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

S66 LETTERS IN CANADA 1 997 Nonetheless, this book deserves attention. It may bestbe appreciated as affording an opportunity for further questioning of the commonplaces of Canadian literary criticism, some of their postcolonial variants, and how they appear when translated within a European frame of reference. (DIANA BRYDON) John Lennox and Ruth Panofsky, editors. Selected Letters ofMargaret Laurence and Adele Wiseman University of Toronto Press. x, 424. $6o.oo cloth, $24.95 paper Elizabeth Greene, editor. We Who Can Fly: Poems, Essays and Memories in Honour ofAdele Wiseman Cormorant Books. xxvii, 288.$19.95 In an address given some twenty-five years ago, Desmond Pacey argued that Canada at last had a clearly defined literary tradition of its own, and now needed secondary material to support the study of that tradition. Pacey was not calling for the kind of critical and interpretive essays then flourishing in countries with more established literatures, however, but for the development of literary scholarship: he urged the collection, the scholarly examination, and, where warranted, the publication of Canadian writers' manuscripts, letters, and other papers. If very little of this kind of scholarship was visible in the years that immediately followed, ithas sincebecome a prominent feature of Canadian literary studies. Archives of writers' papers have been established where few existed before; unpublished works have been brought to light; the evolution of manuscripts scrutinized. And on my own bookshelves, I see that twenty-two volumes collecting the correspondence of various Canadian literary figures have so far joined Pacey's 1976 edition of the letters of Frederick Philip Grove. The most accomplished Canadian master of this newly visible genre must surely be Margaret Laurence. (Al Purdy would be the only real contender for the title.) Reviewing an earlier book, Deborah Dudek wrote, 'Laurence's texts ... approach belles lettres'; in the preface to his recently published selected letters, Jack McClelland singled Laurence out as his favourite correspondent ('she wrote beautiful letters'). So far Laurence's letters have been gathered into three volumes: Selected Letters of Margaret Laurence and Adele Wiseman was preceded by Margaret Laurence- Al Purdy: A Friendship in Letters (1993) and by A Very Large Soul: Selected Letters from Margaret Laurence to Canadian Writers (1995). While the letters Laurence exchanged with Purdy are of considerable interest for what they show of both as authors, this gathering of Laurence's and Wiseman's letters may be even more fascinating: Wiseman was not only, like Purdy, a writer with whom Laurence could share literary concerns, she was Laurence's closest HUMANITIES 567 friend and also the person with whom Laurence had the longest correspondence . Because Wiseman saved Laurence's letters from the beginning of their exchange as young adults, the book provides an unusually complete record of a career, from the early stages of a writer's discovery of her vocation to her valedictory thoughts. Struggling with her first fiction, Laurence sets down, in 1959, the kind of uneasiness with which most apprentice writers confront their futures. 'The main point is- if one is writing, & more or less gambling one's whole existence on it, & cheating family & etc of one's time & care, & putting into it very nearly the whole of identity, & it turns out to be no good- what will you say then? "God, I bought the wrong stock? I invested in a mine that wasn't capable of production?"' Where other writers might eventually put such fears behind them, the success that came to Laurence after the publication of The Stone Angel in 1964 did not bring her respite. Her career assured, she could still reflect in 1967: 'How strange. It doesn't get easier to do, does it? It gets more difficult' - and could add, characteristically enough, 'I wish I weren't so easily terrified by life.' As she records the evolution ofher manuscripts, we see how much she agonized over meeting her own demanding expectations. At one low point she writes: 'I can only try to keep on reminding myself that the ancient Christian doctrine that despair is a sin is a correct one. It seems difficult sometimes to continue one's work in good faith.' (The arduousness of both Wiseman's and Laurence's struggles, as they progressed...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 566-570
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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.