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348 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 and beliefs, and differing images of Jews, to say that Christian conscience and duty demanded that they voice their concern and try to save some of the intended victims from destruction. In that moral context, Claris Silcox,William Judd, Tommy Shields, Watson Kirkcormell, and many other Canadian Christians did honour to the very best in the Christian spirit and tradition. By bringing these names resonantly into historical focus, Davies and Nefsky have enriched the historical record for all Canadians and should compel all of those who teach Holocaust courses to revise their lecture notes. Meanwhile, sweeping generalizations about Christian insensitivity to the plight ofEurope's Jews and unwarranted assumptions about the political strength of the churches need to be deeply reconsidered. (GERALD TULCHINSKY) Margaret Atwood. In Search of'Alias Grace': On Writing Canadian Historical Fiction University of Ottawa Press 1997. viii, 40. $10.00 At the beginning of this lecture, delivered in Ottawa in November 1996, MargaretAtwood warmed up her audience by givingnotice that as a writer of fiction she was used to making things up and getting people to believe them. No doubt this disclaimer was meant to be disregarded as she got deeper into her subject matter, which on this occasion was the culture that makes up the background of a historical novel - what she calls 'the mysteries of time and memory.' But it is worth noting that even for a novelist who has researchers and editors, time and memory blur fact into impression, and what is represented as the reality of a particular time and place is nothing of the sort. The 'truth' of a setting is mediated and possibly distorted by the reporter. Atwood, remembering the CBe culture of the 19505, talks about 'Simon and Schuster' when she means, of course, Wayne and Shuster. This lapse makes the very point that she comes to later, in her description of how free she felt to invent in her fictional construction of the true crime mystery that became Alias Grace. She gave herself a lot of latitude because ultimately she couldn't trust the written accounts she found. They didn't add up to one consistent 'truth.' So she did what novelists do and made one up. And, as she says, the result is not history but a historical novel. Atwood believes that Canadian readers who want to be putin touch with their roots have been short-changed until recently. The good news is that we are now being showered with novels whose backgrounds weave a Canadian cultural context that has the potential to be far more meaningful than simple 'history.' Because it was prepared for oral delivery, this is a short and at times digressive piece of writing that moves along at a faster pace than perhaps HUMANITIES 349 a scholar would like. But there is much in it for any student of modern Canadian fiction. The casual tone belies the seriousness of the main issue under discussion here, the right of an author to 'improve on' events in history in an effort to evoke a meaningful context that readers can relate to. In this scheme of things the history provides atmosphere rather than substance . Atwood makes the point that it is not what we know about history that intrigues us, it is what has been left out. She thus neatly assigns to the creative writer the major role of interpreter to society at large. Any quibbles by historians over their peripheral role in her novelmaking would be beside the point. The value of this little book lies not in Atwood's literary criticism but in her explanation of what goes into her novels. (JUDITH KNELMAN) Michael Calvin McGee. Rhetoric in Postmodern America: Conversations with Michael Calvin McGee. Edited by Carol Corbin Guilford Press. 19B. us $39.95 It is difficult to assess a text that primarily consists of five chapter-length transcripts of conversations with its author. Presumably, transcripts are exempt from the usual analytical rigour one brings to bear on formal discourse. Even so, this book is rife with errors. McGee's representations of structuralist and poststructuralist thinkers - Saussure, Foucault, Derrida, Barthes, and others - are incomplete and distorted at best...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 348-349
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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