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322 LETIERS IN CANADA 1998 ments. Ralph Maud's What Does Not Change: The Significance of Charles Olson's 'The Kingfishers,' moves within different parameters. Maud's book is something you don't often see in these days of continuing theoretical ascendancy - a straightforward, unapologetic explication du texie. Maud, with utmost patience and determination, works his way through the poem passage by passage, bringing his extensive knowledge to bear on explicatmg the poem's references and complexities. ' As might be guessed, a 175-page explication has its high points and its low. The lows have almost entirely to do with style. Unless one is a stylist on the order of William Empson, the dangers of explication are all too obvious. There is a natural pull towards an explanatory mode that can quickly become tedious. Maud, for all his unquestioned knowledge, does not claim to be an Empson, and frequently the reading is tough going. Nevertheless, the effort is worth it. Maud's unparalleled knowledge of Olson's reading allows him to open details of the poem that are otherwise unavailable, and to extend those openings to explanations of intimate details of the poet's mind. Take for instance his tracking of Olson's sense of the E on the stone at Delphi. He moves through years of the poet's reading of and thinking about Socrates... Plutarch, Jean Riboud, later archaeological discoveries, Whitehead, and more, towards a fascinating explanation of why the poet couldn't finish reading 'The Kingfishers' at the Vancouver Poetry Conference in 1963. In a way, Olson's Reading (which Maud published a couple ot years ago) and What Does Not Change read like companion volumes. The first book gives us a broad, but specific, sense of the world of mind Olson operated in. The second book gives us some understanding of the complex and intricate ways that reading manifested itself in one work. Sometimes while reading Maud's book, I found myself wishing for a larger sense of the significance of the work... something beyond Maud's argument that it is an anti-Wasteland. But that, of course, is not Maud's concern. You have to go elsewhere for that. Belgrad and Anderson, from different perspectives... both handle that task welL And the criticism goes both ways. Whi1e Maud'sbook probably would not have changed their fundamental positions, both would undoubtedly have benefited from Maud's extensive knowledge and impeccableattention to detail. (MICHAEL BOUGHN) Robertson Davies. Happy Alchemy:Writings on the Theatre and Other Lively Arts. Edited by Jennifer Surridge and Brenda Davies McClelland and Stewart. 384. $32.5° Ifyou have any doubt that Robertson Davies was the father ofthe Canadian novel as we know it today, let me r~commend that you read the two volumes of occasional writings and lectures collected by his wife and his daughter Jennifer Surridge since his death in 1995, ofwhich Happy Alchemy HUMANITIES 323 is the second. In them, you win find him doing what Shakespeare did in his prologue to Henry V and Mark Twain in his parodies of Victorian high writingin Tom Sawyer: educating an audience how to receive a new and unaccustomed form of art. Principally, he tries to teach a culture of what he perceives to be newspaper readers, brought up to read for useful information , the pleasure and value of art created by the free imagination - myths, legends, fantasy, arcadias, opera, and melodrama. To appreciate the need for Davies to do this, one has to look closely at the assumptions governing earlier producers of Canadian fiction. In general, Canadian novels before 1950 accepted the premises of naturalism. A novel should analyse how the lives and mentalities of human beings are shaped by their environment. A Canadian novel should demonstrate how the lives and mentalities of Canadians are shaped by their Canadian environment. The catch lies in that last adjective: in the assumption that Canadians can be shown to be the effects of exclusively Canadian causes, as if the admission that most of them come from elsewhere, speak either French or English, and live next door to a large, rich, powerful, and thoroughly un-Canadian republic would damage the purity ofnaturalism's scientific demonstration. In...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 322-324
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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