Literary Review of Canada June 2021

Where the country’s best writers, thinkers, and artists come to take a stand on the topics that matter most. An unrivalled source of long-form reviews and commentary.

Literary Review of Canada
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10 Issues

in this issue

1 min
our contributors

Bob Armstrong has a book column in the Winnipeg Free Press. His novel Prodigies, a Western, comes out this summer. Kelvin Browne is the executive director of the Gardiner Museum, in Toronto. Marlo Alexandra Burks is the magazine’s new development coordinator. Elaine Coburn directs the Centre for Feminist Research at York University. Alex Cyr is the author of Runners of the Nish: A Season in the Sun, Rain, Hail and Hell. He is trying to run faster than he did in university. Graham Fraser wrote René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois in Power. Rose Hendrie is the magazine’s associate editor. Tom Jokinen is a frequent contributor to the magazine. He lives in Winnipeg. Gayatri Kumar reads in Toronto. David Macfarlane is the award-winning author of several books. His latest is Likeness. Stephen Marche is a novelist and essayist, as well…

4 min

SHE SENT ME THE STEWED TOMATO AND pappardelle recipe in the form of a sloppily photocopied clipping from the Wall Street Journal, which she annotated in her rather loopy handwriting, using pencil, of course. It was one of the countless recipes she passed along over the years. “She” being my grade 6 English teacher, who became a mentor, a confidant, and, after I moved to a big city that made her constantly fret about me, a faithful pen pal. With each recipe came a quick story or a recap of the latest meal: “The roast last evening was a triumph, and we have dandy leftovers.” But it was weeks after she sent the pappardelle recipe that I realized she’d gone to the post office somewhat prematurely — before trying it herself.…

5 min

RE: Period Piece by Jeffrey Simpson (May) JEFFREY SIMPSON’S PERSPECTIVE ON THE PAST FIFTY years of Canadian politics and cultural development is worth the read. But I might be in his target group of “critics” who, he says, would characterize Canada as a “racist hellhole.” I just couldn’t accept the two main tenets of his counter-argument: that immigration continues apace — implying that Canada must not be racist if people of colour want to move here — and the high proportion of Canadians who are “proud of health care, the passport, the flag, and the Charter.” Now I admit I have no idea what the “prevailing discourse” of university history departments is, but the fact that many have lost interest in “sagas of success in Canadian history” is not a bad thing. Racism…

11 min
toil and trouble

WORK ISN’T WORKING ANY-more. COVID?19 has thrown off the machinery of twenty-first-century capitalism, and as it stalls and sputters, turning over on its side, the gears and wheels lie open and exposed. This virus has revealed just how far economic theory has diverged from the actual process of earning a living. The unemployment rate is the highest it’s been since the Great Depression, while the stock market has rallied well past pre-pandemic levels. The fortunes of America’s very richest have risen $406 billion (U.S.) since the outbreak, and as they spend their money on spaceship photo ops, the spectre of hunger stalks the ground they are so desperate to leave behind: 26 million American adults went without meals or relied on charity for groceries last fall, and at least 4.5…

1 min
glossary of air

Air Words are scarce in our economy of Eyes Your resurface, gulp the hospital’s austere light, dive back into body with your son on the horizon. Finish We never the library, but each of us must decide on a book to be buried with. (Winds practising scales above the deserted parking lot.) Memories You share made of air. Flying into Montreal penniless. Years later, worn by physical labour, you nailed an office job, bought a semidetached on Jane for 70k, thinking of heir. Never I offer mangoes made of air — ripe, golden. From sentences you pluck them. Perhaps language feels unreal because we hold onto words but touch them — why history’s poems genuflect to your single wrinkled finger, knuckle crumpled like a page I’ve fallen asleep on. One The IV’s droplets pool midair, fall one by, tiny knocks before God…

8 min
but blind they were

Seen but Not Seen: Influential Canadians and the First Nations from the 1840s to Today Donald B. Smith University of Toronto Press 488 pages, softcover and ebook IN HER PREFACE TO WRITING THE CIRCLE: Native Women of Western Canada, a poetry collection published in 1990, the Métis scholar and poet Emma LaRocque asked, “Here are our voices — who will hear?” The question emphasizes Indigenous women’s determination to tell their own stories, in their own words. But, as LaRocque acknowledged, there are no guarantees such voices, even when spoken, will actually be heard. The historian Donald B. Smith, an expert on Confederation and nineteenth-century Indigenous histories, makes a similar point in his new book, Seen but Not Seen. From the 1840s until the 1960s, many well-known politicians, artists, scholars, journalists, and clergymen, including Sir…