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, LETTERS IN CANADA: 1946 255 Skookum· Wa-Wa (Vancouver, the Scenery Shop, 856 Grenville St., 96 pp., $1.25). Whalley (George), Poems 1939-1944 (Ryerson poetry chap-books; Toronto, Ryerson, 16 pp., 75c.). II. FICTION J. R. MAc.GrLLIVRAY Of the twenty-odd volumes of Canadian fiction published in 1946 about half were by newcomers in the ·field. A similar propo.rtion could be noted for any recent year. The ratio is not surprising though the number seems small at a time when every week or so ·one hears of another acquaintance who is writing a novel. More noteworthy is the fact that the novice frequencly produces a more impressive book than the author of longer standing; for example, this year·Ralph·Allen's Horne Made Banners and Selwyn Dewdn~y's Wind with9ut Rain are among our few best. Reasons for this apparent ano~aly are easily found. The first novel is commonly derived from the most engrossing events and observations of the author's life; the second may be composed from the left-overs. The first is usually written becal:lse it demands to be written; the second may . be undertaken only because·it is expected. The novice ordinarily begins, then, with vivid and zestful reminiscence. He 'has often had previous experience in descriptive reporting. The lively and circumstantial record of the actual may be the result, more fact than fiction,. yet with all the forcefulness and charm of verisimilitude. When the author goes on writing,· however,. he must soon face a dilemma~ If he continues to draw directly fr~m memory he will ooon be impoverished by its diminishing returns; it he would make greater use of imagination (and he must if he is to be a true novelist) he has to learn a new and more difficult craft, the reworking of" the particular into the representative, the creation of apparently autono- .mous and self-revealing characters, and the transmutati.on of the heterogeneous ·matter of common experience in to the more ordered, impressive, and satisfying arrangements of fictional art. He must learn t9 be true not only to observation and memory but .to the requirements and finest possibilities of a complex literary form. Not many gain this skill or display this devotion ·(ln ·the first novel or the tenth), for it requires intelligence and sensitivity of a very high order, enthusiastic persistence, .and an integrity that rejects the shoddy and will be really satisfied with nothing short of perfection. Of the subjects which nowadays lend themselves to powerful treatment ev~n by the novice, the recent war is undoubtedly the best. The novelist usually writes with the authority of a participant. Innumerable scenes are still vivid in his memory. He will not find it hard to rouse sympathetic emotions in his readers, for they too have been involved, if only .remotely, in this great event. War even imposes a dramatic pattern on the ordinary soldier's experience, the rising action of preparation leading to the clima?' or catastrophe, and perhaps to the resolution (it may seem the anti-climax) of peace and home-coming. I I 256 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY Our first three novels of the recent war appeared in 1946, and Ralph Allen's Home Made Ba.nnefs was .easily the best. It is the story of Mike , Tully who after two years of indecision joined the army in 1941, eventually saw action from BerniereS-sur-Mer to Germany, and survived to return to Canada and a broken home and to yvonder sometimes if he had not b~en rather a fool to leave his family and job to fight for a cause he could hardly define, perhaps only to buy his country a little unregarded time before the next war. Three themes are developed in the novel: first, the represent~tive experience of the soldier from training ·to battle, the usual subject of the war-story; second, the practical effects of ou~ anomalous system of callup on the army and on all yo~ng men of military age; and third (and 'apparently of more importance than the somewhat extraneous treatment, in conversation only, would suggest-for it provides the title), a man...


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