|Oct/Nov 2002 Book Reviews|
Ondaatje, Redhill, Spalding, Editors
Macmillan (Aug. 2002) 184 pages
ISBN: 0 9687555-3-4
My first impression of this journal was that it was produced by a group of people who had a nice sense of humour. "Subscribe... or it's fricasee time for Bugs," announces a half-page advertisement: "Bugs" being a lop-eared rabbit charmingly sketched by Mary Meigs, an artist who is relearning her drawing skills after suffering a stroke. And Margaret Atwood, who has contributed a cartoon to this edition, is listed amongst "The Usual Suspects" as their regular cartoonist: "She is also a writer," it says.
My second impression, after reading Mark Abley's piece about the Boro language, (which has such very useful verbs as "gobray: to fall in a well unknowingly": as distinguished from "gobram: to shout in ones sleep"), was to wonder why I had never heard of this journal before. This is, after all, issue 69 of a bi-annual journal. It is published in Toronto, Canada, which is still a long way from Sydney, Australia (in all sorts of ways). No doubt that's why.
My final impression, having read all the articles, is that this is a very literary, literate and avant-garde journal which presents a variety of views on a wide range of subjects. Sadly, I fear that it will find only a small, probably academic, readership in Australia, especially since one or two of the articles require some familiarity with the Canadian literary scene.
Nevertheless, there is good reading here. The journal is devoted to non-fiction topics and this issue includes interviews with W.G. Sebald and Charles Johnson; an extract from a conversation between Michael Ondaatje and film editor, Walter Murch (from a recently published book); a discussion about ultra-modern poetry, sound poetry and virtual poetry between two Canadian poets, Christian Bök (whose recent book, Eunoia, is the fastest-selling book in Canadian history and tells a story in five chapters using only one vowel per chapter) and Darren Wershler-Henry (whose book, the tapeworm foundry, is a single run-on sentence proposing ideas that a writer might use for inspiration); an article about travel, politics and culture in Pakistan in 1988 and 1990; a piece about Stendhal's methods in his Life of Henry Brulard; poetry, pictures, and much much more.
Anyone seriously interested in modern literature, its practitioners and its current practice, will find this journal well-written, thought-provoking and challenging.