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Book Reviews: The Literary History of Saskatchewan vol. 3, pending

By on January 26, 2019 0


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When Saskatoon novelist, essayist and poet David Carpenter completed the monumental task of editing the first two Literary Histories of Saskatchewan, he said he was done. Her job of keeping the cats – of getting a multitude of different writers to engage and deliver their essays on Saskatchewan writing – was done. Finished.


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But the editorial direction of the third and final projected volume collapsed, and Coteau Books returned to Carpenter with a cry for help and an associate editor, Kelly-Anne Riess. So there you go, volume 3 of The Literary History of Saskatchewan ($ 29.95) and we’re in the present and looking at poetry in the new millennium.

On the one hand, Volume 3 corrects an old imbalance by paying more attention to Regina writers, including an excellent essay by Allison Calder on The Big Four of Regina’s Writing: Connie Gault, Dianne Warren, Marlis Wesseler and the late Bonnie Burnard. Not only does Calder talk about their abundant fiction, but she also talks about the vast dramatic production of Gault and Warren.

Lest Saskatoon feel snubbed, Cassidy McFadzean gives us an analysis of Lois Simmie and Dave Margoshes’ fiction, reminding us of what great writers are among us, and Aidan Morgan takes a look at trauma, memory, and place in the work of Guy Vanderhaeghe, Yann Martel, Candace Savage and Sandra Birdsell.

Regina academic and creative writer Michael Trussler does a little analysis and some Q&A with writers as diverse as Ven Begamudre, Terry Jordan, Brenda Niskala, Rosemary Nixon, Harriet Richards, J. Jill Robinson and Leona Theis, giving everyone gets a chance to talk about the form of the short story as opposed to the novel and where, exactly, the news begins – the discomfort they say.

Beyond these basic stats, I was interested but not surprised to hear from Angie Abdou that Saskatchewan writing has a drinking problem and from Nathan Mader that Daniel Tysdal’s work asks if the The current rage against zombies is not easily linked to the thousands of “minds immobilized before electronics”.


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And Tracy Hamon, in her essay on the Saskatchewan diaspora, notes how Métis writer Warren Cariou “argues that” the romance of prairie colonization as some sort of heroic process is a cliché that, thankfully, has been widely discredited. “. “A lot here to chew on.

I noticed with interest for the Riess forward that she denigrated the elitism and name abandonment in the publishing world that glorifies the rewards and prizes of the book, then the essays in his and the Carpenter’s story fall into the trap of trotting all awards for all authors, heavy verbiage that slows down a literary investigation.

But this is a little quarrel with a huge job, the third of three working reviews of some of the literature of our province.

Cover of The Literary History of Saskatchewan.
Cover of The Literary History of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon


Over the years, I like to think I got better while waiting. I bring a book to any doctor’s office, but the queues at the banks, selling tickets and waiting for a show where there are festival tickets? Ask me how is my Zen approach going? Calgary-based writers and editors Rona Altrows and Julie Sedivy examine precisely this phenomenon in a collection of essays they’ve put together called, What Else, Waiting (U of Alberta Press; $ 24.99).

In some cases, the wait is simple and benign. Saskatoon poet Glen Sorestad waits for a train, not for himself, but for a student from a long time ago, when he was a school teacher. Alexandra was an exceptional student living under exceptionally difficult circumstances and Sorestad saw her need and was kind to her.


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Saturday, by Anne Levesque, is one of the worst: Waiting for the father to come home drunk when all the signs are there and, “The tension. My brother and I then produced a brittle false gaiety, like the sun on a cold winter day. Many know this one.

Rebecca Danos writes that she waits for her life to begin once she gets that degree, then the next degree, then that big job, and finds that “the act of working for our ambitions becomes the substance of our lives, whatever its destination “.

And Ann Sorbie opens: “Have you ever spent the night waiting for sleep? No kidding.

On a short break for the good, Richard Harrison of Calgary comments that “Fishing is perhaps the only activity that treats waiting like a sport. It is about shared love and waiting together. Longtime Saskatoon and Eastend, SK resident Sharon Butala offers a deep meditation in Storage, in which cleaning out her locker in Swift Current means her life is confined only to her apartment in Calgary. No more walls of books – “the death of a dream of myself as an intellectual”. She calculates her age against life expectancy and wonders if it’s “Mr. Death itself, hanging around, waiting for me to give in.”

On that note, Lee Kvern waits with her sisters at their mother’s bedside, putting her at ease in her final days and hours, while Edmonton’s Margaret Macpherson waits to see the light return to her daughter’s eyes after her child witnessed a horrific car-pedestrian accident. and the girl was the only person among many spectators who responded. She knows that “her daughter’s worldview has changed” and she waits “in vain”.


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There is a lot to debate here. Samantha Albert, who has spent much of her life in doctors’ waiting rooms due to chronic health conditions, turns to images of curvy lines of people in Pakistan or the Middle East patiently waiting for food and water to reassure himself that his expectation is not as important as the others.

Next, Roberta Rees, in a heartbreaking essay about what her mother and sister suffered, asks why bullied and assaulted women wait to accuse their tormentors. Leslie Greentree asks if there is any sense in waiting for an apology from a man who years ago publicly shamed her just for the fun of it. These are just a few of the types of waits described here, and they’re all worth reading.



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