Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Swan's Road

December 7, 2017

Garth Pettersen. The Swan's Road. Tirgearr, 2017. eBook.

The Swan’s Road is local writer Garth Pettersen’s enjoyable historical action adventure novel, a balance of armour and amour, following the travels of a Danish youth, Harald, on the Swan’s Road to Rome, in 1027 AD. A fast-paced, character-centred tale with cinematic scenes of accidents enroute, encounters, ambushes, arm-to-arm combat, in the context of familial and romantic longings. Loyalties are contested and identities in doubt as Harald rushes to meet up with his father King Cnute at the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Personally, I also enjoyed the author’s Historical Notes at the end of The Swan’s Road, about the process of researching and writing, the historical accuracies and additions, and the careful vocabulary choices consistent with the development of the language used in Engla-lond at the time. Looking forward to Garth Pettersen’s next installments about the politics of Europe and the romance of Harald and Selia. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Nick Mount. Arrival: The Story of CanLit. Anansi, 2017.

In spite of my passion for CanLit (or maybe because of it), I held off reading this bit – Arrival: The Story of CanLit.  Maybe if he had changed the title to The Story of CanLit in the 1960s I’d be a bit less critical.

I avoided reading because I knew it would make me mad. It would be T-O-centric and phallo-centric. And it is. Moreover, it is the tone. That overly confidant mansplaining talk which presents opinion as if it were fact. I blame that tendency for the false news fad which we are fighting today. Rather than blame myself, and other teachers and former teachers, who have failed to stress, teach, develop the skill of being able to differentiate opinion, fiction, from fact. Or worse, we failed to help groom students who care about the difference, the ethics of opinion. The responsibility of speaking in the public forum.

You can sort of imagine how this book grew. First, everything starts in Toronto. With a bit of bleed from Montreal after the Quiet Revolution. Then someone said You have to include some other part of the country. What about Vancouver, Tish, and the American influence? Then someone said You have to include some First Nations and more women, so he drops in Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed although it is the ONLY indigenous writer and the ONLY non-fiction and published in 1973.

It’s a child’s viewpoint, the belief that nothing happened before I got here. No reference to previous award winners, especially writers who remained in Canada. In the brief biographies, writers like Laurence and MacLennan do pay homage to earlier writers from their regions—Sinclair Ross, Ernest Buckler. Little reference to E.J. Pratt. Nothing important said about Dorothy Livesay, twice GG winner, active in the little mag Contemporary Verse from Edmonton in the 1940s. Or Laura Salverson or Winnipeg. Or Emily Carr. Not enough mention of the Centennial and all the promotion in the years before 1967 which helped young people travel in Canada, develop a sense of Canadian identity and pride, and meet their counterparts in other regions. Money did come from the Canada Council for writers and publishers, but the biggest benefit to me seems to be the creation of a nation of young people who desire a CanLit, to make it and to buy it.

I do like the little blurbs about books, although not the stars. Trust the tale, not the teller. And I did learn the meaning of Tish. Backwards?

I also felt a lack of a definition or an understanding of what literature really is and why it is important. And of the link between colonialism and CanLit. If there was no CanLit before 1967, it was because we were a colony. Even if politically we were not a colony after 1927, in our heads, and in the education of the decision-makers, we were still “lesser than” the mother countries and convinced, as they told us, that nothing of value comes from here.

I avoided reading because I knew it would make me mad, and it did. But, I guess, it also made me think.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Dorothea Lange

October 23, 2017

Dorothea Lange. Photo Exhibition Catalogue. MoMA, 1966.

Eloquence in black and white.


October 23, 2017

Billeh Nickerson. McPoems. Arsenal, 2009.

A most enjoyable collection of a young writer's initiation into the McJob workforce and the art community. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Oriental Love Poems

October 22, 2017

Michelle Lovric. Oriental Love Poems. Andrews McMeel, 2003.

Chinese and Japanese poetry translated into English and illustrated with relevant symbols and origami constructs. A beautiful little volume with pockets and envelopes containing secret papers. 

The fourth of sixteen selections I chose at the Rotary Book Sale in Chilliwack, 2017.


October 22, 2017

Leona Gom. Northbound: Poems Selected and New. Thistledown, 1984.

Very enjoyable. Very familiar scenes and situations--women escaping the farm and family ties. 

Canada: Romancing the Land

October 21, 2017

Lorraine Monk and Miriam Waddington. Canada: Romancing the Land. Key Porter, 1996.