In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

HUMANffiES 175 more down-to-earth, not to say pedestrian. Composed ·of papers originally prepared for the first Thomas H. Raddall symposium at Acadia University in 1990, the book comes close to justifying its claim to include 'a broadly representative group of literary critics and historians.' The book doesn't need its concluding panel to suggest new approaches and directions. If the reader is not stimulated by the papers in this volume to go back to Raddall's books and to look forward to further work by these critics, then the rather predictable recommendations of the panel for more textual and biographical work will not provide that stimulation. The best work in this volume is that which illuminates not Raddall only. Thus, the papers which stick in the memory are those that tease readers to think further about romance (Elizabeth Waterston), or the assumptions and biases of Canadian critics (Alan Young). Helen Buss's article convinces us of the 'rich vein of possibility in our literature' as she gives voice to the social vision of the Canadian heroine of consciousness. The historian Barry Moody, writing of 'The Novelist as Historian,' makes us think of the various ways in which we identify and define ourselves through history, by omission, by exclusion, by anticipation of a golden future, by lament for a golden past - defined by a golden age never, tellingly, realized in either history or fiction. Moody's paper complements that of Chris Ferns, who uses J.G. Farrell not only to set Raddall in sharp contrast but also to explore the ways ideology is enacted by narrative. He sees Raddall's historical novels as charting 'a process of becoming' and Farrell's as reflecting 'dissolution'; one wonders what he might make, then, of Raddall's twentieth-century novels, which Moody characterizes as a picture of 'economic, social and moral decay, often brought on by forces beyond the power of Nova Scotians to control or even direct, but devastating nevertheless.' Not all papers are so satisfyingly stimulating. Catalogues of folklore references or of certain typologies are frustrating because their larger significance is unclear. Nevertheless, Time and Place certainly repays the time invested in its reading, and justifies Raddall's place on both popular and academic bookshelves. Moreover, Acadiensis Press has made the book itself a quietly handsome thing: unfortunately, the editorial slips (such as the inconsistent spellings of characters' and even a contributor's names, and the substitution of 'grizzly' for 'grisly,' and 'eek' for 'eke') are the more egregious by contrast. (SUSAN DRAIN) Dermot McCarthy. A Poetics of Place: The Poetry of Ralph Gustafson McGill-Queen's University Press. 323. $39.95 It's exactly ten years since a review of Ralph Gustafson's Conflicts of Spring in the Canadian Forum concluded with this: 'And surely, surely, 176 LETTERS IN CANADA 1991 about time to name him as he deserves to be named: the best poet of his generation in this country.' In my opinion (as in, I'm sure, the opinion of Dermot McCarthy), that judgment's as true now as it was then. So the appearance of a book-length study of Gustafson's work is a good and a none-too-soon thing. The obvious next question is: How well has McCarthy managed his assignment? And bref, very well, in my view. If I now begin with the one minus-sign at my disposal, my one demur, it's so I'll thereafter be able to run cheerfully about among the pluses that outnumber it. What I wish McCarthy ·had done is to trust his own clearsightedness more than, at a few crunch-moments, he does. His text is not hagiographical, no, it's too measured and just plain bright for that, but once he's into Gustafson's mature work he's practically never critical, it's as though nothing at all ever goes wrong, even the thinnest stanzas are thin for a purpose. Which as you know and I know and Dermot McCarthy knows too, cannot be so. I don't want to labour this or I'll skew this review way off its intended admiring stance, so I'll say only this and then...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 175-177
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.