30 June 2014

Immoral Music for a Monday Morning

Pure filth condemned by John Wesley's White in Re-entry (1970), his forty-four-year-old book on Christ's imminent return. Writes Dr White:
Tops of the pops like, "Have you [sic] Got Cheating on Your Mind," "Second Time Around," "Strangers in the Night," and the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spent the Night Together" are deliberately written and sung to promote immorality.
The Oxford PhD has never been very good with titles. I'm sure that by "Have you Got Cheating on Your Mind" he means "Woman, Woman", the Jim Glaser/Jimmy Payne song, which was a hit for Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. But isn't the song about being faithful? Was it really "written and sung to promote immorality"? You tell me.

A #1 single in Canada, "Woman, Woman" did indeed top the pops, but what about "Second Time Around"? Sure, the song was nominated for an Academy Award, but in the words of Frank Sinatra it "never got off the ground". Old Blue Eyes thought it should be a standard and recorded it a number of times, but it was first sung by depraved Bing Crosby in High Times (1960).

The words and music were written by the debauched duo of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, who are best remembered for obscenities like "High Hopes", "Come Fly with Me" and, of course, "Love and Marriage".

Sinatra bears much of the blame for "Strangers in the Night", which on 2 July 1966 topped the Billboard Hot 100 by bumping off "Paperback Writer". This video captures the singer sixteen years later in performance before an audience of reprobates:

And finally we have the Rolling Stones. Once the most licentious and lewd of all rock and roll combos, they redeemed themselves with this famous performance on The Ed Sullivan Show:

Dr White should recognize.

Related posts:

28 June 2014

Mackenzie King Attends the Funeral of Peregine Acland's Mother & Visits Wilfred Campbell's Grave

I had a half hour's rest after luncheon before going into the city to attend Mrs. Acland's funeral. Went in with Hendy by station car, changed to large car before Rideau Club. At the house on Bronson Ave. was shown to a seat on a couch by Mr. Acland. He looked & was very frail – is 88 (his wife was over 90). He held on to my arm during the service & afterwards I sat with him a short time, while the flowers were taken out, then went with Mary & Peregrine to the cemetery. There was only one other car with some relatives. It was a beautiful afternoon & the scene at the cemetery was quite peaceful. Kind words were spoken by those who had come down. Later Lay and I sought out Wilfrid [sic] Campbell's grave & spent a few moments there. — a beautiful restful spot.
An entry in Mackenzie King's diary, dated sixty-five years ago today, gives evidence of a more civilized Ottawa. The former prime minister was in the eighth month of his retirement from politics when "Mrs. Acland", wife of Frederick Albert Acland and mother of Peregrine Acland, died. The entry gives little sense of the high regard and warmth with which King held the Acland family. Their paths first crossed in 1895 when "Mr. Acland" hired a twenty-year-old Mackenzie King to write for the Globe. Other aspects of their working relationship can be seen in Mrs Acland's Ottawa Citizen obituary (27 June 1949):

During the Second World War, King hired Peregrine, author of All Else is Folly, to act as advisor, press officer and secretary. The younger Acland held the positions until the prime minister's retirement, oversaw the transition to successor Louis St Laurent, then became a manager at a Toronto advertising firm. It's likely that it was he who placed this obituary in the Globe & Mail (27 June 1949):

The prime minister's friendship with William Wilfred Campbell began in 1902 when the poet wrote "H.A. Harper" in memory of King's friend Bert Harper, who had drowned in the Ottawa River whilst trying to save a young woman who had fallen through the ice.

Curiously, throughout King's diaries Wilfred Campbell is referred to invariably as "Wilfrid Campbell"; the influence of that other great Liberal prime minister Wilfrid Laurier, perhaps.

Related posts:

26 June 2014

The Oxford PhD Rambles On

John Wesley White
Minneapolis: Word Wide Publications, [1971?]

Just how easy is it to obtain a PhD from Oxford? The question grows with each John Wesley White book read. Re-entry follows Arming for Armageddon and Thinking the Unthinkable as my third. Mine is a scattershot approach: I read 'em as I find 'em. Like the others, Re-entry was found in a Salvation army Thrift Store. Price: 75¢.

In his Foreword, friend Billy Graham plays up John Wesley White's education: Moody Bible Institute (Chicago), Wheaton College (Wheaton), Queen's University (Belfast), Trinity College (Dublin) and, of course, Oxford University (Oxford), at which that Doctor of Philosophy degree was earned. When Re-entry was published, Dr White held the position of Chancellor at Toronto's Richmond College. An institution known today as Canada Christian College, it's currently headed by Charles McVety, Canada's leading homophobe. Wife Jennifer is Registrar.

When writing about Arming for Armageddon and Thinking the Unthinkable, I made much – but not too much – of Dr White's multitudinous mistakes. Fast and furious, they come early in Re-entry, beginning on the very first page. Here the reader finds a warm, brotherly attack on James Pike, the popular Episcopal bishop who had died of a fall in the Judean Desert not two years earlier. Writes Dr White: "As the press put it, he was literally going through 'torments trying to find himself and failed.'"

The words the doctor  quotes do indeed come from the press – the Associated Press, anyway –  but they're in reference to the bishop's eldest son, who had taken his own life at the age of twenty-two.

Was James Pike tormented? I can't imagine anyone recovering from the death of a child. However, Dr White disregards the loss, pointing instead to the bishop's inquisitive nature as evidence of torment, then misrepresents the man's words: "An ironic postscript to James Pike's disavowal of the second coming was provided by the Time cover story of June 21, 1971, entitled 'Jesus Is Coming.'"

Bishop Pike did not disavow the second coming. The issue of Time Dr White cites featured two cover stories: "The Alternative Jesus: Psychedelic Christ" and "Religion: Many Things to Many Men". The cover tag was "THE JESUS REVOLUTION".

There is no article titled "Jesus Is Coming."

That reference to the June 21, 1971 edition of Time is the closest I've seen to an actual citation in any of the doctors's writing read thus far. Re-entry quotes content published in ten magazines, fourteen newspapers,one supermarket tabloid, and a mystery publication identified only as "McLean's", without mention of issue, edition, author or title. There are no footnotes and endnotes, though a Scripture Index does follow.

He can be more vague, more unreliable:
When I was in Africa, I read in a newspaper of a London school in which 5-to-7-year-olds were completely out of hand.
How out of hand?
"Razor blade slashings and hangings were reported."
Oh, those 5-to-7-year-olds.

I don't mean to imply that the good doctor is a drunk, but there are times when his words remind me of an opinionated barfly. He's read something somewhere… or maybe someone told him something once… anyway, he knows what's going on:
A school principal tells me that in one of the community colleges in Ontario, in the literature department, Playboy has become the official textbook!
Name the subject, John Wesley White is Canada's Cliff Clavin.
Publishing: "Science fiction is going out of style because science is revealing so much that once could be thought of only as fiction." 
Seismology: "A Presbyterian minister tells me that there are annually 18,000 earthquakes of a size large enough to be classified as such." 
Aviation: "…the Wright Brothers first test flew an aircraft in California in 1904." 
Physics: "…those who turned and looked back at the Nagasaki conflagration, turned into ash. Inexplicably, others with them who fled with their coats over their heads escaped untarnished."
Education: "Student activists in California form a denomination of devil-worshippers, leaders of which are 'Satan's Ministers who put on 'devil's horn's' and conduct services including nationally televised wedding ceremonies." 
Dr White writes of a monster named "Adolph Hitler", the film star "Sydney Poitier", Broadway's "Melba Moone", and "Dennis Morse", a highly successful, jetsetting film star who has somehow escaped the attention of IMDb.

"The moral depravity which Scriptures indicate God hates most is sexual deviation and perversion, including homosexuality and lesbianism", writes Dr White.

This is not to say that the good doctor doesn't recognize the limits of his knowledge:
Many people ask: "Is there an intimation of television in the Bible?" I do not know. But for centuries and perhaps especially since such books as Professor Urey's (the Nobel Prize winner) Red Lights of the Apocalypse appeared, fascination has centred on Revelation 11.
To be honest, I've never heard a soul ask about television in the Bible, nor do I know anyone who is fascinated by Revelation 11. Could be I'm running around with the wrong crowd. What I do know is that the Harold Urey, winner of the 1934 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, never published a book entitled Red Lights of the Apocalypse.

Dr White does make mistakes.

There is a very definite rhythm to Re-entry. The author will quote scripture, ramble on for a paragraph or two about, say, the Soviet Union's "hovering space bombs", then finish with "we can be sure that nothing else will remedy this situation but the second coming of Jesus Christ."

The message is simple: There's nothing you can do. Prepare for His coming by saving yourself. Affix your own oxygen mask – pay no mind to the passenger next to you. Proselytize.

Dr White has yet to win me over, but I'm always interested in what he has to say. More than anything, I enjoy his writing on entertainment and the arts, which have had me thinking of the insidious anti-Christian elements of I Married a Monster from Outer Space and Laurie Anderson's "O Superman". "

Where in Arming for Armageddon and Thinking the Unthinkable, condemnation of film and music were often on the menu, here I was surprised to find a mouthful and more about "the clever but sinister portrayal of human hate, sadism and cruelty which pour forth from the pens of playwrights whose minds are grotesquely depraved and twisted." According to the doctor, their output includes "a rash of plays on nudity such as 'Hair,' 'Man's Eyes,' 'The Beard,' and 'Canada's Fortune.'"

Sure, productions of Hair and The Beard have featured the unclothed, but the idea that they are "on nudity" has me reconsidering my understanding. As for Man's Eyes and Canada's Fortune, I'm guessing he really means Fortune and Men's Eyes by Canada's John Herbert.

Again, Dr White does make mistakes.

I see no evidence that the films In the Heat of the Night and Bunny O'Hare incited violence; and judging from the trailer, The Day the Earth Caught Fire isn't about "the terrifying and magnificent aspects of future activity in space."

Brian Jones didn't kill himself. Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Yoko Ono did not "appear in the nude on the cover of a Beatle record". I can find no trace of a Smothers Brothers song titled "What Do You Do, When There's No Place to Hide!", but do thank Dr White for again introducing me to songs that had somehow escaped my attention:
The late Elizabeth Steen, a 28-year-old Richmond, California housewife brought thousands of her fellow Californians to a state of near panic by predicting that on April 14, 1969, a series of catastrophic earthquakes would destroy the coastal area of California. Kooks, cultists and hippies gave the portent maxim mileage with a rash of pop songs like "Where Can We Go When There's No San Francisco" and "California Earthquake."
I'd never heard Cass Elliot's "California Earthquake", which reached #67 on the Billboard Top 100. "Talkin' to Your Toothbrush" was the b-side.

"Where Can We Go When There's No San Francisco" is actually "Day by Day (It's Slippin' Away)" by some band called Shango (featuring Tommy Reynold's, later of Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds!). It made number 57.

Frankly, I see both songs as tearing a strip of off the doomsday kooks and cultists. Maybe it's just me.

Like scripture, all rests on interpretation.

Best passage:
The second coming is good news. For ours is an anguished age, as it is angry. It is both ironic and paradoxical that man should be ripping in half as he is being catapulted upward, slingshot into space by a sophisticated scientism, while he is being savagely sucked from beneath by the woes of warism, the stalking suffocation of pollution, proliferating poverty, raging racism and the ultimate weaponry which beckons impending annihilation. Schizophrenically-split through the middle, he years to get glued together again. So he snatches at any straw of hope.
Object: A 192-page mass market paperback, my copy is an updated "Special Crusade Edition", flogged to television viewers by Billy Graham's own World Wide Publications.

Access: The first edition (right) was published in 1970 by Zondervan. Re-entry enjoyed several printings, the last being in 1975. That same year Dr White published a book titled Re-entry II. What's that all about? I don't know, If I come across a copy at the Salvation Army I'll let you know.

Nearly two hundred copies of Re-entry – in it's various incarnations – are listed for sale online. A signed copy will set you back US$2.50. An optimistic American bookseller is selling a Fine first edition for US$20. Good luck to him.

Where WorldCat lists 177 copies in American libraries, we Canadians have to make do with two (University of Toronto Trinity College Library and Tyndale University College and Seminary Library).

Related posts:

24 June 2014

Canadian Womanhood on Parade!

For the day, a few photographs of Montreal's 1931 St-Jean Baptiste parade. Running along Sherbrooke, from Lafontaine Park to Atwater, it ranks as one of the most elaborate; you'd almost think that the city had somehow escaped the effects of the Great Depression. A breathless report in the next day's Gazette captures the event:

Writes the anonymous newspaperman:
Epic in conception and execution, the procession depicted tableaux vivants, not only the eventful story of womanhood in Canada, from the early pioneering days, through the pageantry of historic crests to the present day, but also the larger tale of the Canadienne's lifetime, from cradle to the silvery locks of grandmotherhood.
Jeanne Mance, Marguerite Bourgeoys, Mère Gamelin and Jeanne Le Ber, "first Canadian recluse", were honoured by tableaux, though I would be sacrilege to write that even one bore "the silvery locks of grandmotherhood." The same goes for Sœur Marie Morin, who is here recognized as the "first writer born in Canada":

The parade featured two other floats of a literary nature, the first of which was devoted to Evangeline. About that tableaux the Gazette reporter writes nothing… Maria Chapdelaine, on the other hand:

Then delightful Maria Chapdelaine came on the scene. Snow lay all around. The true, the proven Canadian country girl, she has become a known and idealized type.
Here's another photograph of Maria's float from the 25 June 1931 edition of La Partrie:

The newspaper also provides a photograph of this tableaux commemorating Dame Emma Albani's private performance before Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle:

We fellas weren't left out; the parade featured this float, titled: "Arrivée de Mgr. Laval à Québec".

In truth, Laval arrived at Quebec by ship in 1659 (203 B.F.). I have nothing more to say regarding historical accuracy.

I wish there were more photographs of the floats. I expect they're out there somewhere. More than any other, I'd like to see that honouring Jeanne Le Ber. Whatever can a tableaux depicting a recluse look like?

Bonne Fête!

23 June 2014

St. Cuthbert's and the Rest

The new issue of Canadian Notes & Queries arrived Friday, just in time for the first day of summer, bringing another Dusty Bookcase sur papier. Under the microscope this time is St. Cuthbert's of the West, the debut novel by Reverend Robert E. Knowles, who by small coincidence was the subject of Friday's post.

St. Cuthbert's of the West  a/k/a St. Cuthbert's – is the most difficult, most time-consuming novel I've read since embarking on this exercise. Knowles had defeated me in the past, but this time I persevered, pushing mind and tortured soul through what may very well be the most trying 317 pages in our country's literature.

To anyone who questions the weight of this accomplishment, I present this sample dialogue:
“The session ’ll mebbe listen to me, for I’ve been yir precentor these mony years. We’ll hae nae mair o’ thae havers. Wha wants their hymes? Naebody excep’ a when o’ gigglin’ birkies. Give them the hymes, an we’ll hear Martyrdom nae mair, an’ Coleshill an’ Duke Street ’ll be by. For what did oor fathers dee it wasna for the psalms o’ Dauvit? An’ they dee’d to the tunes I’ve named to ye.”
The novel deals primarily with the politics and parishioners of a nineteenth-century Ontario Presbyterian church.

No more need be said.

Hey, remember these?

I do in this issue's "CNQ Timeline".

As always, the rest is rich. Editor Alex Good contributes a twenty-page essay on last year's Scotiabank Giller Prize, joining Stephen Henighan as one of the few critics to who really understand what the hell is going on. We also have a Ray Robertson essay, Carmine Starnino's interview with Michael Harris, Harold Heft's interview with Kenneth Sherman, new fiction from C.P. Boyko, three poems by Kerry-Lee Powell  and, ahem, Bruce Whiteman's review of The Heart Accepts It All: Selected Letters of John Glassco. John Degen, Diana Tamblyn, Kerry Clare, J.C. Sutcliffe , Michael Bryson, Emily Donaldson and Jeff Bursey round out the issue. As always, Seth provides the cover, this time adding an appreciation of Duncan Macpherson. He was, writes Seth, "Canada's greatest political cartoonist". True, so very true.

Yes, summer is here. Emboldened by having at long last tackled a Robert E. Knowles novel I look to my shelves and see that the damaged reverend offers five more.

But they can hardly be considered summer reading.

Related posts:

20 June 2014

The Great Canadian Great War Novel

Tomorrow marks the day that Peregrine Acland's All Else is Folly officially returns to print. That more than eight decades have passed since the last edition defies explanation. This was a novel praised by Bertrand Russell, Frank Harris, Havelock Ellis, and prime ministers Robert Borden and Mackenzie King. So impressed was Ford Madox Ford that he penned a preface. In short, All Else is Folly is the very best Great War novel written by a Canadian combatant.

I had a time trying to interest publishers in reissuing the novel. It was my good fortune that in the midst of that effort I encountered James Calhoun, with whom I co-authored the Introduction to this new edition. No one knows more about Acland.

No one.

His writing at Field Punishment No. 1 is an invuluable contribution to our understanding of Canada's Great War literature. I've never met a more dogged researcher.

Not once.

Now Acland's novel finds a home with Dundurn's Voyageur Classics, where it joins The Refugee: Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada, Wyndham Lewis'Self Condemned and other unjustly neglected books from our past. Thanks go out to Series Editor Michael Gnarowski, who recognized the importance and terrible beauty of this, Acland's only novel.

I never imagined that my name would one day share a cover with that of Ford Madox Ford, but there it is. A better man than I, the last words on the novel should be his:
When I read of the marching and fighting towards the end of the book, I feel on my skin the keen air of the early mornings standing to, I have in my mouth the dusky tastes, in my eyes the dusky landscapes, in my ears the sounds that were silences interrupted by clicking of metal on metal that at any moment might rise to the infernal clamour of Armageddon… Yes, indeed,one lives it again with the fear and with the nausea… and the surprised relief to find oneself still alive. I wish I could have done it myself: envy, you see, will come creeping in. But since I couldn't, the next best thing seems to me to be to say that it will be little less than a scandal if the book is not read enormously widely. And that is the truth. 

19 June 2014

Misfortune Follows Reverend Knowles

Robert E. Knowles is the very sort of fellow one would expect to have been the subject of a biography. I'm thinking here of those dry, polite stories of a life, often penned by friends, that were published in the early half of the last century. Not only was Knowles "One of Canada's Best Known Novelists" – this according to the March 1909 Canadian Bookman – but he was once Canada's preeminent Presbyterian preacher, a man renowned throughout the Dominion for his sermons and oratorial skills.

That same March 1909 Canadian Bookman positions Knowles as "the Ian Maclaren of Canada", in large measure due to St. Cuthbert's, his wildly popular debut novel.

Unlike Maclaren, Knowles' sermons were never collected. Most were delivered at Knox's Galt Presbyterian Church, which I visited last Sunday.

Literary sleuths will find it on Queen's Square, just across from Central Presbyterian Church, in that awkward composite city we know as Cambridge, Ontario.

Reverend Knowles once preached at St Marys Presbyterian Church, the steeple of which you can see from our garden… in winter.

He stayed in a house that is now owned by friends…

…during which time he worked on his commercially successful second novel:

The Undertow was published by Revell in the autumn of 1906, just months before the reverend's blessed life became less so. On 26 February 1907, Knowles was a passenger on a train that left the track outside Guelph, then travelled a further 356 metres. Mr Charles R. Rankin of Stratford was killed in the accident. It would appear that Knowles' recovery did not proceed as anticipated:

The Globe & Mail, 13 March 1907
The City of Cambridge is cagey concerning the accident's impact on the author – and messes up the year of the accident. Jean O'Grady is more forthright, writing in The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature that Knowles, a prohibitionist, likely descended into alcoholism. In January 1915, at forty-six years of age, he formally retired from his ministry, but not before having suffered through two further tragedies.

The Globe & Mail, 8 September 1913
On 7 September 1913, Robert Knowles, Sr, in whose footsteps the popular pastor novelist had tread, was struck by a Toronto streetcar. Rendered semi-conscious, he was first brought to the surgery of Dr Robert T. Noble, and was then "taken to his home by a carriage… suffering greatly from shock."

A larger tragedy, perhaps the greatest in the Knowles family history, occurred one hundred years ago today – 19 June 1914 – when the novelist's brother was killed by a blow to the head with a milk bottle wielded by a drunk named Émile Lebrie.

The Globe & Mail, 20 June 1914
"The blow fell upon a portion of the skull, it is said, where a silver plate had been placed in treatment of a wound received in battle in South Africa", reported the Globe. The altercation between James Knowles and Émile Lebrie was supposedly over a trivial matter. When arrested at the Miners' Hall in Cobalt, Lebrie was unaware he'd killed Knowles.

"MANSLAUGHTER LIKELY CHARGE" reads a headline in the 22 June 1914 Globe. What little I know about our legal system leads me to agree. I've not been able to find out whether I'm right, nor do I know the fate of Émile Lebrie, the Milk Bottle Murderer™.

If only there was a biography of Robert E. Knowles.

Addendum: I don't mean to suggest that the reverend's life had been untouched by tragedy before the train derailment. On 18 June 1905, a few months before the publication of his first novel, Knowles had officiated at the marriage of Mr William Lash and Miss Jane Anderson.

The Globe, 19 June 1905
The Globe reported that eats were served, glasses were raised, and the groom replied to a toast to his bride. The happy couple had then retired to an upstairs bedroom "to prepare to take the 2.45 Grand Trunk train", at which point the newly-wed Mr Lash collapsed. The paper was nothing if not polite: "It is supposed that, unaccustomed to speaking, the strain of replying to the toast had unduly excited him".

Related posts:

15 June 2014

On Pearson's Pennant and Ezra Levant's Fiction

"…a distinctive flag which will say to the future: I Stand for
L.B. Pearson
Ottawa: Liberal Federation of Canada, [1964]

I saw Lester Pearson once. This was in front of the Parliament Buildings on the sunny Saturday the country celebrated its centenary. Look carefully and you'll find me there in the crowd, along with my mum, my dad and Prince Philip. His wife has just taken a knife to that great big birthday cake. Balloons!

Pearson is the first prime minister I remember, though I don't remember much. The man stepped down when I was in kindergarten and died when I was eight. He wasn't prime minister for five years – and never enjoyed a majority government – yet managed to usher in the Canadian Pension Plan, universal health care and, of course, the flag. This address, delivered fifty years ago today, might be seen as the official beginning of the great debate surrounding that last struggle, but in truth the bickering stretched back into the nineteenth century. The great Sanford Fleming proposed this:

The Week, 31 May 1895
Pearson would've argued against Fleming's flag for the very same reason he argued against the string of red ensigns, affixed with various coats of arms and stylistic elements, that had at one time or another stood as an unofficial Canadian flag:
The red ensign has served Canada honourably and well since it was designated for such service by order in council; but those who are in favour of retaining it and making it permanent and official by parliamentary action must surely realize that basically – this is certainly no disrespect to the red ensign – it is the flag of the British merchant marine and it is similar, except for a different coat of arms, to the flags of certain British colonies.
Pearson went so far as to propose that his own preferred design be accepted by Parliament:

The speech is both cautious and calculated; history weighs heavily. Claude Ryan was sold, as was Charles Lynch. Scott Young – Neil's dad – predicted success in words reproduced at the back of this booklet:

Of course, John Diefenbaker would have none of it. Since 1926, he'd been railing against changing the ever-changing red ensign. In 1964, as Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, he walked from farmhouse to outhouse, removed the stained wooden seat, and lowered himself into the pit with the insinuation that those who supported Pearson were being bought through bribery. That July, still waist-deep in excrement,  he soiled himself thoroughly by asking why the government insisted that Christian crosses be removed from the flag.

His followers' filibustered. So dull, dull, very dull were their words that in September 1964 Pearson agreed to convene a fourteen-member Flag Committee composed of members from all four parties in the House of Commons. The flag we know is their doing. Their work inspired this wonderful Rex Woods' cover for the 8 July 1964 edition of Maclean's:

Growing up I  never heard so much as a word against the flag. I took pride, cringing only once: in 1998, when Reform Party clowns hooted, hollered and honked about Parliament Hill for the right to display miniatures made in China on House of Commons desktops.

Today, members and defenders of the unholy party Reform spawned rank amongst the most vocal haters of that very same flag. 

Mark Steyn dismisses our flag as a propaganda tool. Kathy Shaidle looks at the centuries-old national symbol worn by my grandfather during the Great War and sees "a dead leaf – basically tree dandruff".

And then there's Ezra Levant, who is wont to go on about "the Liberal-red Pearson Pennant". Never one to be bound by fact, he refers to our flag as the "Pearson Pennant", the nickname of the rejected red, white and blue flag the prime minister proposed. Levant would also have you believe that it was "Lester Pearson's decision to change the Canadian flag to a pennant in Liberal colours".


Not so much a clown as the country's biggest boor, Levant long ago revealed himself as a man not to be taken seriously, but he does have his followers. Whether the topic is the restructuring of the armed forces or Thomas Mulcair's leadership of the NDP, Sun News junkies build on Levant's fantastical tale. Lester Pearson "decided to change our flag without even bothering to ask the nation's citizens", one sniffs in the comments section of a story about the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.

Well, the 1963 Liberal platform did call for a new flag, as did those of the New Democrats and the Social Credit Party. Two-thirds of voters cast ballots in their favour. The flag flown today was supported by members of all four parties – Conservatives included – then sitting in the House of Commons.

Ah, but bastards will bastardize, trying to convince that the flag was forced upon the country. Whether it was rammed or shoved doesn't matter, the thing to take home is that it's in our throats and it's about time we cough it up. Visit the Sun News Network website – they'll appreciate the traffic – and descend into an alternate world every bit as imaginative as that of The Man in the High Castle

My favourite story is the one about a "flag that over 90% of Canadians wanted". Apparently, it was "designed by a young girl from Quebec – it had Three [sic] green maple leaves in the centre and sea blue borders."

Like most oft-told tales, it improves with each telling. My favourite version appeared on the site last December:
Ity [sic] was a school child [sic] a young girl from Quebec and her flag had three green real maple leaves and sea blue borders which was truly representative of our country and the most popular with the people. But the sneaky liberals [sic] under Pearson declared this was not a decision that required the full parliament [sic] and a few liberal [sic] MPs stayed behind on a Friday afternoon when parliament [sic] had supposed [sic] shut for Christmas and marked our country liberal [sic] red!"
Over to you, Ezra. You're sure to come up with something even more fanciful. 

Object and access: A twelve-page booklet with paper covers. My copy, salvaged sixteen years ago from the bin of a Toronto Goodwill, appears to have been distributed by Joseph Macaluso, Member of Parliament for Hamilton West (1963-68). A barrister, the late Mr Macaluso served as one of the fourteen members of the Flag Committee.

Just where this booklet might be found is difficult to determine; ephemera such as this isn't often recorded in library catalogues.Only two copies are listed on WorldCat, both at the University of Toronto. I can find no copies for sale online.

09 June 2014

Still Strange (if a little less so)

The Gynecologist
Sol Allen [pseud. Barney Allen]
New York: Pyramid, 1969

I imagine publication of The Gynecologist provided considerable relief to Sol Allen enthusiasts. Sixteen years earlier, Toronto Doctor, his previous novel, had ended abruptly. Just as handsome gynaecologist Guy Fowley and winsome patient Eleanor Hollis started in on what had all the makings of a revelatory scene, the reader was met with a note:

There was no Toronto Surgeon, but I'm certain that much of what the author intended for that unrealized book appears in The Gynecologist. For one, the novel "picks up the thread of the story in Guy's office" – albeit fourteen chapters in.

The first seventy pages of The Gynecologist are little more than rewrites and revisions of bits and pieces from Toronto Doctor, including the very passages that so disturbed fourteen months ago. The reader new to Allen will find the sudden swarm of characters and relationships without benefit of backstory confusing. The enthusiast, I am one, will be confused by threads cut, rearranged and brought forward ten or more years. Episodes that had taken place in the months following the Second World War now happen in the dying days of the Diefenbaker government. The effect is disorienting, much like the peculiar advertisement Allen placed in the 11 March 1949 edition of The Canadian Jewish Review.

Readers new and old benefit from a gentle narrative arch, though it achieves no real height. The most important event, the appointment of a new Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at fictitious Metropolitan Hospital, much anticipated in Toronto Doctor, is first mentioned here on the day the announcement is to take place.

Guy gets the post, though this isn't to say that he's the main character. Just as Toronto Doctor isn't about any one Toronto doctor, no single practitioner dominates. The spotlight darts between each man – and they are all men – resting occasionally on a wife, daughter, son or secretary. Things are very much as they were in the previous novel, switching between the tension of the operating theatre and dramas played out in drawing rooms. Dinner parties continue to be held, only now wives begin to cheat on husbands, and husbands begin cheating on wives. Unhappy marriages become more so. One character's death proves beneficial to another, while another achieves sudden wealth. But throughout it all, babies are born. Babies are born.

Such is life.

Favourite passage: 
She was a big woman, but well proportioned; and he could see the pangs of life swelling in her axilla, which was shaven but not very clean, in the veins of her strong neck, in the flux of her bosom. With a soundless cry, he moved toward her.
Trivia: Where I'm not sure I've so much as met a gynaecologist, Allen counted several amongst his friends, including Benjamin Cohen, Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, who is thanked for "placing the inmost details of his vast clinical and personal experience at my disposal." Contributions by the living are also recognized, though only through initials: "J.G., S.S., S.C. and Wm. A. C."

How hard could it have been in 1965 to identity Toronto gynaecologist "Wm. A. C."?

Object: A 318-page mass market paperback consisting of very small, dense type. My copy, the second Pyramid edition, includes this:

Having died the previous year, Allen was not a resident of Toronto. He wrote four novels, though not one was titled The Black Sheep. It would appear that Sex and the H Bomb was never published. Pity.

Access: I first spotted The Gynecologist on a shelf at the Central branch of the Vancouver Public Library. The Toronto Public Library also has a copy, as do seven of our universities.

The first Pyramid edition can be had for as little as one American dollar. The less common second edition, featuring hot cover by Frank Kalan, will set you back at least US$4.95.

Allen put out two editions of The Gynecologist – both in 1965 – through his own Rock Publishing. Copies in dust jacket are scarce, with only one currently listed for sale online. A Very Good copy of the second edition, at $50 it's a bargain.

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