Book Reviews by Gordon Phinn

GordonPhinnPhoto

In a recent New Yorker I discovered, much to my amusement, the unvarnished truth about the book-summarizing service Blinkist, whose users care not to lumber through such tomes as Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, Michelle Obama’s Becoming or Ghislaine Maxwell’s 500-page deposition for her upcoming trial. Fans recounted the huge benefits of gulping down texts in a 15-minute Uber ride. Recalling the ten-line summary of Homer’s Odyssey in Aristotle’s Poetics, professor Jonathan Arc commented, rather wryly I thought, “This is a new version of an old way of reading.” The real shocker is that Blinkist has fifteen million subscribers. Run for the fire exit if that brings you comfort.

In the following I hope to encourage you to buy and read with lasting pleasure the poetry and prose under consideration. All four seem to be fine, if not damn near perfect, gifts in this season of kindness and good cheer.

In Diana Hayes’s Labyrinth of Green (Plumleaf Press 2020) the poetry of the natural world is complemented by many pleasing, and at their best seductive, images camera-composed by the author.

46265199. sx318

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46265199-labyrinth-of-green

It is a small and compact version of “the sumptuous,” and has the feel of a larger coffee-table version. Some lyrics are tender, some tough, and some share a Buddhist world view:

The Bardo of Dharmata

Between unseen light and shadow
Nesting stars and indigo skies
Serendipity and the lover’s infrared glow
Mirrored in the lens, twinned by the vanishing pool
Spring in white blossoms, alchemy of the equinox
A path backlit, this book of hours illumined
A single oar leaning into the tree
Moon impatient, falls captive to the sea.

Such is the serenity of Nature’s ways evoked that one is tempted to recall the lyric vision of Mary Oliver. And indeed Diana does so in the opening stanza of “Insomnia’s Notebook”:

The geese are back for winter
In pairs down by the marsh
How quick they squawk and settleThen honk. Mary Oliver’s
Wild geese heading home
Once again taking flight
From my night table.

But let me note that tragedy of human suffering is not passed over in the celebration of Pan’s mystical delights. One memorable instance would be “Jack’s Secret”

When Jack was too weary to whisper
He offered a note –
Private room, please.
The seventh floor had walls of papered rose
Lights muted, all the textures of home.
Everyone wore comfortable shoes.
No alarms or bells, no rush with stainless trays.
Meals appeared only if appetites desired.
There was comfort in the eyes of nurses
As they looked beyond the doors.
To witness the final breath —
How the whole body sighs
Miracle of veins, hands
Reaching the inevitable.
That it can all end or begin
With the breath, Egypt’s ka
St. Augustine’s rider
Lingering for some days
While we, the mourners
Only begin to heal.

Of course, there are others, each offering the subtle yet complex gifts that serve to sustain our hungry hearts in times of trial.

Another unique offering in this season’s crop of titles is A Different Wolf (McGill/Queens 2020), Deborah-Anne Tunney’s survey of the obsessive themes and images that have, over the decades, hypnotized the culture into some cult that craves the kind of creepy imagination displayed throughout the Alfred Hitchcock oeuvre.

48587530. sy475

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48587530-a-different-wolf?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=52FNiaEQm1&rank=1

Of course, for every shocking slice of terror inflicted on that poor Psycho victim in the shower stall, there is the glorious image of Grace Kelly in Rear Window. That the dark side is repeatedly invoked to broadcast those well-loved shivers is no secret, but Deborah-Anne Tunney paints from a broader palette onto a more mysterious canvas. From a joyous welter of bardic invocations let me quote just one from the obscure 1926 film “The Lodger: A Story Of The London Fog”:

The smudge of decades blends with the fog of a London street
Celluloid frays the gauzed sky into smoke and transports us to the
Dim room caught in a 1920 light; through the blur of the sepia film
Another history emerges, mutes as smeared charcoal — look closely,
Can you see where the fog ends and his cape begins?
Where the lane moves into the landscape of his staged martyrdom
The distraught parents in rooms downstairs, comic and uncertain
And always wrong, and the villagers faceless in their cruelty
Stuff the screen with grey images and a bleak distancing
But the we glimpse her and as sunlight breaks through
The clumped clouds of an abandoned sky, her laugh reaches us –
A stream of light from a distant star.

You might suspect this a book for film buffs only, and as one of the guilty crew, sitting in row nine on the left at the Revue on Roncesvalles for decades, perceptions enveloped by my proximity to the moving image, I would bow to your complaint. But I would further my defense by insisting on the poet’s invocation of the mysteries that lie uncomprehendingly beyond all stereotypes, the mysteries all poets attempt to enumerate in their embrace of the seen and heard. In this meta endeavor Ms. Tunney succeeds admirably.

Speaking of success in the endless long-distance runaround that all poets are confronted with, after the passions of youthful self-expression have passed into the graveyard of juvenilia, Lawrence Hutchman’s Collected Poems: Swimming Toward The Sun (Guernica Editions 2020) speaks so well of the rewards reaped by a lifetime’s dedication to ars poetica, that I hardly know where so start. So many fine lyrics: celebrating, questioning, regretting, resurrecting.  This is a volume which will reward the attentive reader not just for these winter months, but for many years to come.

52568666

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52568666-swimming-towards-the-sun?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=boolHpoC2m&rank=3

Open the text at random and be delighted. I dare you. When daring myself I found this, from 1975’s Explorations:

By The Pool

Let us dive now, love
Into the pool where reflections of parasols
Convey our aqua illusions,
Where the water
Blurs our soft enfolding bodies.
Let us dive now into the river
Through the pebbles and over the falls,
By rusty cans and strange sirens
And through the razor rain
To love under the lips of open leaves.
The sun is born in the east
And on this Mediterranean terrace
There is only one way
Through the mountain pass –
That secret valley.

On another occasion, this, from 2014’s Personal Encounters:

Drinking With John Newlove in the Westbury Hotel

In the Westbury Hotel we sit at the bar
Sipping the stories
Between the beer and the silence.
A waiter keeps serving us drinks
While all around us the world grows green
As a jungle or a giant aquarium.
You speak of how hard
It is to live fighting the bottle,
To find the truths
And to keep them.
Sitting at the edge of the bar
In the darkness of Conrad’s night
You breathe with emotion,
Words bitten in the mouth,
Cool on the tongue
As we speak of the walls of existence
Which sometimes remains like pieces of a poem
We do not want to write.
The luau girl folds the serviettes on tables
As music hovers around our heads
Like the blue smoke of your cigarette
And Madonna’s voice breaks
Down in the wild stillness.
We hold the cold bevelled glasses closer
This is a collection where truths are uncovered and beauties exposed. Repeatedly,
shamelessly, proudly. Collect yourself within it, as I did.

Bruce Meyer’s Down In The Ground (Guernica Editions 2020), a collection of short fictions, and reputedly his sixty-fourth book, continues his self-styled tradition of working every seam in the CanLit goldmine until every type of nugget is brought to the surface for all to examine and enjoy. Is there a genre that he has not fearlessly essayed? I’m not taking any bets, but I doubt it. His is a prodigious output that compares favourably with our inexhaustible long-distance runner George Bowering.

52568661

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52568661-down-in-the-ground?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=RbRfqyNwgz&rank=1

The current volume under consideration seems to revolve around the protagonists’ varying approaches, apprehensions and fatal attractions to that ocean of possibilities we call death, transition, passing on. Meyer’s muse gives us as many variations on the theme as I would think possible: forty-three at last count, although my arithmetic is generally appalling.

Here’s one opening:

“My sister said God had nothing to do with it, that our father was to blame. I should have killed the old man but decided he wasn’t worth the bother. If I had God would have wanted me dead, and killing God, my sister said, was next to impossible.”

Another:

“It was dark inside the cat, but the bird wouldn’t know that anymore.”

A third:

“In a blizzard a person dies of invisibility.”

Those might give you an idea of how Meyer allows humour, sometimes bald, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes surreal, to undercut the solemn catalogue of deaths distributed throughout. My favourite is perhaps, “Bobby shoved Phil into the microwave. They’d been best buddies since they were young.”

That image kept me amused for days. This collection, with all its tumbling dice of fates embraced, rejected, romanticized and denied will charm you for a good deal longer than that.

The Bookseller Of Kabul by Aspe Seierstad

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

9838

7603

About twenty years ago, not long before he slipped into the editor’s chair at Books In Canada, then contributor Paul Stuewe journeyed west from Toronto to Ontario’s Huron County to uncover the outrage behind the headlines: the ideologues of censorship had once again been awakened from their routines and were pressuring local school boards remove certain books from the shelves of school libraries. Margaret Lawrence’s The Diviners was among them. Local worthies bandied words like blasphemous about with monotonous regularity. Decadent modern books were blamed for the rise in teenage pregnancy and gonorrhoea. Big city sophisticates shuddered: Well, we rationalized, at least they can’t get their hands on the bookstores and public libraries.

While Iran after Khomeni was undoubtedly an infinitely more repressive and dangerous society than small town Ontario beset by squabbles, it is sobering to hear similar accusations hurled at modern novels by Farsi speaking fanatics determined to condemn and lay blame. Azar Nafisi, now a professor at John Hopkins, certainly evokes the post-revolutionary hysteria which gripped Tehran with the calm precision which comes from years of outrage and bitter retrospect. As a card carrying member of the educated, liberalized upper crust that perhaps lost the most to the marauding mullahs of righteousness, she most certainly has old scores to settle, an uncomfortable fact often overlooked by western commentators keen to co-opt the most useful elements in her memoir to their own Big-Brother-strikes-again agendas.

Though Nafisi can speak eloquently of how reading is actually “inhaling experience” and empathy being “the heart of the novel”, and charm our western literary hearts by her repeated insightful disquisitions on Vladimir Nabokov, she can also feed the heart of darkness when she describes the torture and death of a general under the Shah who’d conspired against her father, a former mayor of Tehran. Perhaps the atmosphere of blood lust and repression is best conveyed in her descriptions of funeral processions: “That was the first time I experienced the desperate, orgiastic pleasure of this form of public mourning: it was the one place where people mingled and touched bodies and shared emotions without restraint or guilt. There was wild, sexually flavoured frenzy in the air.”

Finally banned from teaching at the university for refusing to wear the veil, she invites a few of her prize students to her home to continue discussions in secret of those decadent western novelists our chattering classes take for granted, Nabokov and Fitzgerald. Even the seemingly innocuous, such as Jane Austen and Henry James, have to be smuggled in under wraps. Nafisi’s fond memories of her hand picked proteges, and their daily trials and triumphs over family and state, are pitched against her nightmarish recall of the predatory paranoias of post-revolutionary Tehran, where life was indeed cheap and women even cheaper. Gruesome anecdotes abound, generally of the men-run-amok-with-power variety.

Like all rituals enacted under prohibition, the success of their clandestine book clubbing seems ever more delectable in retrospect, the oligarchy of terror trumped one more time. Even their gossip, naive and salacious by turns, of which many examples are carefully exhumed and framed, seems eminently subversive in the atmosphere of state approved behaviour. As one Yassi declares, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a muslim man, regardless of his fortune, must be in want of a nine year old virgin wife.”

Whether Nifisi’s trotting out of the customary grim horrors of fundamentalist repression and cruel retribution serves any greater purpose than propping up the tired propaganda of western secularism remains a moot point for this reviewer. Smug condescension to the barbarous behaviour of others is all too easy when we have become habituated to our own. Certainly, the stoning of adulterers and the whipping of flesh exposing women seems repellent and reprehensible in the extreme, but how does our gun-toting drug running profit mad laissez-faire scientism seem to them?

For that, return to Canadian Alison Wearing’s late nineties trek through Iran with her fake husband Ian, Honeymoon In Purdah, as comic a rendering of this ancient civilization come to grief as Nifisi’s is solemn. Under the hijab, an almost anonymous Wearing is treated to many an insightful gabfest with the locals, who, while squishing her with hospitality, harangue about secret government agendas and spies, movies which exaggerate and literature which lies, specifically Betty Mamoody’s Not Without My Daughter, which easily wins the ribbon for most grievances.  Worried women point to teen pregnancies and abortions, drunken driving and drugs. Why are girls obsessed with looking seductive? Apparently we “simply do not see how atrocious” our own lives are. Of course we have freedom, but at what cost?  Are we all slaves arguing for our own imprisonment?  One watches the debate and winces.

Indeed, digging up apposite quotes and learned theories on the Middle East, Islam and those brave crusaders for democracy is a less than onerous task these days.  Any bookstore or library of even modest means can be relied upon to quickly supply volume after volume erudite geopolitical analysis.  They literally fall from the bulging shelves. Stephen Schwartz will fill you in on the history and insidious significance of Wahabist movement in Islam, Daniel Pipes will advise on the pernicious influence of militant Islam in mosques under our very noses, Jessica Stern will remind that terrorists come in all the ethnic shades, including white and Christian, Chalmers Johnson will insist it’s all the result of unchecked American imperialism, Bernard Lewis will make disentangling the various manipulative rhetorics seem like child’s play, and Abdelwahab Meddeb will describe the Malady of Islam as the resentment over the gradual wearing away of Islamic hegemony from the ninth century onwards, as the action, concretized in what could be conceived as the “world capital” moved inexorably west, from Baghdad to Cairo to Venice, thence to Amsterdam, London and New York.

While scholars and intellectuals whittle away at their pet models, perfecting angles and attitudes for the ongoing and perhaps endless debate, front line reportage remains the most reliable barometer on the fates of poor humans besieged by forces beyond their control. There’s nothing quite like living with the victims. Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad, after months in the mountains with the Northern Alliance, not only managed to spend three full months sequestered with a family in the wreckage of post-Taliban Kabul, but so successfully ingratiated herself to the clan that many, if not all, of the gossipy secrets and scandals of their and their neighbours lie open and bleeding for even a casual reader of The Bookseller Of Kabul.  In her pointedly candid chronicle, we follow the daily fortunes of the extended Khan family, eavesdropping not only on the family meals and sibling squabbles but also the most anguished of personal trials.  Like many western observers Seierstad is outraged by the Afghani treatment of women. Despite being personally well treated and accorded as much respect as she would have wished for, she tells us she has rarely quarreled as much and never so often had the urge to hit anyone as she did there.  The provocation: “the belief in man’s superiority, so ingrained it was seldom questioned”.

When later family arrangements prove this comment to be deeply, uncomfortably true, I was not only saddened but quickly reminded of Eric Newby’s travel classic A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush (1955), where, before leaving England with his wife for the fantasy mountain climb of their lives, they are informed by cable to be careful, that “The Nuristanis have only recently been converted to Islam; women are less than the dust.” When a further consultation with The Imperial Gazeteer of India informs them that “Kafir women are practically slaves, being to all intents and purposes bought and sold as household commodities,” wife Wanda, determined to drop the kids with her mother in Trieste and go mountaineering, insisting that she is practically a slave married to him, and that the buying of Kafir girls sounded “just like the London season.”

Although she leaves the reader with a picture as true and uncluttered by assumption and prejudice as could be reasonably expected, Seierstad rarely feels the need to employ such cross-cultural ironies, despite drunkenness and family violence being no strangers to the social fabric of Scandinavia. One can’t help but feel that art would have been better served by some restraint in her exercise of righteous outrage.

Certainly the rendering of her willing imprisonment in the burka leaves no doubt as to its radical discomfort, despite the anonymity it offered being the perfect disguise for such a querulous interloper. Time and again we are offered remarkably intimate details of Kabul life, exactly the sort of thing we used to think forever veiled from our gaze, as it slowly reasserts its ancient character in the freeing atmosphere of renewed foreign aid.

We haven’t heard so much Afghani chit-chat since the rash of war memoirs in the 1980s, when the Mujahedin, many of whom morphed into the Taliban once the hated Soviets were finally dispatched and the score-settling civil war sorted out, were our brave freedom fighter buddies and the Soviets the mightily inept Satans of the day. Sympathies, of course, have an uncanny way of shifting when the political winds of the day demand new directions, and in the next decade we were crying for the Kurds. To return to such volumes as Doris Lessing’s The Wind Blows Away Our Words and Peregrine Hodson’s Under A Sickle Moon is to recall tales told by firelight, tales of exotic adventures in foreign lands where evil attacks good but is finally repulsed, where suffering has meaning and heroism counts.

Seierstad thankfully avoids such simplicities, preferring instead, a la Isherwood, to be as close to a camera as consciousness permits, and in the process, unearths many truths about Afghan life previously tucked away, including the fact that in those remote and unruly tribal areas where the gender roles are most the traditionally prescribed, “homosexuality is widespread and tacitly accepted.” Slender young men lie seductively entwined while listening to speeches.  Boys adorn themselves with flowers, use kohl on their eyes. Soldiers flirt and wiggle their hips.  Blood feuds are fought over young lovers who carelessly divide their affections.  “On one occasion two commanders launched a tank battle in the bazaar in a feud over a young lover.  The result was several dozen killed.”

Such pictures remind us that, despite the slew of withering details that would doubtlessly be offered by any disputant, life in Iran and Afghanistan has many unsettling similarities to our own. For instance: they don’t talk about the profits from opium and we rarely mention the burgeoning trade in hydroponic pot, yet millions are made from each.

*. *. *

On Bullshit  by Harry G. Frankfurt

Your Call Is Important To Us by Laura Penny

385

390

Surprising as it may seem, a seventy page essay by a moral philosopher from Princeton has become something of a best seller. Originally a paper presented at a Yale faculty seminar twenty years ago, Harry G. Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit”, eventually made its appearance in a journal, then in a 1988 collection of Frankfurt’s work, The Importance Of What We Care About, along such sober entries as “Coercion And Moral Responsibility”, and now, as a handsomely bound pamphlet, it can be found almost anywhere the printed word is held in high regard.

As a brief reprieve from the endless reams of ChickLit, Harry Potterisms, DaVinci Code-itis and this week’s masterful dissection of militant Islam, its calm, clear-headed deconstruction of everyday deceit is without parallel, unless you’d care to throw in my uncle Jim’s all-purpose “an acute case ‘o nae brains” as a counter balance. The perfect antidote to our culture’s daily dose of garish scandal and scatterbrained ideology, it can be happily devoured in an hour or so and its insights mulled over for weeks.

For a western intellectual, a clan not often noted for clear diction and direct thought, Frankfurt performs small miracles of deft deliberation, moving smoothly from the notion that bullshit is basically what folks used to call humbug, through the understanding that the bullshitter is not, per se, a liar, seeking to deceive us about “the facts,” but is concerned about “concealing the nature of his enterprise,” towards a radically smart denouement concerning the modern world’s loss of faith in any absolutes and the resultant retreat from achieving correctness to achieving sincerity. But for Frankfurt, since our natures are “elusively insubstantial,” we cannot actually come up with honest representations of ourselves, and thus our ideal of “sincerity itself is bullshit.” And a lovely tour-de-force it is, despite the uncredited dependence on dear old David Hume.  And Bravo! say I.

Almost as incisive as Frankfurt’s tiny diamond is Jim Holt’s recent New Yorker essay on the whole shebang, “Say Anything”, which not only includes a discussion of a little known critique by G.A. Cohen of Oxford, “Deeper Into Bullshit”, but also a slew of historically relevant chatter, from St Augustine to Wittgenstein, and an admiring reference to Laura Penny’s Your Call Is Important To Us — The Truth About Bullshit. To share such hallowed halls with a cast like that in the venerable New Yorker is no mean feat for a first-time Canadian author, and one wonders how she will ever top it.

Although she claims to admire Frankfurt’s work, Penny displays the one quality he ultimately derides: sincerity. Her version is the usual earnest lefty conviction of outrage, striking blows against the omnipotent and uncaring empire. Through the book she faces down her Goliath with a canny admixture of slander, righteous anger, and satire. Throw in a few ad hominem insults, the trash talk of tabloid journalism, unseemly lapses into barbarism (recommending the Enron execs for “stoning in lieu of jail time”), and the by-now standard chorus of anti-capitalist anti-globalist rhetoric, and by golly you’ve got a book.

The bearer of several degrees from institutions of higher learning, Ms Penny has also, fortunately, been seconded into the labour pool from time to time, and it would appear that this aspect of her existence has powered both attitude and argument. What those poor schmoes have to put up with really is beyond the pale. She never actually thumbs her nose at the hoi polloi, but one does get the unmistakable flavour of relief at the prospect of college and publishing placing her safely beyond their grubby reach.

Penny is a sharp and effective stylist, whose slash and jab technique deflates many a pompous and pretentious target in public life, but who, like several of her Gen X culture critic comrades-in-arms, retains a dreary ability to parrot the obvious and pander to cliches. That politicians prevaricate, corporations connive, and the military make waves only they can control, is nothing new. Everyone, from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, through Greenpeace, CSIS, McDonalds and the Anglican Synod, propagandizes to prop up their agenda, impress their superiors, and to keep, if not increase, their market share. Being committed to your cause does not obviate the need for a paycheck — or a rationale.

Ms Penny, like her colleagues, and many a child still shiny from kindergarten, has duly noted that the Emperor hath no raiment, and that his standard bearers themselves are somewhat threadbare.  In this she is spot on, and often charmingly so. But to advance beyond her romantic cri de coeur, she must see over the wall of anti-establishment cliches, personal prejudice and high-priced education to that formal, and perhaps stuffy, garden of eternal verities in which it is apparent that little has changed during the last several thousand years. The marketplace has always been the stage for lewd trade and sharp practice, power has always, without exception, corrupted, greed never fails to tempt, and fear has always, without warning, invaded. And the most useful tool arising from such exchanges has usually been willful deceit. Fortunately, during the same span, for all us keen adherents to systemic checks and balances, sympathy and the charitable impulse have gained a sizeable toehold. Of course, personal acts of empathy and kindness tend to lack the wicked thrill of the seven deadly sins and doubtless go underreported in the media.

Penny’s vague but tempestuous sloganeering (“Most of what passes for news is bullshit”) is initially tempting as a joyously anarchic meltdown of all things pompous, pretentious and imperious, but it eventually wears down the attentive reader as it turns inexorably toward the demonizing of all public utterance, an endgame as determinedly nihilistic and self-defeating as the onslaught of bullshit it attempts to disarm.

Now while the tear away success of such works as the DaVinci Code has allowed the world view of gnosticism a return through the back door, where it can easily cavort with the puritanism of fundamentalists of every persuasion, I suggest we should remain firm in our reluctance to will-nilly embrace its vision of demons behind every earthly manifestation. Even the occasional practice of a well-tempered rationalism can show that there is more to public life than political maneuvering and public relations, although one who daily immerses herself, as Ms. Penny repeatedly confesses, in the murky melodramatics of the media, may lose the ability to make that distinction.

But being full, as they used to say, of piss and vinegar, at least as much as her sixties forebears, Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman (Penny tags John Ashcroft as “that loon”, Hoffman wrote “President Johnson is a bastard”), and certainly not reluctant to sprinkle in a goodly share of insult and cuss word to her brew, she’s pretty well guaranteed a warm and uncritical reception on the youthful left. But for those of us who have already sat through cycles of disgust, rebellion, denial and sullen acquiescence and have tired of hair dye and painfully fashionable footwear, the parade of usual suspects (Multinationals, Agribusiness, Big Pharma, Banks, and pretty much anything American) seems all too predictable and overly familiar to generate much more than a slightly shameful world-weary shrug. Yet despite our shame we recognize that piss and vinegar only go so far, and after all that chirpy vaudeville the critic must offer guidelines for reconstruction. But Ms. Penny fails on that count, cheerfully admitting she has zilch to offer, “I’ve got nothing.  I’m not a problem solver. I’m a crank.”  Such frank confession, I’m afraid, does not constitute a defense of any credibility. Finally she is little more than ironic observer of her own futility.

One returns from her vehement irritations to Frankfurt’s calm deliberations with a palpable self of relief.  Her itch of perpetual annoyance is contagious and the afflicted reader reaches for the balm of philosophical reflection. I found mine in Felipe Fernandez-Armesto’s 1997 Truth — A History, for I realized at some point in Penny’s frenzied assault on the bastions of bullshit, that there exists for her, and indeed anyone of her righteous ilk, an assumption that there exists a shared vision, a community reality, which is regularly and rigorously filleted for all indications of untruth and misrepresentation.

Unfortunately for idealists of the sincerity school, there is no actual ground floor agreement amongst all participants on the parameters of honest and ethical banter. To successfully detach the false from the true (or the willful exaggeration from the plain spoken) is a planetary wide project with a predictably sad history of temporary consensus salvaged from the wrecks of last year’s much vaunted paradigms.

Fernandez-Armesto does as fine a job (terms like “marvelously compact” and “brilliantly incisive” come to mind) as I’ve seen tracking this endless enigma through the fields of anthropology, theology, philosophy, history and science, yet he can come no closer to his grail than suggesting that despite all language being caught in some self-referential trap, the subjective limitations of perspectives can be overcome in the craft of rigorous compilation, the result bringing us at least “a little closer to the truth.” Only a little closer? Perhaps the compilation of all partial viewpoints is a task fit only for a non-sectarian god and those who would subsume themselves in his speechless being.

Return to Journal

Gordon Phinn has been writing and publishing in a number of genres and formats since 1975, and through a great deal of change and growth in CanLit.  Canada’s literary field has gone from the nationalist birth pangs of ’65 – ’75 to its full blooming of the 80s and 90s, and it is currently coping as well as it can with the immediacy and proliferation of digital exposure and all the financial trials that come with it. Phinn’s own reactions was to open himself to the practices of blogging and videoblogging, and he now considers himself something of an old hand. His Youtube podcast, GordsPoetryShow, has just reached its 78th edition, and his my blog “anotherwordofgord” at WordPress continues to attract subscribers.

Phinn’s book output is split between literary titles, most recently, The Poet Stuart, Bowering and McFadden, and It’s All About Me. His metaphysical expression includes You Are History, The Word of Gord On The Meaning Of Life.

Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie is now completing her first novel where, for a family with a Seventh-day Adventist father and a Mennonite mother, the End Times are just around the corner. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: