02 February 2016

Of War, Peace and Montreal's Writers' Chapel

It seems 2016 has barely begun and yet the year's first issue of Canadian Notes & Queries has already landed. The ninety-fourth, it's the first under the editorship of Emily Donaldson.

My fellow contributors will understand, I hope, when I write that my favourite piece is "My Heart is Broken", a talk delivered by John Metcalf at the unveiling of a memorial plaque to Mavis Gallant at Montreal's Writer's Chapel this past autumn. Ian McGillis provides a companion piece on the venue, its history and the group behind the whole thing.*

Others featured in the issue include:
André Alexis
Heather Birrell
Michael Cho
Jason Dickson
Beth Follett
Douglas Glover
David Godkin
Anita Lahey
David Mason
Michael Prior
Bruce Whiteman
In my own contribution – another Dusty Bookcase on paper – I make the case for There Are Victories (New York: Covici Friede, 1933), an ambitious, unconventional and next to unobtainable novel by Charles Yale Harrison. Sharp students of Canadian literature will make a link with his Generals Die in Bed (New York: Morrow, 1930), Harrison's first work of fiction, inspired by his experiences in the Great War.

There Are Victories is not a war novel, though I've seen it described as such. The conflict figures only in that a third of the way in the protagonist, Montrealer Ruth Courtney, marries a man who disappears for a time to fight in Europe. He returns damaged, violent, prone to rape, and drawn more than ever to prostitutes. Ruth escapes to Manhattan, where she finds comfort in the arms of another man. He's better only in comparison.

As I write in the piece, There Are Victories is the sort glorious failure that is worthy of attention.

May you be so blessed as to come across a copy.
* Full disclosure: I'm a member of that self-same group.
Related posts:

No comments:

Post a Comment