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Literary Review of Canada

Unknown-1“Grief Transformed”: A review of February, Lisa Moore, (December 2009)

Lisa Moore’s second novel, February, has been undeservedly singled out, in a recent and rancorous round of critical debate over the alleged unreadability of some Canadian literature, as a narrative more concerned with the expression of mood and memory than the conventional rendering of plot. This is hardly a new debate. Nevertheless, Barbara Kay of The National Post ruffled the feathers of reviewers, authors, and readers alike when she referred unflatteringly to Moore’s book, which she had not actually read at the time of reviewing, as an example of the “unrelenting self-regard of CanLit, where it’s all about nobly suffering women or feminized men.” (full review in issue)

 

 

Unknown-2Where Have All the Stories Gone?: A review essay on A Reader on Reading, Alberto Manguel, (July/August 2010)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unknown-3“Digital and Disembodied: New Kinds of Personhood in the Age of Facebook”: A review essay on The Virtual Self, Nora Young, (July/August 2012)

Nora Young’s response to my review, as posted on her website, norayoung.ca/press/:

*Writer, reviewer, and educator, Dana Hansen, has an interesting take on the book over at The Literary Review of Canada, here, combining a review with an educator’s look at digital natives, the self, and community. She observes her digitally engaged students’ lack of community engagement:

They do not view themselves, as we might wish, as citizens of a global community or possible agents of change. Too easily bored, if a topic under discussion in the classroom does not relate to their specific, individual needs and interests (often difficult to ascertain), they refuse to expend the mental energy required to participate, and instead retreat into their digital bubbles with their laptops and smart phones.

In this context, she thinks that my hopes for ‘data activism’ are too optimistic, and suggests there’s a contradiction in my belief that self-tracking – which can result in a crafted, performed, rigid ‘self’ – can also lead to more community/political engagement. It’s an interesting observation, and in retrospect, I wish I’d argued this part of the book more forcefully. My take is that while a hardened individualism is a danger in a culture of self-tracking, it is by no means a necessary outcome; perhaps her students are still at the stage in life where the, at times, navel-gazing question of the developing self is uppermost in their minds.

To clarify, as I argue at the end of the book, one of the benefits of online culture is that it in fact reveals the separate, hyper-individualized self to be a fiction, a historical creation. We are, in fact, “webby” – always, already nested in a linked, interrelated community, whether we are online or not. In this sense, I don’t think, then, that it really is a contradiction, but rather, the resolution of an apparent contradiction based on the lived experience of online life. In any case, hers is a thought-provoking read.

popes-bookbinder“Literary Lifeguard”: A review essay on The Pope’s Bookbinder, David Mason, (September 2013)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unknown-4 Unknown-5“I Witness”: A review essay of Sweet Lechery, Jeet Heer, and What Was I Thinking?: The Autobiography of an Idea and Other Essays, Rick Salutin, (June 2015)

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