Wednesday, February 13, 2008

After some postal misadventures, my copy of CNQ 72 finally arrived the other day and I've been gobbling up the content that I hadn't already read. Highlights, aside from the many fine reviews in my section, include Roy MacSkimming's interview with Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson; Irving Layton in an interview with David O'Rourke; Phil Marchand's devil's advocacy against Alice Munro; essays by Clark Blaise on the short story and Charles Foran on linguistic verve; a very good piece by Andrew Steeves of Gaspereau Press on the design of poetry book covers and the tyranny of the colour photo in same; new poems by CNQ contributing editor Amanda Jernigan.

Something I'm very heartened to see is a lively letters page. In a response to a letter by Gordon Phinn, Alex Good mentions that the previous incarnation of CNQ got one letter in 7 years. Well, this issue received three! One of them is a very short note from Dennis Lee that has me so chuffed I can't resist reproducing here:

I've just read issue 71, and found it so bracing I wanted to let you know. Bravissimo! Piece after piece has a wonderful mix of intelligence, maniacal caring, and (dare I say it?) generosity of spirit. Almost gives you hope for critical thought in this country.
It's quite appropriate that Lee's letter should appear in CNQ 72, since he features prominently in the issue. He comes up frequently in the Atwood/Gibson interview, in which Gibson paints a vivid picture of Lee's own "maniacal caring" when it came to editing Gibson's novel Five Legs. Also, he is the subject of what I think is the finest contribution to the reviews section, James Pollock's "Cursing with a Broken Art." James' review is not, on the whole, full of praise, but it certainly has that mix of fine qualities Lee found in 71 (which included James' excellent review of the anthology Open Field, to which the book's editor sort-of-responds in a spluttering display of inarticulation here). Anyway, I hope it doesn't dampen Lee's enthusiasm for the magazine. I doubt it will, battle-scarred vet that he is. He was a key player in the ferment of Canadian literature and publishing in the 60s and 70s, and while I don't agree with all of his causes or positions, I certainly do respect his enormous energy and contributions.

In related news, CNQ got a mention in the Globe and Mail from James Adams a little while back, as one of "the best magazine reads in the racks." I haven't read the piece myself, so if anyone with a subscription wouldn't mind pirating the text and emailing it to me, I'd be most grateful. Dear G&M, when will you get with it and drop the damn paywall?

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