CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Morley Callaghan.

Toronto, Macmillan, c1975, 1983.
213pp, paper, $6.96.
ISBN 0-7715-9861-0.


Morley Callaghan.

Toronto, Macmillan, c1975, 1983.
257pp, paper, $6.95.
ISBN 0-7715-9788-6.

Grades 11 nad up.
Reviewed by Boh Kinczyk.

Volume 12 Number 3
1984 May

Most readers will already be familiar with these Callaghan titles. Now they are available in paperback at $6.95 each. At that price, they are a must for your library.

The Loved and the Lost, winner of the 1951 Governor General's Award, is one of Callaghan's finest novels. Peggy Sander-son, a young white girl, is determined to find a place in Montreal's black community. Ironically, her sympathy for the oppressed generates a great deal of mistrust and hatred: whites, outraged, consider her a "nigger lover" while blacks, understandably, are somewhat apprehensive about getting too close to this attractive white girl. Too naive and idealistic to see how dangerous her imprudence is, she finally unleashes the violence and brutality she had sought to tame.

While Callaghan is distressingly preachy at times, his fine portrait of Montreal in the fifties and his compelling insights into human nature ensure The Loved and the Lost a permanent place in mainstream Canadian literature.

A Fine and Private Place is even better. On a winter evening Eugene Shore, an elderly novelist, is pulled over by a Toronto policeman and accused of stealing a newspaper. The accusation—unfounded— infuriates the usually mild-mannered artist. The cop wins round one, and Shore goes home with a ticket for "driving a vehicle in imperfect condition." The incident soon leads to greater misunderstanding, deeper disillusionment, and, finally, tragedy. Al Delaney, a graduate student writing a book on Shore's work, finds in the incident an interpretive key to the novelist's moral vision:

       Criminals. Criminals. Shore could be a little crazy. All things reversed
       for him. To him that cop was a criminal. All the big law-and-order men the real
       criminals. He hated them all. Cops of the courts, cops of the church, political
       cops. Society's cops. All to be kept out of his domain, and who the hell could
       be in that domain except maybe the artist and the saint, the last of the outlaws,
       holed up in the hills in some fine and private place?

First published in 1975, Callaghan's deeply absorbing novel explores the relation of art to life. It is impossible to resist the temptation to read A Fine and Private Place as Callaghan's fine and private portrait of the artist. Eugene Shore is a thinly-disguised Callaghan. His novels succeed, according to Delaney, because of the

       warmth or love he has for all his characters, big or small, a love and respect for
       the mystery and dignity of their personalities.

Shore's style, like Callaghan's, is "unadorned and colloquial." And what Starkey Kunitz, a sympathetic American critic, says of Shore's work is equally applicable to Callaghan: On certain pages in those Shore books there are very definite effects. I'm an old hand at telling how these things are achieved. I went over and over those pages. Damned if I know how it's done. If you must know, it took me longer to write that Shore piece than any piece I've written in years. What looks ordinary on the surface is really extraordinary.

A Fine and Private Place, too, is extraordinary.

Morley Callaghan is the author of seventeen novels and dozens of short stories. In 1982, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada; in 1983, the year he celebrated his eightieth birthday, he published a new novel, A Time for Judas; in 1984 his readers are more devoted than ever.

Boh Kinczyk, Central Elgin C. I., St. Thomas, ON.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works