Reviewed by W. H. New and George Woodcock
***** Contexts of Canada's Past: Selected Essays by W. L. Morton, ed. A. B. Mc- Killop. Carleton Library No. 123; Oxford, $9.95. This may survive, if not as W. L. Mor- ton's greatest book, certainly as his most char- acteristic. The essays it contains project more subtly than his large volumes the outline of a warm personality and a mind exceptionally sensitive and varied in its perceptions. They recollect his life, they show his feeling for places and people, but they also reveal the special characteristics as a historian that dis- tinguished him from his major contemporaries, Donald Greighton and Frank Underbill. Greighton and Underbill, though one of them was a Tory and the other a Radical, were both essentially Ontarians with centralist views of Canadian history. Morton, intensely loyal to his western links, was perhaps the most determinedly regional in outlook of all the notable Canadian historians. And in these essays one sees how his regionalism is based, not only on the long history of the west's subordination to central Canadian interests, but also on a life- long love for the west as the land of his child- hood, the land to which his loyalties were lifelong. Reading these essays, I knew why Margaret Laurence's voice was so heavy with sorrow when she rang me up to tell me that this great man, who was her friend, had died.
**** DENNIS REÍD, Our Own Country Can- ada. National Gallery of Canada, $29.95. This is a major study of the classic period of Canadian landscape painting which began as the catalogue raisonné of an exhibition with the same title which the National Gallery of Canada opened in November 1978 and then sent touring the country. The achievement of the Group of Seven in giving Canadians an easily understandable visual codification of their country was so complete that for many years the great surge of landscape painting which emerged in Ontario during the 1860's and reached its peak when the landscape mas- ters followed the СPR into and over the moun- tains, was almost forgotten. Perhaps one of the reasons for this near oblivion was that, as Dennis Reid points out, the landscape painting of Krieghoff, Legaré, and their contemporaries before i860 had been conceptual, which, es- sentially, that of the Group of Seven became. But the landscape painting between i860 and 1890 was essentially perceptual, and one of the most fascinating aspects of Our Country Can- ada is the way Reid traces the connection be- tween the fine early Canadian photographers, notably William Notman, and the new ways in which the leading landscapists of the time, many of whom worked in the photographic studios, saw the landscape of their country as they moved westward with the advancing rail- ways.
*** ROBERT w . PASSFIELD, Building the Ri- deau Canal: A Pictorial History. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $24.95. If Ottawa had not begun with the strange name of Bytown, it is likely that we would know even less than the little we do about Colonel John By. Almost nothing has been written about him personally, and even the history of the Rideau Canal and its construction has been so poorly recorded that we are left with the image of the elusive Colonel as an incompetent manager who grossly overspent his estimates. In fact, By was a first rate engineer who did much better un- der very difficult conditions than most of his fellow canal builders. He had to deal with wild country hard to survey, with the difficult cli- matic and geological conditions of the Shield country, with incompetent contractors, and with the malaria that 150 years ago made the land between the Ottawa River and Kingston almost as deadly as the Maremma. Yet he completed a splendid waterway (while it may have outlived its economic and military im- portance) that remains as a handsome artifact which still — whether fluid in summer or frozen in winter — gives great pleasure to thousands of people. Building the Rideau Canal: A Pic- torial History makes up for a great deal of the neglect. It is an excellent narrative of how the Rideau was conceived and planned, and it is greatly assisted by the survival of a fine series of drawings and watercolours, mainly by Thomas Burrows and John Burrows, two of By's best civilian assistants. This has made possible a pictorial account of the Canal that, after the introductory section, goes almost lock by lock, calling on the engineering records for details of the actual building techniques and the conditions of work. It is a fine contribution to the history of Canadian transportation, be- sides doing justice to a neglected historic figure.
**** JAMES W. ST. G. WALKER, A History of Blacks in Canada. Ministry of State for Multi- culturism, $8.50. Designed as a study guide for teachers and students, this is much more: a mini-history ; an extensive bibliographic guide to books, articles, and other resources; and a set of reflections on prejudice, community, and identity. Topics range from slavery in Canada
(including an account of the Mohawk chief- tain Joseph Brant's slaves), fugitives, Loyalists, and immigrant movements, through accounts of public policy and the effect of various Public School Acts, to the role of the Church and the Canadian impact of the American Civil Rights Movement. Walker is clear throughout, and quietly persuasive.
** HELMUT BONHEIM, The Narrative Modes: Techniques of the Short Story. D. S. Brewer, £17.50. Few Canadian readers of the short story will find the critical techniques of this book familiar, nor the book itself easy to read, though half the examples are drawn from Ca-nadian literature. (The other half are English and American.) Unabashedly "Teutonic," the author says, his method is formalistic, ana- lytic, categorical, statistical. Basing his work in the language and theory of linguistic dis- course, he isolates four "modes" of narration (description, report, speech, and comment), examines various attempts to systemize them, then proceeds to a set of examples that illus- trates various combinations of these modal elements — in the beginnings and endings of short stories. Statistical tables, based on 300 stories and 50 novels from each of "Canadian" and "Anglo-American" sources, record thein- cidence of particular starting and closing de- vices — which Bonheim calls "anteriority," "habituality," "epanalepsis," "polysyndetic," etc. Some readers might wish to know that while 74% of the Canadian stories (and10% of Canadian novels written during the 1900- 1940 period) start with habituality, 6 1 % of the Anglo-American stories and 36% of the novels do.
*** JEAN-PIERRE BONNEVILLE, Marc-Aurèle Fortin en Gaspésie. Stanké, n.p. Painters who portray the character of a region will have much to say to people beyond it as well. This brief account of Fortin's bicycle trip to the Gaspé in the 1940's is beautifully illustrated with thirteen of the oils and watercolours he did at that time. Fascinated by boats and rocks, his blue houses seem at once perched by the sea and sailing through the landscape. These are vigorous drawings, bold and alive.
** Luo ZEWEN et al., The Great Wall. Hur- tig, $29.95. The Great Wall is, of course, China's — a decorated defense scheme that has lasted for thousands of generations and cap- tured the imagination of foreigners and Chi- nese alike. There were walls before it, as this profusely illustrated popular history acknowl- edges; but none was so compelling a symbol or so successful a barrier. Kilometre by kilometre, the text takes us on an illustrated tour— which makes the book particularly useful as a school library teaching tool. Its diagrams are clear, its variety of illustration remarkable (paintings, photographs, statuary, manuscripts, maps, silks — much drawn from Chinese hold- ings, and presented under the guidance of the Cultural Relics Publishing House in Beijing) ; the photographs and prints are least helpful — sometimes supernumerary, often dark, the col- our discrimination of the prints not as sharp or as true as it ought to be.
- Documenting Resistance by Len Falkenstein
Books reviewed: The Ecstasy of Resistance: A Biography of George Ryga by James Hoffman and The George Ryga Papers by Marlys Chevrefils and Apollonia Steele
- A Work of Devotion by Joseph Jones
Books reviewed: A Bibliography of Stephen Leacock by Carl Spadoni
MLA: New, W. H and Woodcock, George. Untitled. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 6 Feb. 2013. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #95 (Winter 1982), Caribbean Connections. (pg. 174 - 176)
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