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Edited by Geoff Hancock. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1987. 312pp, paper. $19.95. ISBN 19-5406389. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Warner Winter

Volume 16 Number 5
1988 September

Canadian Writers at Work features ten interviews from Canadian Fiction Magazine. Atwood, Blaise, Gallant, Hodgins, Kroetsch, Mukherjee, Munro, Rooke, Rule and Skvorecky discuss their work, their writing strategies, the Canadian imagination, and their aspirations for Canadian fiction.

Hancock is obviously trying to elevate the literary interview to an art form. His introduction (an excellent outline for anyone who does interviews) describes his methods and gives his mentors. He reads all the books of the person being interviewed. Surprisingly, the process is never spontaneous: he sends his subjects the questions in advance.

For the most part, the resulting interviews are highly intelligent. They are partly philosophical, partly biographical and often theatrical. Hancock's questions are usually perceptive but sometimes rather ponderous. They often elicit answers of interest only to writers ("How do you deal with the blank page?") and very occasionally trivial ("Do you use a typewriter?" "Do you like to sit in front of a window or a wall?").

There is little explication but we do get a sense of the writers' personalities. The dramatic ambience created In the interview is often fascinating. The Margaret Atwood interview, for example, is not only stimulating but fun. Unfortunately, some of the Interviews go back to the middle 1970s and are thus rather dated.

Hancock's interviews are the most requested by students of creative writing and Canadian literature. No library should be without Canadian Writers at Work; it is far superior to interview books of the same ilk.

Warner Winter, Emery C.I., Toronto, Ont.
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