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RU D Y WIEBE A Novelist's Personal Notes on Frederick Philip Grove Like most writers of fiction, and though I am nominally a 'professor of English' for whom literary philosophizing is assumed to be a way of life, I have an aversion to theorizing about literature in general. It may be that I am too lazy to commit myself to formulating a stated theOlY about how, why, what literature does (if it does anything, and I do believe it does); or it may be I have read too many disastrous effusions on that line (another occupational hazard) which pretended to a wisdom never actually granted them; or it may be simply that in one of my early ventures into theory I was so bold as to use an image which seemed appropriate at the time - and still looks pretty good: To touch this land [i.e., the Canadian prairie] with words requires an architectural structure; to break into the space of the reader's mind with the space of this western landscape and the people in it you must build a structure of fiction like an engineer builds a bridge or skyscraper Dve,r and into space ... No song or poem can do that; it must be giant fiction. This statement has since been used against me to prove various things; for example, that I hate poetry or singing (both absurd notions), or that I have a thing going with engineers (even more so). Hereafter I have been content that, whatever literary theory I may have, it be deduced if possible from whatever! write. I wish to express no theoretical remarks about the novels of Frederick Philip Grove, but I want to sketch a personal memory of what reading him the first time did to me, and a reaction on reading him again. As such these remarks may have no general applicability. They describe how Grove's fiction has spoken to me, a person attempting to write fiction myself. I'd like to begin by talking about story-telling. I grew to boyhood in the bush country of northern Saskatchewan, on the border of cultivatable land (my father always said we were already well beyond it). One of the first memories I have is of my mother and oldest sister going for the cows on the free range west of our homestead, nothing but unfenced poplar and birch and spruce and swamp miles west to Turtle Lake. My father and two older brothers very often worked away from home - those were the later years of the DepreSSion - and my other sisters and I, the baby, UN IVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME XLVII, NUMBER 3, SPRING 1978 0042-0247178/°500-0189 $ 01 .50/ 0 © UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS 1978 190 RUDY WIEBE were often alone in the farmyard. In this particular memory a strange animal came roaring up the trail to our place: a gigantic red bull who rumbled about the yard sniffing and hurling dust over himself with his horned head and hoofs while my sisters and I stared in terror from the windows. His very bellows would flatten the logs of the house; we would be either crushed or trampled. And if mother came home with the cows ... but it gradually faded dark in the long northern evening, and nothingonly that terrible bull standing with his head low, staring at us behind thin glass. Then, suddenly, there was our father in the yard where we had not expected to see him for a week; he had a huge stick in his hand and went up to that bull and hammered him four times across the snout and the beast scrambled off like a chastened calf. And then father stood on the hill and hallooooed in that high carrying call (he was the best tenor in the church choir) and like a spirit far away beyond the poplars streaked by the last of the sun's light came the beautiful answering call of my mother (she was the best soprano) and my father went off to meet her and we children came out to sit on the hill, very near the house of course, and soon they were there...


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