From the Heart of the Heartland
The Fiction of Sinclair Ross
Publication Year: 1992
Published by: University of Ottawa Press
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As for Me and My House is the quintessential Canadian novel, much the way The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is quintessentially American. Sinclair Ross and Mark Twain have little enough in common, but both of them manage to capture in fictions that could not be taken in any way as mainstream the hearts and perhaps the souls of their respective nations. Twain's novel is the literary equivalent of democratic populism; Ross's achievement is far more enigmatic. As for Me and My House seems calm on the surface, almost genteel.
Sinclair Ross in Letters and Conversation
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The man whose work we have gathered here to appraise and celebrate has never been awarded a Canada Council grant, has never won a Governor General's Award, has not been made a Companion of the Order of Canada, has never received an honorary university degree or prize. At the same time, no body of short fiction in Canada has been so frequently anthologized, no single Canadian novel has been so often taught, or written about, as As for Me and My House.
"Can't See Life for Illusions": The Problematic Realism of Sinclair Ross
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Picking up on a dismissive remark made by his mother about his early writings, Sinclair Ross has entitled his recent memoir "Just Wind and Horses." The phrase compels us to consider whether the depiction of prairie life really is the defining element of Ross's work. Most of the existing criticism of Ross has focused on this aspect; while the talk is not just of wind and horses, but also of eyes, mirrors, diaries, marriages, false fronts, and scarlet rompers, Ross's fiction has most often been judged and appreciated as a realistic account of life on homesteads in Saskatchewan during the Depression era.
The Conflicting Signs of As for Me and My House
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Recent criticism of As for Me and My House has read much of the selection and interpretation of events in that novel as specific to the character of Mrs. Bentley, whose diary entries constitute the entirety of the text (Dooley 1979; McMullen 1979; Cude 1980; Denham 1980; Godard 1981; Stouck 1984) . While this application of Wayne Booth's concept of the unreliable narrator has often resulted in more complex readings of her narration, it has also tended to obscure the fact that Mrs. Bentley herself is a textual construction.
Who Are You, Mrs. Bentley?: Feminist Re-vision and Sinclair Ross's As for Me and My House
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Adrienne Rich's description of revision as a feminist literary activity has special meaning for feminist readers of Ross's text. Seeking a Mrs. Bentley who accords with female experience is an "act of survival" that demands a revision of the critical reception of As for Me and My House, a reception that offers (in the majority of evaluations) viewpoints of the central female character that limit the reading act. But feminist revision also implies attention to the cultural situation of the revisioning critic, as exemplified by Rich's autobiographical stance in Of Woman Born, in which she makes her own history a part of the project of re-examining the institution of motherhood.
The Dark Laughter of As for Me and My House
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To recycle a sentiment Robertson Davies loves to borrow, the one from the schoolboy summarizing the writings of Matthew Arnold, As for Me and My House is undeniably "no place to go for a laugh." Yet Robertson Davies and his analysis of laughter do have a special place in Ross criticism, I would contend, and not merely because our foremost writer of comedy was the first to identify As for Me and My House as "a remarkable addition to our small stock of Canadian books of first-rate importance."
Horsey Comedy in the Short Fiction of Sinclair Ross
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I began reading Sinclair Ross's work around 1970, a bit before the publication of his last story, "The Flowers That Killed Him" (1972). At the time there seemed to be a hunt in progress to find our cultural heroes, who in turn would articulate for us that elusive thing called "The Canadian Identity." The word was out: return to your roots, scour the countryside, haul those skeletons out of the closet. The grimmer the better. As a graduate student in search of a thesis, I canvassed the bookshelves in search of the most unsparing realism I could find.
Telling Secrets: Sinclair Ross's Sawbones Memorial
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I'll tell you a secret. When a child friend of mine tells me his stories, he marks the important stuff by hushing his voice. He has already discovered the power that lives in secrets, power enough to generate a whole economy of exchange in fictional small-town Upward, Saskatchewan where Sinclair Ross sets Sawbones Memorial. Telling secrets. Those who know, trading their tellings, trying out new versions, new variations, balancing their accounts. Or sometimes hoarding their knowing.
Sinclair Ross's "Foreigners"
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Morton L. Ross has observed in his "case study" of the "canonization" of As for Me and My House that the emphasis in recent Ross criticism has been on narrativity (particularly point of view) and self-reflexivity. This has led, he believes, to a distressing valorization of "the vagaries of 'tension/ 'irony,' 'paradox,' and 'ambiguity,'" along with a displacing of "responsibility for contributing meaning" onto the reader, as if the text were without intrinsic meaning (205). What he most laments ...
An Awful Stumbling Towards Names: Ross and the (Un)Common Noun
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Our readings of contemporary texts are replete with awareness of gender and of how gender constitutes texts. We are growing accustomed, too, to tracing the female figure as she is named, unnamed, misnamed, renamed. We measure that naming, knowing how crucial it is to definitions of the self and to ideologies that constrain those definitions.
A Reference Guide to Sinclair Ross
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The first half of this checklist of writings by and about Sinclair Ross begins with the editions of his four novels and two collections of short stories. It continues with the original publication in periodicals or anthologies of his short stories, articles, and memoir. The inclusion of a story in The Lamp at Noon and Other Stories or in The Race and Other Stories is noted at the end of the entry by the abbreviation LNOS or ROS. The selection of reprinted anthology contributions includes translations of his stories into Chinese and German.
Page Count: 148
Publication Year: 1992
Volume Title: 17
Series Title: Reappraisals: Canadian Writers