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George Woodcock.
Kingston, ON: Quarry Press, 1989.
124pp., paper, $12.95.
ISBN 0-919627-153. CIP.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up

Reviewed by John Bainbridge.

Volume 17 Number 5
1989 September

Powers of Observation is a compilation of literary essays previously published in the magazine, City and Country Home. The author, George Woodcock, has had a long and notable career as a writer of travelogues, poet, biographer, and social historian. He is the recipient of the Governor-General's Award for The Crystal Spirit (London, Jonathan Cape, 1967) and numerous other prizes for his contribution to Canadian letters.

The essays in this collection are all short (three pages or less). Woodcock refers to the genre as a 'middle' because they usually appear as "reflective interludes in a magazine, situated between the main articles and the book reviews." Each essay takes as its theme a quotation which has some personal significance for Woodcock. As much, the collection, while not intended to be autobiographical, amounts to an expression of his interests and views on life, literature, and art.

The book reveals Woodcock to be a man of broad interests and possessed of an expansive and erudite intellect. As a writer he is clearly concerned not only with his subject but also with the craft of good writing.

Powers of Observation will be of interest to the serious student of writing. As such it would be a valuable addition to the English Language section of high school and university libraries. The book will also appeal to those who enjoy short reflective essays on wide-ranging topics.

John Bainbridge, Beatty-Fleming Senior Public School, Brampton, ON.
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