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Charles Taylor. Radical Tories: The Conservative Tradition in Canada Anansi. 231. $19.95 A difficult work to review for an academic audience, this book appears to be addressed rather to the general reader. Assuming that it remains worth reading, how does it attempt to deal with its material? Charles Taylor's last book, Six Journeys: a Canadian Pattern (1977), treated the careers of half a dozen Canadians through the image of a quest. Their intellectual voyages seemed spiritual aeneids rather than odysseys, whose subjects did not seek a return to home so much as a new city that would prove a refuge from a fallen Canada. The same model of experience shapes this current eifort, except that now it is his own political course that Taylor is attempting to chart. It is a journey in time, including such past figures as Leacock and Creighton, and in space, as the writer travels about the country to the homes of his subjects. A sense of place serves as the book's foundation, with domestic interiors and lifestyles woven into his account of a search for a local tradition that offsets the technocratic continentalism of a Liberallliberal regime. A number of minor figures - and antagonists - appear, but the pantheon consists of the two men I have mentioned, plus AI Purdy, Eugene Forsey, George Grant, Robert Stanfield, and David Crombie. Taylor is a skilled observer of individuals, quick to note the stylistic tics that reveal the inner person. Thus, the book succeeds as a series of portraits. The trick lies in finding in Radical Tories something more than a thinking man's People magazine. Taylor attempts to supply this element by seeking through his portraits to outline a habit of mind, a constellation of AngloCanadian attitudes that can be loosely labelled as Tory. Among such attitudes are an esteem for particularity, a distrust of rationalism as the sole guide for OUf social existence, a reverence for tradition, a striving for decency in human affairs. I must stress here that the book delivers nothing beyond a portrayal of widely shared attitudes in Canadian life. It could not survive sustained critical analysis of these attitudes, but then it is not meant to. In the absence of any ontolOgical consideration, George Grant's thought appears as little more than compelling nostalgia. Since the basis of his view of modernity - Nietzsche, Heidegger, Ellul- remains unexamined, his portrait seems unfinished, flat. Yet I can imagine an undergraduate, for example, beginning to think seriously about Canada's political tradition , who would find in these descriptions of thinking men an inspiration for delving deeper into the stances they take. That same person might be moved, after such an examination, to judge whether or not the opinions here have any validity or relevance. Taylor knows well how barren our political range appears: 'In these grudging and perplexed times, it is hard to credit the enthusiasm with which Canadians once 478 LETTERS IN CANADA 1982 regarded their country and its future.' What he demonstrates is that a group of men of varying occupations have felt and still feel that Canadian life contains some hope for serving as a refuge from the fullest extension of the technocratic state. The author is bold or naive enough to include working politicians (the absence of Flora MacDonald, who would have broken up the locker-room unisexuality of the book, perplexes me) among his exponents, which asserts a more robust view of the possibilities of public discourse than commentators generally acknowledge. However superficial Radical Tories may appear to a critical audience, it offers an accessible introduction to its subjects' way of viewing Canada. (DENNIS DUFFY) John Orrell. Fallen Empires: The Lost Theatres of Edmonton, 1881-1914 NeWest Press 1981. 141, illus. $13ยท95; $6.95 paper As a civic theatre history, Fallen Empires is a hodgepodge, although useful for the source material it furnishes. John Orrell gathers together newspaper items and architectural descriptions to chart the evolution in Edmonton from early meeting-hall to movie palace. But, with the exception of the penultimate chapter six ('Two Golden Seasons: 1912 to 1914'), we get only a smattering of the theatrical activity that went on inside the buildings. Fallen Empires...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 477-478
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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