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CANADIAN WRITERS AND THEIR WORKS, FICTION SERIES, VOLUME ONE

Edited by Jack David, Robert Lecker and Ellen Quigley

Downsview, ECW Press, c1983.
256pp, cloth, $28.00.
ISBN 0-0920802-45-1.


Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by Warner Winter.

Volume 11 Number 6.
1983 November.


Through its journal, Essays on Canadian WritingAnnotated Bibliography of Canada's Major Authors and now with the series Canadian Writers and Their Works, ECW indicates an intention also to establish standard reference works for the field.

CWTW, as the editors refer to it, will comprise twenty volumes (ten on poetry; ten on fiction) of critical history of the development of English Canadian literature from the beginnings to the present. One volume on poetry has been published, and now we have the first in the fiction series. Completion of the whole is promised for 1987.

Thought has gone into this ambitious undertaking. On the physical side, division into bite-size pieces solves the problem of unwieldiness encountered in many reference books. This volume sits well in the hand and is durably bound and sewn; the type-face is pleasing, and the bibliographic lists, a prominent reference feature of the work, are laid out with generous space.

On the intellectual side, the quality is unquestionably high. A volume encompassing the founding writers of our literature: Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill, John Richardson and Frances Brooke, might be respectful and dull. These essays are sound, yet also fluent and agreeably written. The accounts of biography, literary influence, and critical response are followed by a stimulating critical description and analysis of leading works and include a particularly interesting discussion of three little-known Victorian writers: Leprohon, De Mille, and Machar.

There is little of the worn commonplace here, and, since freshness of interest can be contagious, these essays are likely to prove a stimulus for high school and college students who are struggling to find a purchase upon material that is much-celebrated yet remote from their experience.

The Achilles heel of literary history; falling out-of-date critically, may reveal itself in a decade or two; ECW will have to concern itself with revision at some time. For the present, CWTW provides a lively, articulate reference work for those engaged in teaching and studying Canadian literature.


Alan Thomas, Scarborough College, West Hill, ON.
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