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vol. 1, 1985. Toronto, The Idler Ltd. 12 issues a year. $24.00. Distributed by The Idler Ltd., Box 280, Station E. Toronto, Ont, M6M 4E2. Example: vol. 1, no. 1, January 1985.

Reviewed by Chris Kempling

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July

The Idler claims to be a "monthly review of literature, politics, the arts and ideas (aimed at) the general reader." As one might have guessed from the eighteenth-century title, the publisher is trying to revive the spirit of Samuel Johnson's journal of ideas and satire.

Although the articles are rather good, I'm not sure the general reader (read university liberal arts graduate) will want to pay $2.75 to keep the publisher's pipe-dream airborne. The real general reader is reading Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, MacLeans and Sports Illustrated.

I think the clue to the launching of this magazine lies in one of the publisher's opening statements: "No other paper in Canada prints what we want to read" (emphasis mine). That statement reminds me of a restauranteur in a small village who, when asked how he developed his rather exotic menu, replied, "I just put on what I like to eat." Fortunately, he survived by adding pizza to the menu.

This first issue has some very erudite articles. The most notable is a piece on modern education by Harley Price. He criticizes the modern practice of removing stereotypes of sex and minorities from textbooks, which has reached rather absurd levels.

Another article on the 1932-33 Ukraine famine was also very absorbing. I'm afraid, however, that I was unable to digest an essay on Aristotle's Poetics. In addition, a short unsigned piece of political satire looked strikingly like Alien Fotheringham's work. Either the editor has no shame or they have somehow recruited the inimitable Dr. Foth himself.

The publisher, David Warren, has quite clearly in mind what he wants. "We want a magazine that is serious, but not humourless; learned, but not pedantic; literate, but not closeted; political but not blinkered; a magazine that prints stories and poems alongside essays and reviews alongside reportage and interpretation."

This first issue succeeds in that aim for the most part. It will be interesting, however, to see whether this infant suffers the fate of other romantic publishing schemes. If you do become a subscriber, be sure to keep a thick dictionary handy. The writers treat their vocabulary as if it were an exotic Afghan hound let out for its first romp.

Chris Kempling, Quesnel, B.C.
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