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340 LEITERS IN CANADA 1998 than a spontaneous one, and are in keeping with the long tradition of documentary photography that insists on a seemingly unmediated, unstylized , cool and detached view of its subject. Szilasi's portraits in this mode are psychologically complex, his sitters often photographed within a domestic space that adds a layer of meaning to the expression we can read in the face or body.His belief that character is shaped by environment led him in the late 19705 to make diptychs juxtaposing a black and white image of the sitter and a colour picture of the clusters of objects that compose his or her domestic environment. These images reveal, among other things, the immediate situation ofclass and culture that the face alone might only suggest. Like most practitioners of this tradition - the Americans Paul Strand and Walker Evans are the models here - Szilasi conveys the essential dignity of his subjects and by association, of all humanity. His later work includes a photographicjourney along the fac;ades ofMontreal's St Catherine Street, intensely seen records of 'vernacular architecture/ commercial signs, and urban thoroughfares. These show the same kind of attention to a tightly organized composition, as well as the telling detail. Szilasi's eye for the objects and set of relations that define the history and culture of a place is Wlparalleled. This book is a fine introduction to the story of Szilasi's career. David Harris's essay provides a solid foundation for assessing the work. Harris brings a connoisseur's sensibility to the photographs and a historian's knowledge to their place in the history of the medium in general and Montreal photography in particular. Most helpful is Harris's complete bibliography of writings on Szilasi with a year-by-year chronology of his life and work. Unfortunately, however, although Szilasi's work is given the textual apparatus it deserves, his actual photographs must await better treatment. They are reduced to fit the puny (24 )( 22 crn) chapbook size format of the book, with. a few miniaturized still further to the size of postage stamps. Szilasi's pictures merit something far better. (MARTA BRAUN) Anne Geddes Bailey. Timothy Findley and the Aesthetics ofFascism Talon. 256. $18.95 In his memoirs, Findley writes that his desire to oppose fascism crystallized when he stumbled on the pictures of Dachau taken by Ivan Moffat, the first officialphotographer allowed into the Nazi concentrationcamp. According to Findley, learning what the Nazis and the fascist program had accomplished was an epiphanic moment. In her insightful study of Findley's writing, Bailey explores the far-reaching implications of his complex engagement with fascism, specifically, the relationship between fascism and intertextuality. HUMANITIES 341 The power of Bailey's study lies in its willingness to depart from standard critical interpretations of Findley's fiction to wrestle with the complexities and paradoxes at the heart of his texts. Divided into seven chapters/ the study considers the central novels in Findley's corpus, demonstrating how the texts simultaneously challenge and deploy afascist aesthetic. Bailey begins her study by offering a theoretical armature for the ongoing dis<;ussion of intertextual practice. Chapter 1 pursues the concern with intertextuality and analyses The Last ofthe Crazy People, paying close attention to the reading strategies of various characters. This novel serves as a useful point of departure because it offers the first glimpse of faulty _interpretive strategies aligned with fascist logic that loom large in subsequent novels. Divided into two sections, chapter 2 provides in part 1 historical information about German and Italian fascist aestheticism; part 2 traces the relationship between strains of fascist aestheticism and The Butterfly Plague. Here, Bailey demonstrates her flair for reading against the grain, noting that findley's reputation for condenming the abuse of various innocents does not account for the culpability and fascist beliefs of these so-called innocents. 'Withoutexception/ Baileyargues/all the characters fall into the childish trap of believing in the possibility of a dream coming true'; however, these dreams soon become nightmares 'since the practical results of various dreams ofperfection ... are akin to the Final Solution.' Bailey also points out that, although the narrative exposes the dangers of this myth, there are 'puzzling tendencies within the narrative itself that suggest its own attraction to a fascist aesthetic.} Chapter 3, which examines The Wars/ departs from the discussion of fascist aesthetics to look at a related issue, namely, the imposition of British imperialist ideology onto the figure of the Canadian soldier. For Bailey, the hero's absence serves as a metaphor of the colonial situation. Chapter 4 focuses on Famous Last Words, a text whose engagement with fascism is extremely complex. According to Bailey, by recontextualizing legendary figures such as Wallis Simpson and Edward VII into their fascist pasts} the novel 'refuses to rewrite history or literature as it is conventionally known or accepted' and, as a result, makes readers I uncomfortable with history and literature, forcing them to reconsider the political nature of both.' With the exception of chapter 5, which offers a synthesis of familiar critical discussions of the relationship between language and authority in Not Wanted on the Voyage, the final chapters of Bailey's book are dazzling. Chapter 6 provides an illuminating reading of The Telling of Lies, and chapter 7 offers an original interpretation of Findley's densely intertextual novel Headhunter. Bailey repeatedly invites readers to rethink overly simplistic designations of good and evil and to reconsider the reductive ide.ntification of the 342 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 seemingly 'good' protagonists' actions with Findley's political stance. On the one hand, Bailey argues, Findley's novels hold out the promise of a counter-discourse; on the other, they are deeply pessimistic because they remain paradoxically aware that plotting, or the writing of narrative, violently imposes 'an order on events to create that c01.U1ter-diseourse.' Simply put, meaning lean only be secured if other possible meanings are "killed" along the way.' The book concludes with a sobering consideration of what it means to write in an age that comes after Auschwitz. For Findley, whose understanding of evil was brought home by photographs of Daehau, it necessitates wrestling with one's complicity with and attraction to fascist discourse. As Findley's texts illustrate and Bailey's study skilfully reminds us, on one level, the photographs taken by Moffat - aesthetic images that frame, simplify , and record meaning - are part of the same machinery that facilitated the crime. (MARLENE GOLDMAN) Anne Geddes Bailey and Karen Grandy, editors. Paying Attention: Critical Essays on Timothy Findley ECW Press. viii, 222. $ 15.95 Subdividing this collection into three main areas relevant to Findley'S work, namely narrative, myth, and performance, Bailey and Grandy present a series of nine new critical studies of some of Findley's most famous works as well as of some of his less famous ones. The focus of these essays ranges from Findley's early work, such as his 1956 short story'About Effie/ his 1967 novel The Last of the Crazy People and his much-neglected novel The Butterfly Plague, to some of his plays, and his later and best-known fiction, including Can You See Me Yet?, The Stillborn Lover, Headhunter, and The 'Piano Man's Daughter. Each ofthe three sections contains three essays, some of which stand out for their originality and for offering new readings of his works. In particular, Catherine Hunter's study of findley'S work in the 19605, in the first section devoted to narrative, explores the very act of narrating in Findley's early short fiction, The Last ofthe Crazy People and a television script, 'The Paper People.' Hunter sees an anxiety in these early texts that manifests itself at the opening of a narrative. Such anxiety, she explains, does not refer to the man Findley, but rather to the movement of the narrative itself. Hunter argues that Findley characterizes the moment at which narrating begins with naIve narrators, false starts, and violence. She goes on to expand on these three types of narrative opening and explains that often the beginning of the narrative in Findley's earlier works is linked with a loss of innocence, usually in the form of a troubled adolescent's fall from childhood, which constitutes the narrative movement. Other times, ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 340-342
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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