Reviewing 14 years of literary history calls for solemn reflection. From the pages of Books in Canada, some gleanings suitable to the occasion
We were all a little feisty in those days: The first sentence in the first editorial was, Books in Canada is a radical magazine. A sentence in the second editorial: Books in Canada is a biased magazine.
We were also a little sensitive: Mordecai Richler’s dismissal of Books in Canada as not up to the standards of the New York Review of Books invoked, “Books in Canada is what it is because we know, as obviously he doesn’t, that too many Canadians neither know nor care who he is.”
The copy editor just ordered in a case of aspirin: During the first year of Books in Canada, Toronto poet bp Nichol reviewed bill bissett”s Nobody Owns th Earth with a poem: With lines like: ‘print fixes a formality/which comes dangerously close to/DEFINITIVE/ statement what’s really/fun is to sit around on a night and rap/about theory of someone else’s peoms [sic]/& where hes trying to arrive at,” it avoided both negative comment and punctuation.
You can lead them to Canlit but you can’t make them drink: Two parallel 1972 reviews of Read Canadian, edited by Robert Fulford, Dave Godfrey and Abraham Rotstein) began: “Here is a book that is at least stimulating in a very basic way” (William Kilbourn) and “Although this book about Canadian books is first of all a good idea, it makes depressing reading” (Fraser Sutherland).
Perhaps a drink or two wouldn’t be a bad idea: An advertisement by Pendragon House in the October, 1978 issue proudly announced: ‘ALL THE BOOKS OF CANADA — on one purchase order!’
Top marksmanship: George Woodcock’s reply to a 1974 letter to the editor by Michael Sutton begins: “Mr. Sutton’s letter is like a salvo from an antiquated fowling piece, broad, inaccurate and hitting home only by luck.”
We’re in the arts, not the sciences, and certainly not in mathematics: There was no volume five, number three in 1976. There were, however, two number ones issued three months apart.
Who says we’re too stuffy? A 1976 centre-page review of Tuktoyaktuk 2-3, by Herbert T. Schwartz, featured a line-drawing from the book that was an explicity rendering of , well, two Inuit in a canoe doing what Pierre Berton once said being Canadian was all about. Subsequent issues printed angry letters from irate librarians and one reader who called the drawing ‘pornographic puke.’
This man does, that’s who: a sad reader complained in a letter more than a year later that “With the exception of one semi-erotic centre-page Eskimo drawing, this has turned out to be a duller, more over-written magazine that I had at first thought.”
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