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HUMANITIES 161 Robert Lecker, Jack David, and Ellen Quigley, editors. Canadian Writers and Their Works. Fiction Series. Volumes 6 and 7 ECW Press. 2831 326. $40.00 each volume unadian Writers and Their Works fills a desperate need for a comprehensive information bank on poets and fiction writers in Canada. Each volume in the projected twenty-volume series will focus on five authors - giving for each a basic biographical background, a review of published criticism, a long and detailed analysis of the author's writings, and a selected bibliography of primary and secondary material. The volumes under review are devoted to writers of fiction. The five writers featured in volume 6 - Robertson Davies, Hugh Gamer, Mordecai Richler, Ethel Wilson, and Adele Wiseman - are considered traditional storytellers in George Woodcock's introduction, because of their'shared lack of interest in literary experimentation on any more enterprising level than Richler's Swiftian satiric grotesqueries.' The five in volume 7 - Clark Blaise, Hugh Hood, John Metcalf, Alice Munro, and Sheila Watson - are called modernists because of their 'close concern for the texture of prose: and'quasi-imagist awareness of the revealing detail.' Even though labelling writers is a thankless necessity at times, George Woodcock's seeming preference for literary experimenters, indeed the suggestion that writers such as Adele Wiseman and Ethel Wilson are not concerned with'texture' and the 'revealing detail,' stirs protest in this reviewer. However, at least one critic within the series has drawn together what the introduction rent asunder. Hallvard Dahlie, in his essay on Alice Munro, comments that she has 'much in common with one of our most traditional novelists, Ethel Wilson, who ... frequently juxtaposes simple social reality against sudden dimensions of the irrational or terrifying.' Since sudden slides into the abyss are characteristic of Adele Wiseman as well, and since Munro is a quintessential storyteller, she would seem to fit more comfortably with Wilson and Wiseman than in the stark minimalist ranks of Sheila Watson. Critical essays on the storytellers in volume 6 range from deep empathy to disdain sprinkled with qualified approval. It was good to find an informed appreciative essay on Hugh Garner by Paul Stuewe, who stresses the 'sociological and moralistic aspects of Garner's writing' and suggests that we regard the large amount of 'popular' work that Garner turned out as evidence more of his multiple capabilities than of any defiCiency in his ability to write superior fiction. The sympathetic view of Garner contrasts with a fairly sharp criticism of Mordecai Richler by Kerry McSweeney, who rebukes Richler for his 'gamy fixations' and his reworking of similar themes in St. Urbain's Horseman and Joshua Then and Now. He does admit, however, that Richler 'has produced some of the best, and certainly the most widely entertaining, Canadian fiction of his generation.' Robertson Davies is rapped by john Mills for massive indifference to innovation in fictional techniques and for' intellectual and emotional shallowness'; he is, however, praised for his comic vision and his urgency in stressing the theme of personal liberation. In her fine analysis of Ethel Wilson's novels and short stories, Beverly Mitchell notes the classical lucidity of Ethel Wilson's prose and places her in F.R. Leavis's 'great tradition' of writers who display 'a vital capacity for experience, a ... reverent openness before life, and a marked moral intensity.' Michael Greenstein situates Adele Wiseman in the literal movementofnineteenth-centuryYiddish writerssuchasSholomAleichem and Mendele Mocher Sforim. His discussion of the cultural climate infonning Wiseman's work is particularly helpful, and his analysis of stylistic experiment and use of synecdoche in Crackpot is a virtuoso performance. While the so-called traditional writers in volume 6 receive both praise and blame from their critics, the modernists in volume 7 are treated with surprising gentleness. Barry Cameron asserts that Clark Blaise 'has given us ... some of the most rewarding books of fiction ever produced in Canada: and he quotes in loving detail long passages from Blaise's 'Pascalian abyss of wretchedness.' Keith Garebian states that Hugh Hood rivals Proust in 'intellectual analysis of the nature of history and the metaphor of time: though he admits that Hood is not the equal of his model, Proust, in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 161-162
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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