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332 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 five senior public servants and sixty-three members of parliament. Especially, they would not have been puzzled by Bill making >only a passing mention of the Blessed Virgin= in the homily he gave at Mass for his seventy-fifth birthday. Nor would they, I expect, have come to their general conclusion B that the Jesuits of Upper Canada in the 1990s have let go of Bill=s social justice legacy. We have not, let me assure them; but that is another, probably long, discussion. In the fall of 1999 a group of Bill Ryan=s friends, upon hearing the alarming news that he might soon die of cancer, decided that his story ought to be told while this major source of so much recent Church and Jesuit history was still accessible. The prediction proved to be happily and totally wrong. But Bob Chodos and Jamie Swift were perfectly right to do the book anyway. We are heavily in their debt. (PS: The foreword by Maurice Strong might seem overly laudatory. I have known Bill Ryan for almost fifty years. Let me tell you, every word Maurice Strong wrote is absolutely true.) (JACQUES MONET, SJ) W.J. Keith. Canadian Odyssey: A Reading of Hugh Hood=s >The New Age/Le nouveau siècle= McGill-Queen=s University Press. x, 212. $65.00, 24.95 Bill Keith has had a passion for hard-to-sell, ego-driven writers. He once gave a course at Toronto on the daunting twosome of Frederick Philip Grove and Rudy Wiebe at a time when Grove had fallen out of fashion. Now comes a study of Hugh Hood=s colossal >The New Age/Le nouveau siècle,= a twelve-novel saga which few Canadians have read in full and which many gave up on as it unfolded. For Keith, however, there is no question of the project=s worth. He calls it >a masterpiece.= It is the >major fictional expression of Canadian life and experience= that >[a]rtistically minded Canadians have been searching desperately [for] over the last halfcentury .= Why, then, is the completed project generating so limited a response in a country hyper-attentive to its literary practioners?. First, a few observations. Hood himself was an outright egotist, yet in a polite, thoughtful (Canadian?) way. In 1984 (with five novels of >The New Age= completed) he wrote to me, >I think, as I have always thought, that I=m by far the best writer we have ever had in Canada in either language, and I will back my books against anybody you care to mention in that respect, provided that they are read with attention by mature and intelligent men and women.= The statement staggered me at the time, but it heightened my curiosity. I am inclined to think now (after Near Water) that his egotism, so pronounced and sturdy, and so evident in his often stodgy protagonist Matt Goderich, was in part a function of his literary and meditative Catholicism, and was bolstered by his conviction that he, like Matt, deserved to be greeted by the highest order of angels when he expired. humanities 333 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Still, no one in Canada has dared so remarkable a literary project. Attention must surely be paid to a writer deeply driven to dramatize and articulate the life of his country. He wanted to include >everything= and >he considered himself embarked on a national mission= for which he was particularly well prepared. Canadian Odyssey is a critical response that Hood would have welcomed. It is a tribute to the project and a sympathetic analysis by a mature, intelligent reader. It attends closely to purpose and result, design and structure, cultural nuance and documentary detail, and overt allusion and covert intertextuality. For coherence and maximum readerly pleasure, Keith argues that the novels should be read consecutively with careful attention to the distinct structure of each and of the series as a whole. For Keith the result is >an act of awesome ambition and stamina.= He studies Hood=s debts to practitioners of the roman...


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