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HUMANITIES 179 it will be necessary to consult photocopy material available from the archives. And the distinction between the older, familiar (though faulty) volume and the present two volumes is no slight matter, for, as Louis Dudek and Irving Layton pointed out in the Klein Symposium held in Ottawa in 1974, we have two versions of Klein - the radical poet of silence and the conservative scholar. Readers of Klein will pay their money and make their choices in these two portraits of the poet as text. (MICHAEL GREENSTEIN) Hugh Hood. Unsupported Assertions House of Anansi. 121. $19.95 There are so many Hugh Hoods. He came to prominence as a shortstory writer in 1962 with the publication of Flying a Red Kite, often cited as a landmark in the development of Canadian short fiction, and is currently at work on his ambitious novel-series, The New Age/Le nouveau siecle, which when compl,eted will surely rank as a major literary achievement. But Hood is no stranger to nonfiction either, Unsupported Assertions being his third essay-collection. Moreover, there are many dimensions to Hood the essayist. In some respects, this versatility raises problems. Unsupported Assertions is presented without any introductory explanation, though the dustjacket notes that the twelve essays are previously unpublished. What kind of readership, then, is intended? The opening piece, 'Authority in Canada,' begins vigorously and bluntly: 'Never mind the two-party system; what Canadians really like is government by a ruling party that generously permits occasional interruptions by a completely co-opted, institutionalized opposition party with the revolutionary thrust of a sagging sexual member.' Fair enough, though this note of shrill invective develops into Hood's most opinionated vein (and, when in this mood, Hood can be very opinionated). Fortunately, after a rather uncertain start - 'Authority in Canada' is followed by another old chestnut of a subject, 'The Idea of a Canadian Tradition' - the book improves considerably. There is, for example, a fervent, courageous, and by no means extreme presentation of the case against abortion, and other subjects include 'The Persistence of Romanticism ,' 'History as Myth,' and a particularly thoughtful discussion entitled 'What ls the Difference between Thought and Feeling?' Intellectually stimulating subjects. In the course of the last-mentioned essay, Hood notes that he has been described as '"cerebral," "'the most intellectual of Canadian writers," "learned."' He goes on to issue a disclaimer: 'I'm not an intellectual or a cerebral person and I'm certainly not "learned." I always walk in 180 LETTERS IN CANADA 1991 darkness and the occasional gleams of light are getting fewer and fainter.' Well, perhaps. I fancy I was responsible for one of those assessments, but the present collection goes some way, I feel, towards justifying the designation. For myself, I was not accusing him of being either dryly academic or weightily philosophical; rather, I was observing that, as a writer of fiction, he appeals to thoughtful readers and not to those content with a good story or indulgence in an emotional binge. His work is mentally stimulating; for him, fiction constitutes a discipline of thought. Hood makes the point more eloquently than I can when he not only explains how his own doctoral dissertation argued 'that the creative imagination and the active illuminating intell~ct were the same power, an eternizing, revealing power, quintessentially human,' but goes on to assert (this assertion convincingly supported!) that he continued his thinking in his later fictional work. He insists, to be sure, 'I knew I was not a systematic thinker of any sort' - but there are other kinds, and they deserve to be recognized as 'intellectual.' Unsupported Assertions is dedicated to Marshall McLuhan, who wasn't a systematic thinker either. Hood's book is best read, perhaps, in that probing, exploratory, cerebrally challenging context. The final essay, 'The Intuition of Being: Morley, Marshall and Me,' effectively proves my point - how many other Canadian writers would be capable of discussing the Intuition of Being? Here he weighs the possibility ofan English-Canadian Catholic Tradition comprising Morley Callaghan, McLuhan, and himself. It's an intriguing idea, and it places him in impressive company. At its best, Unsupported Assertions favours the claim. In the opinion...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 179-180
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-25
Open Access
No
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