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556 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Astute essays by Terry Goldie and Dick Harrison offer incisive analyses of the homosocial ideal (Goldie), and of1Jracketed sexuality' (Harrison), while·R. Alexander Kizuk reads Who Has Seen the Wind and How I Spent My Summer Holidays in the context of 'a boy's perception of a predominantly maleenvironment/ finding that in both novels 'the mother and woman are, as narrative figures, subordinate to figures of male heroes, and mentors.' W.J. Keith takes the strongest position on Mitchell's fiction after 1947, arguing that F.M. Salter's guiding hand, absent in the other novels, shaped Who Has Seen the Wind into Mitchell's 'one undisputed artistic success,' and Michael Peterman's careful reading of the deficient biographical scholarship in Ladybug, Ladybug ... finds that there is, 'regrettably, too little magic in the creative lies' this novel'tells about Kenneth Lyon's biography of Samuel Clemens.' The section on drama offers two rich discussions of W.O.'s radio plays by Timothy Zeman and Alan Yates Uake and the Kid comes up repeatedly, as it should, in the whole collection), W.O.'s up and down experience with television and film (David Gardner), and affectionate portraits of Mitchell the playwright (Rick McNair and Guy Sprung). The pieces in this section, appropriately, move us closer to Mitchell the man in all of his prolific contradictions, and lead naturally to the final section, 'Interviews and Recollections,' with a short but vivid piece by Timothy Findley, a warm memoir by Frances Itani, and, fittingly, a transcription of a Peter Gzowski interview, so that the collection closes, as it should, with Mitchell's voice and many of his dramatis personae. This collection is the finest assembly we have to date on Mitchell's work. It is scrupulously edited and shaped, and it is as alive with energy, intelligence, wit, and contradiction as the man and work that inspired it. (NEIL BESNER) Robert Lecker, Jack David, and Ellen Quigley, editors. Canadian Writers and Their Works Fiction Series 11. Ecw Press 1996. 348. $5o.oo The format of this volume- devoted to the fiction of Neil Bissoondath, Austin Clarke, Joy Kagawa, Rohinton Mistry, and Josef Skvorecky replicates that of the other volumes of the series, and it is not without appeal. When pitted against the belaboured, tortured (and sometimes torturing) sophistication that current criticism still demands, the undisguised linearity may even appear refreshing. The biographicalbackgrounds are more useful than high critical interdictions tend to intimate. Knowing some of the highlights ofthe personal itinerary increases the appreciation of the literary career. Obasan might not have been written had Kagawa not run across Muriel Kitagawa's letters and been inspired by them to re-evaluate her links with the Japanese-Canadian commrmity or to conceive the protagonist HUMANITIES 557 of her novel. The anger in Clarke~s early novels partakes of a generational climate once you realize that, as cultural attache at the embassy of Barbados in Washington during the 1960s and as a lecturer~ he was in close contact with some of the African-American writers of that troubled decade. In brief, the book aims to be informative and not just critical. It supplies the material that allows critics to do their job. The articles have the virtues of good realistic fiction: the codes are all where they should be, the pace is slow (the contributions average between fifty and sixty pages; they are little monographs, novellas to the short stories of usual essay collections), and in the end they present well-rounded figures, portraits that, if not complete, are close to it. As for the rest, full credit to the articles for being jargon-free and, above all, balanced in their judgment. Penny Van Toorn (on Bissoondath ), Stella Algoo-Baksh (on Austin Clarke), Mason Harris (on Joy Kagawa), Barbara Leckie (on Rohinton Mistry), and Sam Solecki (on Josef Skvorecky) are very careful to mention the weaknesses along with the strengths. So what's the problem? Why does the volume not fully persuade? There are, clearly~ to begin with, the reservations that the series format elicits. All the good qualities I referred to have an obvious flip side. Worthy as the intention...


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