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404 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 plurality of identities existing under the term 'Canadian.' The importance of this within the continuing political debates of who or what is a Canadian is obvious, and that New intends Land Sliding to participate in this debate is stated expliCitly. And, for those interested in the theorization of space and place, Land Sliding serves as an excellent introduction and New's bibliography and footnotes will prove invaluable. Because the main focus of this book is anglophone writing, it is easy to imagine a further phase of criticism, examining the diversity of 'land-languages' re-creating contemporary Canada today. (siOBHAN o'FLYNN) David Solway. Random Walks: Essays in Elective Criticism MeGill-Queen's University Press. xxC 224. $19.95 David Solway's Random Walks is a wide-ranging collection of essays that take risks. In his polemical introduction, Solway rejects the expectation that a book of criticism must cleave to 'some sort of parti pris, a species of ideological cultivation, or a demonstrable affiliation with a given school or movement.' Rather than adopt 'a stance,' Solway would like to take 'a stroll/ a random walk 'across the literary landscape ... to remain indifferent to what is current, fashionable, "correct," or scholastically dominant.' This does not mean that Solway is unaware ofrecent critical trends. He is partial to those he recognizes as the stronger practitioners of deconstruction, but deeply wary of the imitators of Derridean methods. The influence of theory on literary studies is an abiding concern in Random Walks. In a consideration of the state of Canadian criticism, he finds in our 'joumals and reviews ... abundant witness to the spread of deconstruction in an orgy of derivativeness.' According to Solway, this is due in part to our lack of 'endogenous tradition of critical inquiry,' and the lack of a 'recognizable community agreeing on fundamental principles of analysis and argument.' In an even more outspoken denunciation of contemporary critical styles, Solway takes Erin Moure's 'Pronouns on the Main' as an example of poetry whose 'appalling badness' can be accounted for, in part, by its unthoughtful re-presentation of deconstructive notions and commonplaces in poetic form. Solway's denrmciation of Moure's poetry is interesting for the uncommon stridency of its negative reading, but also for its impressively detailed discussion of what makes contemporary poetry succeed or fail. Solway describes showing 'Pronouns on the Main' to a class of his brightest students, and using the piece to walk his students through an in-depth consideration of poetic form. Though one might not agree with Solway's reading of Moure, his essay provides an excellent framework for teaching and appreciating poetry. Arguably the best piece in Random Walks is a long essay titled 'Framing Layton,' which addresses the difficult questions surrounding the career of HUMANITIES 405 Irving Layton, a writer Solway describes as a 'friend, mentor, benefactor, example, and ... monumental Bloomian impediment.' Wondering what accounts for Layton's wildly unpredictable ceuvre, Solway begins by describing his early encounters with Layton in Greece: I noticed a taxi pull up across the street and disgorge three uncomfortable passengers, one ofwhom I seemed to recognize: a short, bullish man addressing everyone in his immediate vicinity in a huge, oratorical voice, pounding away like a Mobilfacta compressor on an Ikea display platform, commenting on the heat, the dust, the glazed enamel of the sky, the remoteness of the village ... It is this overblown persona that has interfered with our ability to read Layton's work, but Solway, rather ingeniously, suggests that this persona is. part of the work. The gap between Layton's great poems, Solway argues, and his habitual descent into less than poetic rhetoric is a conscious act 'attempted in some sense deliberately or with informed awareness ... The poet is shrewdly conscious of what he is about.' It is this kind of bold and original argument- applied with wit and verve to writers as different as Kafka, Swift Sontag, and Joyce- that makes Random Walks a provocative collection. (NORMAN RAVVIN) Steven Heighton. The Admen Move on Lhasa Anansi. x, 168. $18.95 There can be no doubt about it: the plight of civilized man is a foul plight. He is singing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 404-405
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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