25 June 2018

The Dustiest Bookcase: E is for Eaton


Short pieces on books I've always meant to review (but haven't).
They're in storage as we build our new home.
Patience, please.

Memory's Wall
Flora McCrae Eaton
Toronto: Clarke Irwin, 1956
213 pages

The Bombardier Guide to Canadian Authors places Flora McCrae Eaton as second only to Malcolm Frye. Both writers transcend the boundaries of our literature: Frye rates 6½ out of a possible five skidoos, while Lady Eaton is an even six. According to the Guide, Morley Callaghan is a third the writer she is, and yet I've never read Lady Eaton's work.


Memory's Wall was Flora McCrae Eaton's second and last book. The first, Rippling Rivers: My Diary of a Camping Holiday, was published in 1920 by the T. Eaton Company, the department store headed by husband Sir John Craig Eaton. That just two books propelled her to such heights in the Bombardier Guide speaks to her talent.

Before moving to St Marys, Ontario, our home these past ten years, I'd never seen a copy of Memory's Wall. They're not at all uncommon in this small town. My copy, purchased four blocks down the street, set me back a dollar.

It's signed.


The Eatons were once prominent in St Marys; Lady Eaton's father-in law, Timothy, had a store on Queen Street, as did his brother Robert. They stand with celebrated violinist Nora Clench (Lady Streeton) and Arthur Meighen as the town's most famous residents. The latter, our ninth prime minister, provided a forward to Memory's Wall.

It begins: "This book is truly a Canadian product." 

That's as far as I've made it.

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24 June 2018

Root Beer for a Sober Fête de la St-Jean Baptiste



The visage of Louis-Joseph-Paul-Napoléon Bruchési, Italian-Canadian Archbishop of Montreal, dominates the first page of this 1898 Souvenir de la fête de la St-Jean Baptiste, but the most prominent spot belongs to the English firm of Newball & Mason, which placed this ad at the very top of the front cover:


I'd long been aware that root beer was once promoted by teetotals – Hires sold it as the "temperance drink for temperance people" – but had never seen the beverage described as the "Biere de Temperance."

Don't like root beer? Newball & Mason had other drinks to lure one away from that ol' demon alcohol: botanic beer, hop ale, ginger beer, ginger ale, horehound beer, and Devonshire Cider were just six.

Looking through the many ads in the Souvenir, I see no other teetotals.


Newball & Mason's address – 943 St-Laurent – was razed in the 'seventies to make way from the Ville-Marie Expressway. I'm betting the Nottingham, Angleterre firm had long since vacated the building.

Bon fête!

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18 June 2018

The Dustiest Bookcase: D is for Daniells


Short pieces on books I've always meant to review (but haven't).
They're in storage as we build our new home.
Patience, please.

Deeper Into the Forest
Roy Daniells
Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1948
72 pages

A thing of beauty, and so a joy forever, I bought my pristine copy of Deeper Into the Forest three years ago for fifteen dollars. That price – less than a can of President's Choice coffee – speaks ill of this country's recognition of its literature.

But who am I to judge? I still haven't read Daniells' collection.

Deeper Into the Forest holds the distinction of being the very first Indian File Book, a series that would include three Governor General's Award-winners: James Reaney's The Red Heart (1949), James Wreford Watson's Of Time and the Lover (1950), and P.K. Page's The Metal and the Flower (1956). The ninth and last last Indian File Book, John Glassco's The Deficit Made Flesh (1958), is the one I know the best. For a time, Leonard Cohen's The Spice Box of Earth was under consideration as the tenth title.


Indian File Books had uniform dust jackets; the series name had to do with the boards hidden underneath each. All nine were adaptations of designs by "West Coast and Plains Indians" by WASP Torontonian Paul Arthur.

Deeper Into the Forest
Roy Daniells

Of Time and the Lover
James Wreford Watson

The Deficit Made Flesh
John Glassco

Cultural appropriation, of course.

Did anyone notice?

Indian File Books had print runs of 400 copies.

The bulk of Glassco's were remaindered for 29¢.

Hardly anyone pays them notice now.


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12 June 2018

Of Whips, Veins, and a Bottomless Pool of Warmth



Arctic Rendez-vous
Keith Edgar
Toronto: Collins White Circle, 1949
192 pages

I've finally finished my review of Arctic Rendez-vous, promised here last month.

No apologies. You'd have taken a long time, too.

Arctic Rendez-vous features the worst, most cringe-inducing sex scenes I've read since Donna Steinberg's I Lost It All in Montreal. Here's a sample:
The fragrance of her hair was in his nostrils and her gentle breath sent a warn zephyr against his chest.
   She whispered shyly, “I don’t know what came over me, Taffy — I —"
   Taffy said shakily, “I love you too, Marta, I always have.”
   Marta was quiet for a moment, then she raised her head and kissed him on the mouth.
   A vein was hammering in his temples and there was an uncomfortable warmth creeping through his thighs.
   His mouth sought for and found her moist sweet lips and she pressed close to him. Taffy, Darling, I want you so much — so much —"
   He slid his hands down her smooth back, the part of him that was still rational thinking that her body was suddenly hot, hot all over. He could hardly speak, his voice was so husky.
   “Are you sure, Marta? Are you sure?”
   “Please, Taffy. Please take me. Please. Please.”
   “I love you Marta, you know that don’t you?”
   The pressure of her thighs against him was unbearable. His mouth groped with desperate hunger for her lips and together they sank down into a bottomless pool of warmth and breathless wonder.
Those with strong stomachs can find the review posted at Canadian Notes & Queries online:
A Femme Fatale in the Frozen North
A bonus: In my my previous Arctic Rendezvous post, I remarked that the woman on the cover, Marta, should have black hair, adding that her breasts should be conical. This brought an emailed query, the answer to which is provided in this passage:
She trembled in his arms and twisted to bury her face in his shoulder, moaning softly. He slid his hands up her shoulders, pressing her to him until the hard cones of her breasts started a vein throbbing in his throat. 
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07 June 2018

The Amazon Customer Review 2018 Ontario Election Edition: Interesting and Easy to Read



Election Day in Ontario. If the pollsters are correct, Doug Ford is set to become the province's twenty-sixth premier. That's him smiling on the cover of Ford Nation, the book he wrote with his brother Rob.

Ford Nation ranks as one of the most remarkable achievements in Canadian publishing. Doug announced that he was writing the book at a 13 September 2016 news conference.  Two months later, there is was, finished and in stores.

Again, a remarkable acheivement... made more so by the fact that co-author Rob had died nine months earlier.


At that news conference, held in his mom's garden with Rob's widow Renata by his side, Doug described the work in progress as "the most exciting book that this country has ever seen when it comes to politics."

Does the finished product live up to Doug's claim? I haven't read Ford Nation myself, and so rely upon Amazon customer reviews:

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04 June 2018

The Dustiest Bookcase: C is for Child


Short pieces on books I've always meant to review (but haven't).
They're in storage as we build our new home.
Patience, please.

The Village of Souls
Philip Child
Toronto: Ryerson, 1948
294 pages

I've long championed Child, praising God's Sparrows and Mr. Ames Against Time here and elsewhere. The Village of Souls was his debut novel. It was first published in 1933 by Thornton Butterworth of London, England, a full fifteen years before there was a Canadian edition. Ryerson went some way in making up for the delay. This may be the publisher's most beautiful book.


Roloff Beny, a man I'd known only as a photographer, provides the cover and the illustrations that open each chapter.


Child wrote just five novels. I haven't read this one for the simple reason that it's set in seventeenth-century New France. As mentioned a couple of weeks back, I'm not drawn to historical fiction. Should I be giving The Village of Souls a chance? According to Ryerson, I'm missing out on a novel that "will live as a Canadian classic."


The Ryerson edition of The Village of Souls was published seventy years ago. The novel hasn't seen print since.

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