- Whirligig: Selected Prose and Verse by Ernest Buckler, and: One Half of Robertson Davies: Provocative Pronouncements on a Wide Range of Topics by Robertson Davies, and: No Other Country by Al Purdy (review)
- University of Toronto Quarterly
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 47, Number 4, Summer 1978
- pp. 445-448
- View Citation
- Additional Information
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's part. What, you may wonder, does Morley spend her time on, since thinking obviously occupies few of her pages? Plot summary, of course. And not even useful plot summary. Her retellings are not sufficiently clear, complete, or balanced to help the uninitiated, while those who have read Hood's and Wiebe's books could have done without such summary altogether. And why bother to attack such a weak book? Because, now that Hood and Wiebe are gaining recognition as significant writers, the unwary enthusiast might buy it and the misguided student read it. (JUDITH SKELTON GRANT) Ernest Buckler. Whirligig: Selected Prose and Verse McClelland and Stewart. 128. $7.95 Robertson Davies. One Half of RobertsonDavies: Provocative Pronoull cements on a Wide Range of Topics Macmillan. 286. $10.95 Al Purdy. No Other Country McClelland and Stewart. 187. $10.00 Publishers are marketing their authors' occasional non-fiction now. As this type of publishing could, if forced and automatic, descend to a kind 446 LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 of cultural jogging, it seems right to suggest some principles for the selected-writings genre to editors, especially to editors with a large stable of personalities and a correspondingly poor track record lately in award-winning new writers. First, let the book be rare and unhurried. There is no reason why occasional books by our eminent writers cannot be as important as their other work. There is no reason why occasional writing ought to be seen as 'secondary.' All work is major work to a distinguished author, except poor work. Poor work should remain in the desk drawer. I say this having few doubts about the Davies collection of speeches. For Davies is skilled in that art which he regards as a way of bringing mind and feeling together and as a proper form for the humorous moralist that he is. In contrast, the collected articles that Purdy has written for Maclean's, Weekend, and other magazines, show him to be awkward and strangely flattened by the medium, except when he reacts to other writers, as in 'Poets in Montreal; his best piece. Perhaps it is the deference of the observer on a junket, or the nostalgia of return to a remote place of his tougher years - perhaps the muteness of the land and the mellowness of self are silencing each other- in any case, he lacks hunger for what moves beneath a story and he needs room to expand his persona. Buckler reacts fancifully to the anomaly of high and popular culture. Whirligig is the lightness of wit chasing its tail around, running to limericks, spoofs, to a delight in comic failure, and to a kind of sheer naughtiness. Ophelia writes to Ann Landers; the technologies of his farmhouse...