- Peeking through the Keyhole: The Evolution of North American Homes by Avi Friedman, David Krawitz, and: Planning the New Suburbia: Flexibility by Design by Avi Friedman (review)
- University of Toronto Quarterly
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 73, Number 1, Winter 2003/04
- pp. 333-336
- View Citation
- Additional Information
humanities 333 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Still, no one in Canada has dared so remarkable a literary project. Attention must surely be paid to a writer deeply driven to dramatize and articulate the life of his country. He wanted to include >everything= and >he considered himself embarked on a national mission= for which he was particularly well prepared. Canadian Odyssey is a critical response that Hood would have welcomed. It is a tribute to the project and a sympathetic analysis by a mature, intelligent reader. It attends closely to purpose and result, design and structure, cultural nuance and documentary detail, and overt allusion and covert intertextuality. For coherence and maximum readerly pleasure, Keith argues that the novels should be read consecutively with careful attention to the distinct structure of each and of the series as a whole. For Keith the result is >an act of awesome ambition and stamina.= He studies Hood=s debts to practitioners of the roman fleuve, especially Marcel Proust and Anthony Powell, noting similarities and crucial differences. He weighs Hood=s special debt to Wordsworth. He praises his >technical audacity= and the diversity of structures evident in the individual books. He peers into the >kaleidoscopic patterns= of the series, locating early intimations of later actions and assessing the larger implications of themes and motifs. Canadian Odyssey is a first-rate and persuasive guidebook. Keith alone cannot, however, counter the many lassitudes of >The New Age.= He admits that only >a small but loyal band= of supporters has followed Hood=s grand effort to its conclusion. To other difficulties he offers modest defences or aplogies. He sees structural bones in >novels= that are relentlessly digressive and episodic; he argues that Hood did pretty well in his attempt to be inclusive of twentieth-century Canadian experience (who, he asks, does better?) and he acknowledges Hood=s inadequate attempts to realize the character of his homosexual actor, Adam Sinclair. But anyone who has taught A New Athens or The Swing in the Garden will know the frustration of trying to interest otherwise keen students in Hood=s extraordinary undertaking. They miss a necessary narrative pull and energy. They resist Matt=s perceptiveness and high-mindedness, often finding him tedious and didactic. Too little of Hood=s richness of detail and thought holds their attention. They weary of excessive allusion and longish meditations. And so it goes. Bill Keith=s study addresses the immediate need for a rich and sympathetic reading of Hood=s grand project. Nevertheless, questions loom which he cannot answer. Will there be a rallying of the troops? How will >The New Age= be seen in a few decades? And will Hood ever find an audience commensurate with his own self-estimation? (MICHAEL PETERMAN) Avi Friedman and David Krawitz. Peeking through the Keyhole: The Evolution of North American Homes McGill-Queen=s University Press. xv, 212. $32.95 334 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Avi Friedman. Planning the New Suburbia: Flexibility by Design University of British Columbia Press. xii, 194. $85.00 Dramatic statements made by heroic designers highlight the history of architecture. Approbation and commissions are won by renditions depicting original ideas, by masters making statements to flatter cities, institutions, corporations, and the affluent. In the past year, Toronto has hitched its quest for world prominence to designs by Frank Gehry and Daniel Liebeskind. The University of Toronto got Graduate House, winner of architectural prizes before its completion and arguably the ugliest and least functional new building on campus. Avi Friedman is not that kind of architect. Director of the Affordable Homes Program at McGill University, Friedman devotes himself to the livability of housing and housing areas for ordinary people. Unique looks are less important to him than functionality. He has worked hands-on with such endeavours as multi-family buildings in which rooms can be traded from apartment to apartment as needs wax and wane. His work has been noticed and honoured for its potential contribution to humanity, not its looks. In conjunction with colleagues and students, Friedman published two books in 2002 that communicate and demonstrate his...