In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

540 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Yvonne's in chapters 2, g, and 11, Hugh's in chapters 4, 6, and 8, and the Consul's in the other five). Asals is also astute in observing how Lowry's changes increase the novel's effect of 'immediacy' while at the same time providing what he calls 'intellectual, emotional, imaginative resonance,' and in commenting on the means by which Lowry uses the presentation (and then correction) of a character's mistaken impression in order to force readers into their own process of revision. Finally, his comments on the thematic, structural, symbolic, and narrative uses of 'doubleness' in the novel are sharp and insightful. I can think of no higher praise for a critical study of a major work than to say that it is worthy of its subject. The Making of 'Under the Volcano' is such a study. Writing with admirable clarity but refusing to simplify his subject, Frederick Asals has produced one of the essential works of Malcolm Lowry criticism. (PATRICK A. MCCARTHY) Norman Ravvin. A House ofWords: Jewish Writing, Identity and Memory MeGill-Queen's University Press. x, 192. $44.95 cloth, $15.95 paper The reader has to wait nntil the final chapter of Norman Ravvin's A House of Words for the author to provide any indication of his purpose, which is far from evident throughout his book. After several vague and indistinct ruminations, which are surprisingly loose and rambling for essays so brief, on several Canadian and American Jewish writers, Ravvin offers in his concluding essay a rationale for his endeavours. Aware of the cachet enjoyed currently by the claims of identity politics and multiculturalism and the attempt in many academic quarters to give these claims ballast by reference to postcolonial theory, Ravvin wishes to provide a place for Jewish-Canadian writing in this sodality. He laments thatJewish-Canadian writers have not been treated critically with the same concepts which are applied to writers who belong to visible minorities or who come from formerly colonized parts of the world. Jewish writers in Canada, he complains, have too readily been accepted as part of the mainstream and have been denied representation as part of the relation of the colonizer and colonized. The consequence, he maintains, is that the particularity ofJewish culture and tradition is ignored in the understanding and appreciation of these authors. This will, no doubt, astound readers of Mordecai Richler, A.M. Klein, and Irving Layton. Nonetheless, the declared intent of this book is to provide a corrective against this misguided integration of Jewish writers into some imagined,butlindescribed, established Canadian literary tradition. There is a grotesquely amusing, if unintended, irony in this attempt to gain victim status for Jewish writers, as well as the rewards and entitlements granted to this status by current academic and cultural fashions. It HUMANITIES 541 has to be said, also, that one must bear in mind the accrual of these same rewards to the academic exponents of these arguments. Unfortunately, there is nothing that is tenable or persuasive in Ravvin's presentation of his thesis. He asserts, rather than demonstrates. Nowhere does he even begin to describe what the mainstream traditions may be in either Canadian or American literature. Without this, a fundamental pillar of his set of assertions does not exist. He claims that American Jewish writers more properly entered the mainstream of their literature with an adequate appreciation of their Jewish culture because the New York Jewish intellectuals interpreted modernism for the American reader. This opinion is wholly false. Modernism was presented to the American reader some decades earlier by the earliest practitioners and critics of modernism itself, many of whom were American, and was further interpreted and disseminated by the white Christian southern United States critics known as the Fugitives. Their influence came to dominate most university English departments in both the United States and Canada. Not much Jewish mediation here. Further, readers and critics of modern literature in Canada also read the New York intellectuals. The Canadian vs American distinction Ravvin insists is fundamental to his purpose does not seem to exist, on the basis of any evidence he provides. His discussions of particular writers are...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 540-541
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.