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HUMANITIES 481 When King lost office in 1930, Massey ran afoul of the new prime minister, R.B. Bennett (whom he detested). His appointment as High Commissioner to Great Britain was cancelled, and it required King's reelection in 1935 to secure once more this coveted post. In the meantime, Massey worked diligently to consolidate his image as a dedicated patron of the arts (especially Canadian painting) and his Liberal credentials, the latter by means of undertaking 'grass roots' reorganization of the party as President of the National Liberal Federation. He met with success on both accounts. By the mid-thirties his ship had literally come in, and it took him to his British diplomatic post. One can only wait eagerly for Bissell's concluding volume, so that the rest of the story of this tiger of ambition may be told. (A . B. MCKILLOP) John Moss. A Reader's Guide to the Canadian Novel McClelland and Stewart 1981. xvi, 399. $12.95 paper This is a useful book for anyone seriously engaged in the study of Canadian literature. It provides separate literary-critical accounts of well over two hundred Canadian novels (including French-Canadian titles but only in translation - and a section on fiction for young people). For readers of Moss's earlier books, Patterns of Isolation and Sex and Violence in the Canadian Novel, this new volume will come as a surprise. Instead of being generally thematic in approach, it is almost belligerently evaluative . This is a refreshing development; unfortunately, however, Moss rarely has the space to quote so his value-judgments are asserted rather than demonstrated. As a result he sometimes seems almost Johnsonian in his ex cathedra pungency. At his best, Moss can be both cogent and clear. Callaghan'S writing, he tells us, 'has Simplicity and directness without resonance'; John Marlyn's hero is 'a Duddy Kravitz but without conviction or elan'; of Margaret Laurence's Morag Gunn he remarks shrewdly that 'she is an acclaimed novelist, and yet we are given little insight into either the creative process or the problems of celebrity.' I found him espeCially good on George Bowering's Short Sad Book, Mavis Gallant, and Robert Kroetsch, and he is to be congratulated on including Charles Yale Harrison's Generals Die in Bed and Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. But there are some bad errors of omission (Atwood's Life Before Man, Davies's Manticore, Wiebe's Blue Mountains of China) and some strange inclusions (Grove's Over Prairie Trails, Haliburton's Old Judge, and Hiebert's Sarah Binks are admirable books but hardly fiction, and we could have been spared Margaret A. Brown, Arthur Stringer, and several others). It would be easy, indeed, to write a decidedly critical review of this book. Many of Moss's confident assertions provoke question marks in 482 LETTERS IN CANADA 19B2 the margin. 'Atwood is a writer of themes and style: he informs us on p 1: not a good start. And what does he mean when he assures us that Robert Barr's Measure of the Rule (surely a tawdry, unreadable book) 'is convincing even when it is not at all believable'? Or that Connor's The Man from Glengarry (tawdry but almost irritatingly readable) 'rightfully belongs' in the 'abyss of past pulp' but 'historically and culturally ... is of primary importance'? Sometimes he is downright enigmatic. Matt Cohen's 'syntax bends and even breaks to serve clarity' but George Elliott's 'language is so clear it is ambiguous.' And who else would describe Klein's prose as 'spare'? This Reader's Guide would have benefited (but what McClelland and Stewart book, one sometimes thinks, would not?) from more stringent copy-editing: I found some forty errors of spelling, grammar, and wordusage . And the classified lists at the back, where raunchy high school students will turn for easy access to fiction on 'sexual politics' or 'homosexuality : could have been dispensed with (Ethel Wilson would surely have been outraged to find Swamp Angel listed under 'feminism'). This all smacks of publisher's packaging to me. This book is, then, anything but definitive, and should certainly not be regarded as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 481-482
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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