Book Reviews in September 2005 Issue

Note from Editor
Editor's Note
by Olga Stein
Dear readers, no doubt you'll notice that something is eating a number of my contributors this month. Michael Harris objects to the reinterpretation of Walt Whitman's poetic objectives-his apparent efforts to reach every man-in Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days, a novel that ties these objectives to pulp or "low" genre fiction.

Blind Crescent
by Michelle Berry

Penguin Canada
288 pages $22 paper
ISBN: 0143016962
Book Review
Serial Killer amidst Deadly Monotony
by Ann Diamond
The people of Blind Crescent are watching each other. Normal North Americans, each in his own universe of anxious consumerism. It's our worst suburban nightmare: a world where only the rich can afford to be thin; where desperate single moms can choose from a wide range of junk foods with which to stuff the children they sometimes forget to name; where divorced dads can juggle an array of younger girlfriends, their first line of defence against overweight ex-wives
Specimen Days
by Michael Cunningham

Harper Collins
308 pages $32.95 cloth
ISBN: 000200559X
Book Review
Pulpy Fiction a la Whitman
by Michael Harris
Exactly one century after Walt Whitman first published Leaves of Grass, a then-unknown poet named Allen Ginsberg released a ditty of his own entitled "A Supermarket in California", wherein Ginsberg calls out "I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys." That same year, Lawrence Ferlinghetti caught wind of another Ginsberg poem, "Howl", and wired immediately: "I greet you at the beginning of a great career.
The Complete Stories Vol.3
by Morley Callaghan

Exile Editions
292 pages $29.95 paper
ISBN: 1550965557
The Complete Stories Vol.4
by Morley Callaghan

Exile Editions
322 pages $29.95 paper
ISBN: 1550965573
The Complete Stories Vol.1
by Morley Callaghan

Exile Editions
301 pages $29.95 paper
ISBN: 1550966030
The Complete Stories Vol.2
by Morley Callaghan

Exile Editions
310 pages $29.95 paper
ISBN: 1550966057
Book Review
Morley Callaghan and the Test of Time
by W. J. Keith
Until now, most of us wanting to explore Morley Callaghan's short fiction have relied upon Morley Callaghan's Stories, a collection of 57 short stories which first appeared in 1959. Subsequently, Callaghan and his son Barry unearthed a cache of forgotten stories that were duly published in 1985; 26 stories were thus added to the total, but they have generally been regarded as a modest addendum to the main collection.
Any Day Now
by Denise Roig

Signature Editions
251 pages $17.95 paper
ISBN: 0921833989
Book Review
Between Confinement and Liberation
by Kiki Benzon
I cracked the spine of Denise Roig's new short story collection Any Day Now and thought, "Oh, no-heartbreaking prose." That is, prose which tries hard-for instance, by way of a vignette about a blind would-be Olympian who finds unexpected solace at a Cat Relocation Centre in Nepal, or the inner monologue of an adulterous economist whose life is changed when he reads the poetry of a terminally-ill child-to turn you into a tear-machine.
The Labyrinth of Dangerous Hours: A Memoir of the Second World War
by Lilka Trzcinska-Croydon/Foreword by Norman Davies

University of Toronto Press
152 pages
ISBN: 0802039588
Book Review
Poles in Concentration Camps
by Marianne Apostolides
The Labyrinth of Dangerous Hours tells of the years 1939 to 1945-when time itself assumed a physical shape, a menacing dimension to be negotiated one tentative step after the next. Lilka Trzcinska-Croydon was a fourteen-year-old girl when the Nazis invaded Poland. She and her family soon joined the resistance, called the Polish Home Army. All were arrested and sent to Auschwitz.
As for Sinclair Ross
by David Stouck

University of Toronto Press
353 pages cloth
ISBN: 0802043887
Book Review
Getting Ross not so Straight
by Andrew Lesk
After decades of critical response to the work of Sinclair Ross, a very fine biography of the man has appeared to complement-and, most important, to help us re-evaluate-his work. David Stouck's precise and very readable As For Sinclair Ross vividly recounts the rather reclusive life of a man who gave new meaning to the word "dour". Ross appears to have been very much the embittered and retiring figure often on view in much of his work.
From Migrant to Acadian: A North American Border People, 1604-1755
by N. E. S. Griffiths

McGill-Queen's University Press
633 pages $49.95 cloth
ISBN: 0773526994
Book Review
Le grand dTrangement Recounted
by James Allan Evans
For most people with an interest in Nova Scotia history-professional historians excluded-the deportation of the Acadians from the Bay of Fundy region is the story of Evangeline. Longfellow's Evangeline, with its fictional heroine, who spent a lifetime searching for her lost bridegroom and found him at last dying among the plague victims in a Philadelphia almshouse (there was a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793), has created an image of Acadia as indelible as Homer's myth of Troy
Snow Man
by David Albahari

Douglas & McIntyre
128 pages $18.95 paper
ISBN: 1553650999
Book Review
Much Ado About Nothing
by Paul Keen
If your idea of a good novel is an unbroken paragraph one hundred and twenty pages long, most of it a groggy interior monologue spiced with a steady dose of disdainful misanthropy and worldly self-pity, then David Albahari's Snow Man may be the book for you.
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
An Unsentimental Education
by Eric Miller
In her historical romance, The Volcano Lover, Susan Sontag pondered the common prejudice that attempts to distinguish the north archetypically from the south: "Every culture has its southerners. . . lazy, ignorant, superstitious, uninhibited people, never on time, conspicuously poorer (how could it be otherwise, say the northerners) ... We are superior to them, say the northerners, clearly superior.
Memories of My Melancholy Whores
by Gabriel Garcfa Mßrquez/Translated by Edith Grossman

Alfred A. Knopf
128 pages $25 cloth
ISBN: 140004460X
Book Review
The Same Mßrquezian Patterns
by Jeff Bursey
It has been ten years since Gabriel Garcfa Mßrquez's last fiction was published, and with Memories of My Melancholy Whores his fans can once more enjoy his idiosyncratic imagination, the mix of realism and absurdity, and the effortless storytelling. The narrator is a rugged misogynist, sometimes called Doctor or Professor, who reaches his ninetieth birthday without, by his own admission, making a meaningful contribution to the world.
An Unfinished Season
by Ward Just

Mariner Books
251 pages $19.95 paper
ISBN: 061856828X
Book Review
The Eisenhower Years in Novel Form
by Antony Di Nardo
Chicago, early 1950s: Eisenhower and the Republicans are trying to end the war in Korea while fighting off communism at home; news is sensationalized, designed to sell papers, and it appears in morning and evening editions. Enter Wilson Ravan, nineteen-year-old son of a wealthy self-made businessman. His father is in the twilight of his career.
The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries 1939-1955
by John Colville

McArthur & Co.
738 pages $50 cloth
ISBN: 0297847589
Book Review
Steadying Men at the Helm
by Kevin Higgins
John Colville, who died in 1987, was a diplomat and civil servant of-to put it mildly-the old high Tory variety. His description of his family background in the preface to this revised edition of his diaries is guaranteed to make egalitarians sneer: "My father and mother both came from well-known and by no means indigent families, but they were younger children and therefore, thanks to primogeniture [the right of the eldest son to inherit his parents' property] comparatively poor.
The Great Dominion: Winston Churchill in Canada, 1900-1954
by David Dilks

Thomas Allen $45 Hardcover
ISBN: 0887621627
Book Review
Hosting Winston Churchill
by John Pepall
Churchill's life was so long and rich that the study of single aspects of it can be engrossing. Churchill and painting, Churchill and music, Churchill and journalism, Churchill and money, Churchill and friends not in politics-dozens of topics, obvious or obscure, will occur to anyone broadly familiar with his life. British historian David Dilks, the authorised biographer of Neville Chamberlain as it happens, hit on the idea of a book about Churchill and Canada.
Magical Mystery Tours: My Life with the Beatles
by Tony Bramwell, with Rosemary Kingsland

St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne
440 pages $35.95 cloth
ISBN: 031233043X
Book Review
Tony's Bramwellmania
by Gerald Lynch
Encouraged by a favourable review in the Globe and Mail, I bought this book at full price from amazon.ca. The Globe's reviewer must have read only the first hundred pages or so, where the focus is on the ragged teenagers who were becoming the rich Beatles. In this early part, even Tony Bramwell must keep his attention diverted from what eventually becomes his unabashed subject: himself. Bramwell is an epically self-centred chronicler with a picket of blunt axes to grind (440 pages worth).
Ghosting: A Double Life
by Jennie Erdal

270 pages $32.95 cloth
ISBN: 0385661126
Book Review
Giving up the Ghosting
by Clara Thomas
Jennie Erdal was the ghostwriter for Naim Attallah, the London publisher and entrepreneur, for almost fifteen years. She wrote letters, newspaper articles, and "about a dozen books, among them two novels." She does not give her employer's name, calling him "Tiger" throughout, but it is easy to identify him from her acknowledgments of quotations, many of which were her own words and, of course, had appeared as his.
The Love of Two Stars: A Korean Legend
by Retold and illustrated by Janie Jaehyun Park

Groundwood Books
32 pages $16.95 paper
ISBN: 0888996721
Book Review
The review of: The Love of Two Stars: A Korean Legend
by Olga Stein
It's always a good idea to come back to stories which have persisted through time. A legend that has survived for centuries must have some everlasting spark to it. When such legends go through a successful retelling and gain the benefit of excellent illustrations, the product is a worthwhile book for young readers. Janie Jaehyun Park has taken an ancient Korean legend about a great love between two members of the kingdom of stars.
Orchestra of the Lost Steps
by Shelley A. Leedahl

Thistledown Press
220 pages $18.95 paper
ISBN: 1894345673
Book Review
All Body Parts Accounted For
by Antony Di Nardo
After reading the thirteen stories in this collection I'd have to agree that Shelley A. Leedahl has "a chameleon talent for creating colourful characters in ever-changing environs." I've pulled this statement out of "Wintering", one of the stories in this collection, in which an unsuccessful writer faces his writer's block while his marriage falls apart. The comment appears in a fictional review of that writer's well-received first book and could easily have been said about this one.
Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian women
by Edited by Tanya Mars and Johanna Householder

YYZ Books
444 pages $39.95 paper
ISBN: 0920397840
Book Review
Performance Art and its Troupers
by John Oughton
Confession: I was a women's performance art groupie. Conflict of Interest: I participated, tangentially, in some of the performance pieces discussed in the book, contributing a title here, photographs there, occasional music, words, even appearing myself as a moving prop.
by Ray Hsu

Nightwood Editions/ Harbour Publishing
87 pages $15 paper
ISBN: 0889711976
According to Loon Bay
by Hannah Main-Van Der Kamp

The St. Thomas Poetry Series
96 pages $20 paper
ISBN: 0973591005
Personal Effects
by Michael Bradford

Coteau Books
72 pages $12.95 paper
ISBN: 1550502921
Memoirs of an Alias
by Jason Heroux

Mansfield Press
53 pages $16.95 paper
ISBN: 1894469186
Book Review
Eyes Wide Open
by Andrew Vaisius
At the beginning of Anthropy Ray Hsu quotes the lately resurfacing philosopher-critic Walter Benjamin, "There is no map/ that can hold a bomb." Ostensibly Benjamin figures in the first section-entitled Third Person-yet his presence hovers over the whole volume. The sensibility of the above quote, more in its emotion than argument, mirrors Hsu's own writing and its knowing-through-feeling concerns.
Haunted Hills & Hanging Valleys
by Peter Trower

Harbour Publishing
160 pages $18.95 paper
ISBN: 1550173111
Book Review
A is for Axe: Peter Trower's Gruntwork
by Carmine Starnino
Crack open The Cambridge Companion to Canadian Literature to "Poetry" and David Staines will give you the skinny. You'll learn about ur-pioneer Susanna Moodie, the post-confederation poets, and Louis Dudek. You'll learn about the Modernist shake up in Montreal, West Coast poetry, and Al Purdy. You'll learn about Margaret Atwood's political themes, bp Nichol, and the postmodern vibe of the Canadian prairies
by Catherine Gildiner

Knopf Canada
480 pages $34.95
ISBN: 0676976530
Book Review
First Novels
by W.P. Kinsella
Seduction by Catherine Gildiner, (Knopf Canada, $34.95, 480 pages, ISBN:0676976530). Here we have a very long and elegantly written intellectual murder mystery, set in 1982, that is definitely not for the read by weight crowd. Kate Fitzgerald has served almost ten years in prison for murdering her husband. While there she has seriously studied Freud, and in academic circles she has come to be regarded as somewhat of an expert.
The Closed Circle
by Jonathan Coe

Alfred A. Knopf
384 pages $35 CND
ISBN: 0375414150
Book Review
Life after Thatcher Yields Cynical Sequel
by Lisa Salem-Wiseman
A recent book review suggested that a sound course of action for anyone wishing to become the next up-and-coming novelist would be to change one's name to Jonathan. Indeed, among the most interesting and talented young writers of the moment are a number of Jonathans-Lethem, Franzen, and Safran-Foer.
by Eric Walters

Viking Canada
192 pages $22 cloth
ISBN: 0670044652
Books on Kids
Kids' Lit
by M. Wayne Cunningham
In the Foreword to Eric Walters book about the discovery of insulin by the University of Toronto research team of Dr. Frederick Banting and Charles Best, Dr. Banting's great nephew, Bob, advises that for the story of the life-prolonging serum to be interesting to younger readers, an author needs "to make history fun to read." That's the challenge to which Mississauga-based author, Eric Walters, has risen, and which he has successfully met.
The Greenies
by Myra Paperny

HarperTrophy Canada
249 pages $15.99 paper
ISBN: 0006393551
Books on Kids
Kids' Lit
by Anne Cimon
Myra Paperny's fourth novel,The Greenies, is a valuable addition to the literature that concerns the Holocaust. Paperny is the award-winning author of The Wooden People, and most recently, Nightmare Mountain. The Greenies, titled after the name used for those who were "green" to Canada, or foreigners, is a fictional narrative based on Paperny's research and interviews with survivors of the Holocaust who were sent to foster homes across Canada through the Canadian Jewish War Orphans Project.
Han Nolan
by When We Were Saints

291 pages $9.95 paper
ISBN: 0152053220
Books on Kids
Kids' Lit
by M. Wayne Cunningham
Han Nolan's newest of her five novels about young people searching for spiritual healing is an enthralling, inspirational and multifaceted story of two teenagers striving for moral purity amid the push-and-pull of dysfunctional families, disloyal friends and worldly distractions. There are two protagonists, the 14-year-old Archibald (or "Archie") Lee Caswell and the slightly older Clare Simpson, the fun-loving wannabe comicbook artist.
From Charlie's Point of View
by Richard Scrimger

Tundra Books
278 pages $14.99 paper
ISBN: 088776679X
Books on Kids
Kids' Lit
by by Antony Di Nardo
"Charlie's point of view depends mostly on hearing, touch, smell and imagination..." This is what we are told in the first pages of this book. Charlie is blind. He has been blind since birth and he has adapted perfectly to the world of the sighted. He doesn't like to be considered "special." Rather, as we soon find out, "the word he likes to use for himself is handicap. The way a horse is handicapped, he says, to make the race fair. It carries more weight because it's a faster horse.
The Potencies of Chaos. Ingrid Ruthig Interviews Novelist Rabindranath Maharaj
by Ingrid Ruthig
Rabindranath Maharaj was born and raised in Trinidad. He received degrees from the University of the West Indies, then worked as a teacher and as a columnist for the Trinidad Guardian. In the early 1990s Maharaj moved to Canada and completed a second M.A. at the University of New Brunswick. For a number of years, he taught high school in Ajax, Ontario, where he continues to live.
Sugarmilk Falls
by Ilona van Mil

M & S
328 pages $34.99
ISBN: 0771087322
First Novels
First Novels
by W.P. Kinsella
Sugarmilk Falls is an average page-turner with a serious fault. Sugar Milk Falls is a town with a secret. Twenty years ago something awful happened in Sugar Milk Falls, and now a stranger comes to town and starts asking questions. A group of residents are drawn together including the Police Chief and an ageing priest. Everyone has a version of what happened, and we are given the history of several of the characters. The problem here is that there are no likeable characters.
The Nettle Spinner
by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

Goose Lane Editions
326 pages $25 cloth
ISBN: 0864924224
First Novels
First Novels
by W.P. Kinsella
The story of Alma, a 20-something tree planter in far Northern Ontario has many facets. Alma, pregnant and alone, is drawn to an abandoned mining camp where she meets a strange little man who is almost blind (is he a troll? one of Snow White's seven dwarfs in old age?). This remarkable novel shuffles back and forth in time, from the present to various strata of the past, to an ancient folk tale, which Alma relates to Jake to pass the winter away.
The Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke
by Steven Hayward

Knopf Canada
386 pages $34.95
ISBN: 0676977030
First Novels
First Novels
by W.P. Kinsella
The cumbersome title encircles a story that in less capable hands could have run madly off in all directions. It is set in Toronto in the summer of 1933, a time when there is magic in the air, when the threat of Nazism hovers like a bad smell, and when Toronto's radical labour movement is struggling to gain a foothold. Lucio Burke, one of three boys born fifteen years before on the Burke kitchen table within hours of each other, has an unusual encounter with a bird and a baseball.
Gotta Find Me an Angel
by Brenda Brooks

Raincoast Books
219 pages $29.95
ISBN: 1551927179
First Novels
First Novels
by W.P. Kinsella
Gotta Find Me an Angel is a lively little novel about lesbian relationships, although I don't recall the words gay or lesbian appearing in the book. This lack of sexual identity propaganda is refreshing. The heroine is in her mid-thirties and is still grieving the loss of Madeline, her first love, who drowned at fifteen. The story is told in dramatic monologue form, after Madeline's spirit pays the heroine a visit one dark night.
Politics/Economics At Home in the World: Canada's Global Vision for the 21st Century
by Jennifer Welsh

Harper Collins
266 pages $32.95 cloth
ISBN: 0002006650
Brief Reviews
Brief Reviews
by Martin Loney
It has become commonplace to note that Canada's role in the world is much diminished. The Canadian economy is heavily dependent on trade with the U.S., which accounts for more than 80 per cent of Canada's exports, close to a third of Canada's Gross Domestic Product. Yet our relations with our major trading partner are a continual source of national angst, from the Council of Canadians and its many allies in the chattering classes, fearful that we are too far under the U.S
Lilac Moon: Dreaming of the Real West
by Sharon Butala

Harper Collins
256 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 0002007789
Brief Reviews
Brief Reviews
by Cindy MacKenzie
Choosing the symbol of the lilac, the distinctively common but beautiful flower with a potent fragrance, and the ever-changing presence of the moon in a big sky to evoke the prairie landscape, Sharon Butala provides a setting for her original and compelling history of the West in her latest work of non-fiction, Lilac Moon.
Irrational Exuberance
by Robert J. Shiller

Princeton University Press
304 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 0691123357
Brief Reviews
Brief Reviews
by Christopher Ondaatje
Irrational Exuberance is the second edition of Robert J. Shiller's well-received book, published in 2000. It is an opportune update that goes to some pains to explain the realities of the market excesses that threaten to destabalise the economy and disrupt our lives. Shiller correctly warned readers of the 2000 stock market collapse and now directs his warning to the recent housing market bubble that is likely to burst in much the same way
by Hilton Obenzinger

Soft Skull Press
203 pages $17.95 paper
ISBN: 1932360468
Brief Reviews
Brief Reviews
by Jeff Bursey
Milton Obenzinger's latest novel is a short and often amusing stylistic cul-de-sac. Spread out over ten numbered sections of unequal length, the short excursions into different genres are given titles like "Satan's Asshole", "Masturbation Journal", "Detective", and "Officer's Diary". Though labelled a novel, one could read the many pieces headed by "Mars Virus" as loosely connected short fiction, but this would not result in what may be termed a satisfactory story arc.
Garden of Venus
by Eva Stachniak

455 pages $24.95 paper
ISBN: 0002005786
Brief Reviews
Brief Reviews
by Olga Stein
Eva Stachniak has seized an opportunity with her Garden of Venus. She may be the first in Canada to have penned a novel centering on Polish history of the last half of the 18th century, that lamentable period of the three partitions-of 1772, 1793, and 1795-which culminated in the loss of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's sovereignty. Some surface digging yields fascinating details about the nation forged by Miszko I in the 10th century

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