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Edited by Elspeth Cameron. Toronto, Macmillan, c1985. 304pp, paper, $8.95, ISBN 0-7705-1716-1.

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Robert E. Wheeler

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July

This stimulating book of essays was first published in 1978, and since then has won many admirers. Readers weary of recondite tomes on deconstructive criticism and the new narcissism in literature are certain to feel a warm regard for MacLennan's sensitive and cultivated humanism. The range and flexibility of these thirty-four essays are astonishing. Vivid memories of his days at Oxford; reflections on the inescapable need for interpersonal communications; candid thoughts on a society that has become increasingly computerized and repressive; in addition to his probing opinions on the significant rote of fiction and non-fiction in a terrifying, mechanized world.

Disdaining fashionable jargon, MacLennan writes with both wit and charm. He has been justly acclaimed for his refined sensibility and urbane courage. A prolific novelist, he is the author of such memorable novels as Barometer Rising (McClelland, 1960), Two Solitudes (Macmillan, 1968), The Watch that Ends the Night (Macmillan, 1975), and most recently, Voices in Time*. Many coveted honours have been bestowed upon him, including honorary degrees from ten Canadian universities. One may say that he has remained wisely abreast of the changing times without spurning those sustaining traditions and values needed for human survival. He shows how the immense Canadian potential has been hampered by myopic political and ethnic barriers. His sane, compassionate approach to social problems is sorely required in an age convulsed by fanaticism and religious hysteria.

In his essays, embracing a wide variety of subjects, MacLennan notes the erosion of aesthetic and moral awareness in amass society. His classical background and mellow style reminds one of Montaigne, famous for his hatred of dogmatism and sham. As a helpful, sagacious, and ever-faithful guide, these selected essays may be enjoyed and cherished.

Robert E. Wheeler, Gananoque, Ont.

*Reviewed IX/4 1981 p.249.

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