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Canadians - a sign that many of his arrows found their mark. (JON KERTZER) Stan Dragland. Journeys through Book/and Coach House Press 1984. 141. $8.50 This slim book is imbued -like Peckertracks, Dragland's earlier 'chronicle' of growing up in a prairie town - with a powerful nostalgia for lost innocence. Here, it is particularly the innocent charm of the story that is recalled - especially those fairy tales, fables, and fictions that excited and distracted and ultimately shaped a boy growing up in the West some thirty years ago with, as his chief companion, the original Journeys through Bookland. Dragland appropriates the title of that many-volumed late-Victorian collection of reading material for children for his own collage of essays, brief memoirs, poems, and recounted or invented tales. But this Journeys through Bookland is not the loose gathering it first appears; taken together, these pieces become a series of oblique approaches to the whole question of story and its power over us. For example, in one of the sketches - 'Buried Body: a meditation on two very different artists from London, Ontario, Jack Chambers and Guy Lombardo - Dragland writes: 'Chambers is a painter not much celebrated in his home town. The reason least possible to acknowledge is his apocalyptic mm The Hart of London, which is so harrowing that certain of its dark images have escaped into the dreams of people who do not know the mm exists.... Vapours from the shallow grave of the family secret, shades of our lost innocence, bade to rise and walk. Nobody thanks the unearther: The notion that such images can'escape' from art is an idea that informs the whole book, uniting itand giving it its structure. It is only once the reader recognizes this that he can understand why, for example, the book opens with a discussion of 'Beth Gelert,' the tale of the faithful dog who saves a boy from wolves only to be slain by the boy's father in a rash moment. Initially the main point of Dragland's recounting the tale seems to be to show us that while the story is a disturbing one, still it lays hold on the imagination, even teases the mind (,Who leaves a child alone with ravening wolves about?'). But as we read on in the book, we begin to realize that Dragland's real topic is the power of such a tale to become an organizing myth. We begin to recognize this force when, in one of the later recollections about his own family, Dragland expresses the guilt he felt about sending his anxious son to kindergarten ina new locale: 'Soon he begins to weep before he leaves the house ... I've thrown him to the wolves: These words have their echoes elsewhere as well, as when Dragland comments on an anecdote told by a man who boasts not of the HUMANmEs 157 compassion he showed a crippled woman but of seducing her: 'It was a shock to see the wolf so suddenly leap out of disguise at the end of the story: The wolf that lurks hidden in the innocent world: even when not made explicit, this is an underlying pattern in many of the personal moments that are interwoven in the book between the responses to fairy tale and fiction. A pleasant evening in Ottawa, after the Grey Cup GameĀ·, turns sinister when a disappointed Calgary fan pulls a gun; a quiet visit to a Coles bookstore becomes frightening when an 'ogre: claiming to have killed two Mounties, accosts Dragland and his children. But the artist and the world are both shown to be shape-shifters and, throughout Journeys through Bookland, Dragland suggests that the artist has another function besides that of showing us our wolves. After all, Jack Chambers lived on Lombardo Avenue, and DraglandĀ·reminds us that even Louis Armstrong said, 'There'll always be a Guy Lombardo in my dream orchestra: Far from dismiSSing the importance of that troubadour of New Year's Eve, Dragland calls Lombardo the master of 'the ordinary raised to perfection: and suggests that he represents the ability of the artist to reassure. Similarly the whole of Journeys through Bookland shows us...


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pp. 156-157
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