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HUMANITIES 159 local cultures. Since Frye contends that local cultures nurture the imagination, Cook claims that 'improved binoculars' are still binoculars. The forbidden fruit has been consumed -liberalism self-destructs. This at least appears to be the conclusion we are to draw from Cook the art critic. In his last chapter he offers an interpretation'of three familiar paintings by Colville, Chambers, and Wagschal which he contends reveal the emptiness of Frye's 'technological humanism.' Readers of George Grant, who dismissed Frye in a sentence in Technology and Empire, will find both the argument and its frequent opaqueness familiar. Now, contrary to Cook's claim to the role of caricaturist, the sketch of Frye's outlook is not a 'grotesque representation,' though it is overly simple. The critique, however, is less than a work of art. Cook simply assumes that the Ellul-Grant case is self-evident: liberalism is the ideology of technolOgical society which is, in turn, destructive of humanistic values. But has the case been made? That tecl'mology (or rather 'technique ') raises profound questions for liberal societies is hardly a discovery. That the apocalypse lies at hand, is less certain. ('We are standing not on the edge ofa volcano,' Flaubert wrote in 1850, 'but on the wooden seat of a latrine, and it seems to me more than a touch rotten.') While painters and caricaturists have certain accepted ways of presenting a viewpOint, the way of the political philosopher is surely argument, not assertion. Nor is the claim that the study is 'both fictional and nonfictional ' (p 6) an acceptable substitute. After all, if you think about it, the distinction is meaningless for a political philosopher. (RAMSAY COOK) Stanley Fogel. A Tale of Two Countries: Contemporary Fiction in Canada and the United States ECW Press 1984. 143. $g.95 paper In the words of its subtitle, A Tale ofTwo Countries prontises a comparative study of 'contemporary fiction in Canada and the United States' in order to exantine the implications of the fact that American novels, so claims Stanley Fogel, are more experimental or epistemologically oriented or 'metafictional' than Canadian ones. Underlying Fogel's argument is the explicit assumption that to be metafictional or deconstructionist in one's approach - whether one is a critic or a writer - is better, in various ways, than to be traditional. The philosophical justification for this attitude is borrowed from Jacques Derrida and Roland Barthes. Of particular importance is Barthes's Mythologies, which demythologizes the signs and codes of various discourses and suggests the extent to which certain social conventions and representational codes become 'naturalized' to the point that they tend to prevent the perceiving and acting subject from (1) recognizing their conventional nature and (2) discovering 'their loaded dimensions.' Thus, from Fogel's point of view, the metafictional novel is treated, a priori, as preferable to the traditional one even if the former is represented by as marginal a writer as Ronald Sukenick and the latter by Saul Bellow. The experimental novelis preferred because, no matter what its status as a work of art, its attitude to language, structure, and convention functions to demystify the petrified ideological false consciousness of society. (Fogel's rather glib and shaky politics extend this to mean that whatever is, however vaguely, on the 'left' is always preferable to whatever is on the'right.') Thus, not coincidentally, the metafictional novels of William Gass, Robert Coover, and Robert Kroetsch which are discussed by Fogel are exempted from any evaluative criticism. John Metcalf's playful comment that most experimental writing is a 'bit like farting "Annie Laurie" through a key hole but not as demanding' may not be criticism but it at least registers a critical reaction shared by many readers, and it is simply notaddressed byFogel. Similarlyhe mentions Gerald Graff's impressively argued attack on post-modernism (in Literature against Itself) without dealing with it in any substantive way. If Fogel's attitude to Gass, Coover, and Kroetsch is almost reverential, his treatment of those pathetic backward-looking Canadians Margaret Atwood and Robertson Davies who still believe in character, plot, and national identity - not to mention the referentiality of language - is almost dismissive. The chapter dealing with them...


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pp. 159-160
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