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350 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 stay put they simply elude you. My best advice, after reading these essays, is to sit back and accept the gambit. Stop trying to pin writers to real people and let them lead you into realms where >both writer and reader have all the time not in the world.= (SHERRILL GRACE) Nancy Huston. Losing North: Musings on Land, Tongue and Self McArthur and Company. 96. $19.95 >Dictionaries,= Nancy Huston says, >confuse us, they lead us astray, they plunge us into that frightening magma between languages, in which words lose their meanings, refuse to mean, start out meaning one thing and end up meaning quite another.= In English, for example, the title of this collection of essays, Losing North, suggests the country, Canada B >the North, the Great North, the True North Strong and Free= B that Huston lost, and feels she betrayed, after moving to France more than a quarter-century ago. In French, however, >losing north= means >forgetting what you were going to say. Losing track of what=s going on. Losing your marbles. It is something you should avoid at all costs.= Paradoxically, when Huston loses her marbles B for instance, by >letting off steam, freaking out, swearing, singing, yelling, surfing on the pure pleasure of verbal delirium= B she does so in her lost tongue, her first tongue, English, which, like the piano of her childhood, she regards as a motherly instrument, >emotional, romantic, manipulative, sentimental and crude.= When she moved to Paris from Calgary in 1973, Huston abandoned the piano for French and the harpsichord, >neutral, intellectual instruments. They require control, restraint and delicate mastery; their expressivity is infinitely more subtle, discreet and refined.= In retrospect, then, >What I was running away from when I turned my back on English and the piano seems quite clear.= If, in 1973, Huston was running away from the >carmine lipstick and heavy Mexican silver-and-turquoise earrings= Alberta of her youth in favour of the sophistications of French literary theory and a master=s thesis in semiology written under the supervision of Roland Barthes, what she has discovered by 1998, when these essays were written, is that expatriation is loss. The entries in this collection are compelling >musings= on exile-as-loss and as being-split-in-two. The book is a rich meditation on memory and forgetting. It offers a subtle analysis of Huston=s voluntary expatriation as a life >involved in theatre, imitation, make-believe.= And not the least, Losing North is a convincing argument as to >the absolutely unique nature of childhood.= No expatriate can be oblivious to the fact that, for all her losses and as a measure of them, childhood >never leaves you.= It is her childhood language that renders Huston=s adult bilingualism >false= or asymmetrical. >The words say it well: your native or Amother@ tongue, the one you acquired in earliest childhood, enfolds and envelops you so that you belong to humanities 351 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 it, whereas with the Aadopted@ tongue, it=s the other way around B you=re the one who needs to mother it, master it, and make it belong to you.= That being said, when Huston returns to childhood people and places, she realizes that she speaks with a foreign accent. Her book is a fascinating study of this frightening between. (DAWNE MCCANCE) Judith Nasby. Irene Avaalaaqiaq: Myth and Reality McGill-Queen=s University and University of Washington Presses. xi, 130. $32.95 This handsome book serves as a retrospective catalogue and celebratory tribute to Irene Avaalaaqiaq, renowned Inuit printmaker, carver, and needlewoman of Baker Lake, Nunavut. Although an accomplished artist in several media, Avaalaaqiaq is best known for her colourful wall hangings created from stroud, a lightweight wool fabric embellished with embroidery floss. Judith Nasby, director of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre in Guelph, Ontario, skilfully interleaves information germane to situating Avaalaaqiaq=s visual and verbal narratives within relevant cultural and historical contexts. Irene Avaalaaqiaq was born sometime after the mid-1930s on the north shore of Tebesjuak Lake, about one...


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