthew Fox's first book, Cities of Weather is as contemporary and as Canadian as it getsłthink Alice Munro's Ontario landscapes spliced with Leonard Cohen's Montreal debaucheries. And all of it heightened by Shakesperean shiftings of season and weather. These short stories teem with lunatics, lovers, and storms, not to mention punks, sex, and cottage country lakes.
No Ghosts Here: Steven Heighton interviewed by Elliot Robins
by Elliot Robins
Steven Heighton is well on the way to establishing himself as one of Canada's finest literary writers. It has been said that "Heighton is like the young Ondaatje." He has been nominated for and received numerous prizes. He has written four poetry collections, two short story collections, two novels, and a book of essays. I talked to him after he gave a presentation in Bracebridge, Ontario. Elliot Robins: Afterlands, your second novel, is unlike The Shadow Boxer.
Dooney's Cafe
by Stan Persky
Is it possible to compare literary apples and oranges? That is, can we meaningfully measure a novel against a work of non-fiction, a volume of poetry, a screenplay? I think so. The other day, at the readers' group that I'm a member of, we were talking about John Banville's The Sea (Knopf, 2005), winner of last year's Booker Prize, which we had just read.
The Beauty of The World
by Stacey Newman

Wingate Press
209 pages $21.95 paper
ISBN: 097385653X
First Novels
First Novels
by Nancy Wigston
The Beauty of The World by Stacey Newman (Wingate Press, 209 pages, $21.95 paper, ISBN: 097385653X) Stacey Newman's novel plunges us into war-torn Perda, a fictional European country. Sophie, a young journalist whose grandparents lived in the country in its peaceful days, sees her colleague shot dead beside her. After an explosion throws her to the ground, a stranger whisks her out of the urban war zone, taking her on a long escape through forest and village, as the city burns behind them.
One Chrysanthemum
by Joan Itoh Burk

Brindle and Glass Publishing
373 pages $24.95 paper
ISBN: 1897142161
First Novels
First Novels
by Nancy Wigston
One Chrysanthemum by Joan Itoh Burk (Brindle and Glass Publishing, 373 pages, $24.95, paper, ISBN: 1897142161). Joan Itoh Burk's page-turning portrait of Japan in the mid-1960s comprises a series of unfolding mysteries about Japanese life and customs, after a young wife named Misako discovers her husband's affair with a sexy younger woman. She has a vision of them doing the nasty in a love hotel.
The Tenderness of Wolves
by Stef Penney

440 pages $36 cloth
ISBN: 0670066109
First Novels
First Novels
by Nancy Wigston
The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney (Penguin, 440 pages, $36.00, cloth, ISBN: 0670066109). Mysteries also dominate this confident and complex portrait of 1860s Ontario. Although Stef Penney, an agoraphobic, lives in Edinburgh, she is the grandniece of Norman Bethune. The characters and lives she createsłconsulting Hudson's Bay Company records from the British Museumłattain a larger-than-life dimension.
Governor of the Northern Province
by Randy Boyagoda

208 pages $32 cloth
ISBN: 0670065641
First Novels
First Novels
by Nancy Wigston
Governor of the Northern Province by Randy Boyagoda (Penguin, 240 pages, $32.00, cloth, ISBN: 0670065641). In his take-no-prisoners novel about politics, immigration, and rock-solid Canadian naivetT, Randy Boyagoda emerges as the Evelyn Waugh of the North. An African named Bokarie arrives to work in a convenience store in a small town near Ottawa, desperate to conceal his warlord past, yet secretly laughing at what passes here for tragedy.
The Children of Mary
by Marusya Bociurkiw

Inanna Publications & Education Inc.
205 pages $19.95 paper
ISBN: 0973670940
First Novels
First Novels
by Nancy Wigston
The Children of Mary by Marusya Bociurkiw (Inanna Publications & Education Inc., 205 pages, $19.95, paper, ISBN: 0973670940). In this multilayered tale, a Canadian-Ukrainian family struggles to survive a series of losses. Grandmother (Baba) Maria emigrated from the old country; in Winnipeg, her daughter Tatiana bore two daughters, Kat and Sonya. When Kat dies at eighteen, everyone is thrown out of kilter.
by Nikolai Maslov. Translated by Blake Ferris with Lisa Barocas Anderson, Afterword by Emmanuel CarrFre

Soft Skull Press
98 pages $24.95 paper
ISBN: 1933368039
Brief Reviews
Brief Review of Siberia
by Jeff Bursey
Initially, Siberia comes across as a thoroughly bleak and depressing graphic novel. Yet despite its grey world, the resilience shown by its author-protagonist is as enduring as the state of the nation that is presented. A night watchman, whose exposure to drawing consisted of a year in art school and the study of a handful of art books and graphic novels, Maslov approached a French publisher in Moscow in 2000 with a few panels in hand.
Exposing Nature
by Frank Greenaway

The Natural History Museum, UK
160 pages $35.95 cloth
ISBN: 056509193X
Brief Reviews
Brief Review of Exposing Nature
by Christopher Ondaatje
The best photographic advice I ever received came from Terence Michael Shortt, the noted Canadian bird artist, whose paintings my company published. He told me: "Decide on the composition of the picture within your rectangle and then forget about it. Concentrate only on capturing the drama of the eyes.
Jousting with Jesters
by An ABC for the Younger Dragon. Text & illustration by Martin Springett

Orca Book Publishers
32 pages $19.95 cloth
ISBN: 1551433273
Children's Books
Kids' Lit
by OR Melling
"Beware of barons bringing broadswords to breakfast." Alphabet books are a wonderful way to introduce letters to small children while also providing pleasant activity time with them, especially when the book appeals to the adult as well. Martin Springett's first authored and illustrated work is guaranteed to do just that.

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