Best Banff Essays
- Moira Farr (Editor) and Ian Pearson (Editor)
Word Carving: The Craft of Literary Journalism. Banff Centre Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Andrew Bartlett
This collection–one of impressive vitality, maturity, and range–assembles essays nurtured by the Banff Centre’s Creative Non-Fiction and Cultural Journalism program. The most successful essays explore intense memories of parents. Alyse Frampton’s tragic leftist in “My American Father” is a man whose devotion to extravagant left-wing political projects leads him to waste his inheritance. A. Farman-Farmaian evokes the dignity of his widowed mother as she takes her boys from Baghdad into exile in 1978. Douglas Bell investigates the in-hospital aftermath of a bad bicycle accident–interviewing doctors, reading medical files on himself, discovering his mother just hated the nurses. Ostensible quests for freedom from the past in these pieces inadvertently leave powerful trails of nostalgia.
Other pieces, less nostalgic, stem from friendship. Philip Marchand explores his involvement in the Therafields movement in 1960s Toronto; Camilla Gibb carries us through the dramatic tale of her career as an anthropologist and friendship with an Oroma refugee from Ethiopia; Johanna Keller remembers the distinguished accompanist Samuel Sanders, a child prodigy pianist who endures lifelong chronic pain. The pieces least rooted in personal attachment offer pleasures of the outrageous: Matthew Hart’s tale of the two-time theft from an isolated Scottish mansion of a priceless Vermeer, and Ellen Vanstone’s laugh-out-loud exposé of inanities inside the editorial rooms of The National Post. Other pieces meditate on literary genre. Anita Lahey confesses the obstacles to the authentic expression of grief while defining the eulogy (neither elegy nor epitaph nor obituary); Katherine Ashenburg tracks her feelings about feminism by way of remembering the Sue Barton, Nurse romances and profiling their creator, Helen Dore Boylston.
Canada has no counterpart to the Best American Essays series. The people at Banff should continue this project annually. It would be delightful to anticipate the Best Banff Essays every year.
- Recovery and Repression by Bart Vautour
Books reviewed: Champagne and Meatballs: Adventures of a Canadian Communist by Larry Hannant and Bert Whyte and Seeing Reds: The Red Scare of 1918-1919, Canada's First War on Terror by Daniel Francis
- Touring Anglophone Drama by Albert-Reiner Glaap
Books reviewed: Crucible of Cultures: Anglophone Drama at the Dawn of a New Millennium by Franca Bellarsi and Marc Maufort
- Poetry's Underdogs by Vanessa Lent
Books reviewed: Mary Melfi: Essays on Her Works by Wiliam Anselmi, Alden Nowlan: Essays on His Works by Gregory M. Cook, and Joe Rosenblatt: Essays on His Works by Linda Rogers
- La Créativité polymorphe by Milka Beck
Books reviewed: Le choc des écritures by Hélène Guy and André Marquis and l'Adaptation dans tous ses états by Andrée Mercier and Esther Pelletier
- Enlightening Essays by Neil Querengesser
Books reviewed: Mary di Michele: Essays on Her Works by Joseph Pivato and The Ivory Thought: Essays on Al Purdy by Shoshannah Ganz, Josephine Kealey, and Gerald Lynch
MLA: Bartlett, Andrew. Best Banff Essays. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 19 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #188 (Spring 2006). (pg. 122 - 122)
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