THE CANADIAN NOVEL, VOLUME III: MODERN TIMES
Edited by John Moss.
Volume 11 Number 6.
Modern Times is the third critical anthology in the series on the Canadian novel edited by John Moss. In it Moss presents the works of ten Canadian novelists, represented in essays by fifteen different writers, who deal with the transitional phase between what is clearly past and the unequivocally contemporary. The title is thus subtle. There may be some confusion when the series is eventually completed. Since Moss does not use chronological order, will readers readily grasp the difference between Here and Now, Volume 1, Modem Times, Volume III, and Present Tense, the volume on the avant-garde now in preparation? In fairness, the introductions do clearly define the purposes behind each volume, and they have been consistently excellent.
The essays, although in this case written for the most part for this book, are again somewhat varied. For example, John Goddard, whose personal essay (reprinted from Books in Canada) is based on conversations with Elizabeth Smart undertaken while she lived in England, does not deal with her return to Canada. It is dated and superficial and out of place in a scholarly anthology.
Moss breaks new ground in attempting to redress the neglect afforded to writers of this period. Readers will quarrel with his omissions (nothing on A.M. Klein, for example), and some may quarrel with his inclusions. Martha Ostenso makes his top ten list. Ostenso lived in Canada for only a short period. There are questions about her authorship of Wild Geese, the novel Stanley Atherton concentrates his essay on. He does admit that her That Young May Moon was probably written in collaboration with Douglas Durkin, the man she lived with for forty years. But, according to Peter Rider in an introduction to a recent reprint of Durkin's 1923 novel, The Magpie, Durkin and Ostenso wrote Wild Geese together too. However, in order to submit it for the Dodd Mead first-novel prize, which it won, Durkin's name had to be omitted, since he had published previously. Rider's argument on the extensive collaboration between the two authors is convincing and needs to be taken into consideration.
Enough quibbling. Modem Times contains many fine, scholarly essays on such "modern" writers as Callaghan, MacLennan, W. O. Mitchel, Ethel Wilson and others studied in today's schools. It should be read.
Warner Winter, Emery C. I., Weston, ON.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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