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444 LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 anthology would require careful editorial introductions to the material which Edmonstone treats in a more undirected way - the biographical details of Cohen's career as a critic, the historical background of Toronto theatre, the development of the Stratford Festival, and so on - but would allow readers directly to judge the quality of the criticism in action. Cohen's supposed prejudices against the Crest Theatre or Stratford, for example, are to be tested only by reading what he wrote and spoke about them. He was an exception among major theatre critics in not publishing collections of his own reviews, and this gap in the material of our theatrical history should be repaired. Edmonstone's book quotes radio scripts at the expense of newspaper articles, perhaps because he has worked from Cohen's papers in the National Archives, and has felt the need to make public material otherwise unavailable, but the unfortunate effect is that one is frequently aware of overstatement and repetition in Cohen's writing. Probably this is attributable to the requirements of the medium, but one needs to see more of the published reviews to be sure, and to discover whether, for instance, Cohen's deliberately ponderous style occasionally ran his judgment. He is certainly not well served in general by such comment as Edmonstone does give, which is too often superfluous, flat, or trivial. As a biography, the book does not offer a great deal more than the details which David McCaughna presented more concisely in an article. in Canadian Theatre Review in 1975. Edmonstone's portrayal ofCohen is as a public man, which is certainly how Cohen saw himself: there does not seem to be a significantly different private self behind the persona he presented in his criticism. Nor, despite the title of this book, was there a particular development, beyond that of growing confidence and authority , in Cohen's critical style: the earliest pieces for the student newspaper at Mount Allison reveal the fondness for generalization and syntactical heaviness which he retained throughout his life. The critic was born rather than made. (IOHN H. ASTINGTON) Patricia A. Morley. The Comedians: HughHood and Rudy Wiebe Clarke Irwin. ix, 134ยท $7.95 That a work as mediocre in thought and style as this should be deemed worthy of publication makes one despair of the critical powers of publishers . For not only do frequent minor instances of obtuseness annoy the reader, but the major structuring ideas lack rigour and fail to give the book shape. First, a typical small failure. In the chapter on Hugh Hood's first novel, White Figure, White Ground, Morley quotes Desmond Pacey's pithy, perceptive criticism of the novel which ends: 'Hood seems to me not to HUMANITIES 445 have fully made up his mind whether to write a serious novel about the nature of the artistic experience or a romance about family feuds and ancestral guilt in rural Nova Scotia.' Here, it seems to me, Pacey touches a fundamental insecurity in Hood's book - an insecurity reflected in tone, subject-matter, and style. There are unintegrated literary flourishes , pedestrian stretches untransmuted by the imagination, and uncomfortable patches of Harlequin-romance style. But all Morley says in response to Pacey is: 'Why must a serious novel about the nature of the artistic experience, which is one aspect of the search for freedom and truth, necessarily exclude romance? Hood expresses serious themes in comic form, in a technique which blends fantasy and realism, irony and romance .' This misses Pacey's point by failing to make critical distinctions about kinds and levels of romance. It also, frustratingly, fails to argue or expand on her own position. This latter problem is part of the larger failure. The ideas on comedy which ought to be the book's raison d'i!tre, its driving force, its rigorous framework are mere magpie pickings from the pages of Northrop Frye. Reduced and diminished by their removal from Frye's powerful structure , these ideas are not integrated into any new configuration. Indeed, the reader learns to see Frye's phrases and definitions as signals of the need for serious thinking and of its avoidance on Morley...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 444-445
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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