True to the lessons held within this book, author Kelley Griffith Jr. tells us with simple clarity, right up front in the preface, “that essays about literature are almost always arguments and, as such, must persuade an audience.” This is the overriding point of “Writing Essays about Literature, A guide and style sheet.” The book […]

There are two premises to this book of essays: first, crudely put, no-one gives a shit about Canadian novels, and second, they’re no good anyway. Now that I think about it, there’s a third, and it’s the most problematic: the reason Canadian fiction is no good is that a range of spent old volcanoes has […]

First appeared in ARC Poetry Magazine In great poems, chosen words combine in ways which confer unique meaning memorably with resonance and power. The scent they produce infiltrates the mind, like body chemistry. I have good chemistry with this poem. This poem starts with a blow which jolts the reader urgently from peace to panic. […]

First appeared in Three Percent We meet a familiar angst-ridden Russian early in the pages of Jakov Lind’s novel Landscape in Concrete: Dostoevsky’s Underground man surfaces in the guise of Gauthier Bachmann to here tread the desolate earth of the Ardennes during WW ll. No longer confined by inertia to his wretched little room, this […]

The best books, Somerset Maugham once quite rightly insisted, are enjoyable to read. By this measure, Arrival: The Story of CanLit is a virtuoso performance. It’s fun, not at all academic. It’s informative – many of the most important works in the Canadian canon are evaluated (albeit cursorily) – it’s also funny, well written and […]

First appeared in The Globe and Mail Little ducks and tadpoles render large life lessons in Richard Greene’s Governor-General’s Award-winning book of poetry Boxing the Compass. Ducks because of how, with Beckett, unbothered, “They paddle crazily among remnants Of winter, the mud and the rotted leaves, Casually insisting on what comes next” It’s the same […]

First appeared in Canadian Art Magazine “The 1930s: The Making of ‘The New Man’” is a stark reminder of how easily huge numbers of human beings can be convinced to slaughter and maim one another, how weak and hateful we can be, how susceptible to promises of salvation and self-aggrandizement, how quick to forget atrocities. […]

First appeared in Guerilla magazine Be warned in time, James, and remain, as I do, incomprehensible: to be great is to be misunderstood. Oscar Wilde. In her poem ‘I dwell in Possibility’ Emily Dickinson compares poetry to a house; open to those with imagination, closed to those who can’t understand. When a poet fails to […]

First appeared in The Washington Post A thick helping of recognition was recently served up to the Beirut-born Rawi Hage for his first novel, De Niro’s Game winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the world’s richest prize ($153,000) for a work of literary fiction. Recognition from a country that knows something about the […]

First appeared in The Quarterly Conversation Assuming the format of an Everyman’s dictionary of writers, Robert Bolaño’s novel Nazi Literature in the Americas, consists of a series of short profiles, thirty brief fictitious lives of pan American fascist novelists and poets, depicted with such straightforward urbanity and good humor that one almost misses the sick […]