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454 LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 The task of setting a poetic movement within its Canadian cultural context is extraordinarily difficult when we possess neither an interpretive history of the poetry nor an integrated study of the culture. And until we do get around to defining our own traditions (and perhaps even then), we may expect an acceleration of the kind of debate that characterizes Poetry and the Colonized Mind: Tish. In the meantime, the reader who wants to gauge the present critical and poetic practices of writers such as Bowering and Davey would do well to stay with the pages of Tish. (SANDRA DrWA) Dennis Lee. Savage Fields: An Essay ill Literature and Cosmology Anansi. 125. $,2.95 c!oth, $5.95 paper Jean-Paul Sartre claimed that a writer's technique implies a certain metaphysic. Changing the terms somewhat, Dennis Lee investigates the 'cosmology' implicit in contemporary writing, and explains that his essay, Savage Fields, is 'only incidentally a work of literary criticism: because it aims at nothing less than a critique and revaluation of modern consciousness. There is little room for modesty in such a task, and the book is interesting often simply because of its daring. Nevertheless, in its study of Michael Ondaatje and Leonard Cohen its strength is literary, not philosophical. Lee defines his cosmology as the strife between nature and civilization , instinct and consciousness, fact and value, between the 'earth' man inhabits, fears, and fights and the 'world' he constructs and rules through thought. The opposed categories, though hostile, are not mutually exclusive; they exist simultaneously as contrary impulses or 'savage fields' within the same 'planet.' Lee examines the literature which maps this battlefield and which seeks to save us from the suicidal domination of 'world' through its tyranny of reason and technology. As sources he quotes Heidegger and Nietzsche, but we can detect other influences closer to home. D.H. Lawrence is a continual, unacknowledged, and perhaps unrecognized presence in the book, and Lee aims at a salvation for modern man no less radical or elusive than Lawrence's 'spontaneous -creative fullness of being.' Closer still is Margaret Atwood's Survival , especially its last chapter, 'Jailbreaks and Recreations: which calls for social and psychological liberation through an acceptance of nature, not as antagonist, but as home. In fact, Lee's metaphysic probably is directed less by Heidegger than by Northrop Frye whose concept of the 'garrison mentality,' that prime mover in Canadian criticism, sets man in and against the savage Canadian wilderness. These last two influences may explain why Lee refers only to Canadian authors though he takes as HUMANITIES 455 his province all modern literature, and why he finds Canadians in the vanguard of the avant-garde of modern thought. The essay is most competent in its literary analysis. Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid presents a 'horrific moral vision' of destructive modern consciousness adrift in a value-free 'earth' that threatens yet attracts man with its instinctual energy. It charts our existential dilemma without giving 'imaginative access to any different way of being.' This project is found in Beautiful Losers, which tries but fails to engineer a jailbreak into a 'dionysiac ontology' that affirms the sacred unity of world and earth. And at that moment, a man ejects from history into the Isis continuum. It becomes a moment of earth-and-world-asIsis , dissolving the very experience of savage fields which generated it. Cohen's is an erratic, brilliant, pompous novel, and Lee handles it well because his essay, for all its earnestness, cannot help being erratic, pompous, and occasionally brilliant. Certainly he captures the spirit of Beautiful Losers, and works his way perceptively through its mysteries. But when he then speculates philosophically, he becomes eloquently vague about the need to rediscover a planet 'donating itself to men in luminous value.' After the fine analysis of Beautiful Losers, the essay falls off, and ends with a combination of confession, sermon, and pep talk. (J. M. KERTZER) Yves Dostaler. Les Irlfortunes du TOffIan dans Ie Quebec dll XIXesiecie HurtubiseHMH. 175. $6.25 Jeanne La France. Les Personnages dans Ie roman canadiell -fran~ais (1837 - 1862) Editions Naaman. 248. $10.00...


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