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Thirteenth Issue
Volume 7, No. 1
 





features

O Mordecai, Where Art Thou?
By Juan Rodriguez


fiction

Quebecite: A Jazz Fantasia In Three Cantos
Reviewed by Kelly Murphy

A House By The Sea
Reviewed by Ian McGillis

The Speaking Cure
Reviewed by Mark Heffernan

The Applecross Spell
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Universal Recipients
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Black Bird
Reviewed by X.I. Selene

A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali
Reviewed by Edward R. Smith

Song For My Father
Reviewed by Mary Soderstrom

The Heart Is An Involuntary Muscle
Reviewed by Kim Bourgeois

Another Book About Another Broken Heart
Reviewed by Poppy Wilkinson

Without Cease The Earth Faintly Trembles
Reviewed by Jessica Ticktin


fiction at a glance

After All!
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Moosehead Anthology #9: Career Suicide! Contemporary Literary Humour
Reviewed by Ian McGillis


non-fiction

Respectable Burial: Montreal's Mount Royal Cemetery
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Shoshanna's Story: A Mother, A Daughter, And The Shadows Of History
Reviewed by Elizabeth Johnston

Louis Riel
Reviewed by Philip Hawes

Tables For One: A Spanish Journal
Reviewed by Sarah Rosenfeld

Practice Imperfect
Reviewed by Joan Eyolfson Cadham

Ha! A Self-murder Mystery
Reviewed by Anne Cimon

Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages
Reviewed by Jill Rollins


non-fiction at a glance

Womankind
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

A Love Of Reading: The Second Collection
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Entering The War Zone: A Mohawk Perspective On Resisting Invasions
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Drive I-95: Exit By Exit Info, Maps, History And Trivia
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Crooked Smile
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Four Hundred Brothers And Sisters
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

After Notman: Montreal Views - A Century Apart
Reviewed by Ian McGillis



poetry

Snow Formations
Reviewed by Bert Almon

In The Worshipful Company Of Skinners
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Bamboo Church
Reviewed by Bert Almon

An Abc Of Belly Work
Reviewed by Bert Almon




young readers

Emma's Story
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Fairy Ring
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Way Home
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Learning With Animals
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sink Or Swim
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Suki's Kimono
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Peter's Pixie
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

A Friend For Sam
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sam's First Halloween
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Tales Of Court And Castle
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Think For Yourself: A Kid's Guide To Solving Life's Dilemmas And Other Sticky Problems
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Nellie Mcclung: Voice For The Voiceless
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte




Louis Riel
By Chester Brown
$36.95
cloth 260 pp.
Drawn & Quarterly 1-896597-63-7
non-fiction

Re-imagining a rebel

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New Document "He shall hang though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour," says an eggplant- nosed John A. Macdonald in Louis Riel, the comic book series on the life of the French Canadian martyr, leader of the Red River and Northwest Rebellions. Like the Canadian prairies, history is a fertile but less than ideal terrain, not an obvious place for a cartoonist to stake his claim. It is a stony expanse of minor characters overrun by spindly poplars with stubborn pedantic roots. Nevertheless, Chester Brown proves a stalwart author, ploughing us through a coherent pictorial narrative with only occasional ellipses. Although Brown is clearly engaged in his subject, it is this supreme narrative challenge, a mammoth task completed over four years, which earns the most respect. Drawn and Quarterly is now reprinting the entire ten issue series in one volume.

In the sixth issue of Louis Riel, Sir John presents a booze-inspired plot to George Stephen, president of the CP Railway: to orchestrate a Métis rebellion in order to win parliamentary support for the railway's completion. Only when we read Chester Brown's endnotes, minutely handwritten pages of burnt midnight oil, do we perceive the whole ball of wax, how the scantiness of cartoon narrative forces the author's oversimplifications. In these endnotes, Brown acknowledges his narrative licentiousness, his deliberate alterations, omissions, and biases. In the case of Macdonald's CPR conspiracy, Brown sheepishly admits that both of his historical references can "…scratch up little in the way of hard evidence." However, in anticipating the criticism that history is ill served by a comic book, Brown has created a self-critical work. Thus in the interplay between the notes and the cartoon, the act of adapting history becomes as engaging a subject as Riel himself.

In Louis Riel, Riel's execution is seen as a political crime, a death sentence for opposing a colonial vision of a friendly "anglicised" West. Despite its central tale of injustice, Louis Riel is not a romanticised account. It is a cheeky retelling, the product of a bemused rather than cynical author. The minimalist line drawings of austere but solid figures with oversized hands recall the sympathetic simplicity of American illustrator Ben Shahn, and avoids excessive veneration of its subjects. In Brownian semiotics, diminution of head size seems to be the only graphic clue to an increase in heroic stature, with Riel slowly taking on linebacker-like proportions. Economy is the key word in Brown's aesthetic, and the frugality with which he orders his painstaking compositions is echoed in the text. As a puff of breath before a speech balloon signifies sub-zero temperatures, as hoof prints pock-marking a white expanse suggests snow, the disappearance of "H's" signifies French Canadians speaking English. The dialogue is colloquial and hilariously didactic: "He's just the excitable type," says a bystander of Thomas Scott, portrayed as a psychotic axe murderer. This is, after all, a comic. Although Louis Riel retells a tragic and shameful story, its gallows humour prevails, right up to the scaffold itself.

Chester Brown's previous works have been in an autobiographical or surrealist vein. In Louis Riel, Brown displays the same dexterous mise-en-scène: deft pacing and a knack for arresting and emotive images. This is an ambitious comic, a virtuoso piece marred only slightly by certain stylistic quirks. As a comic which challenges the presumptuousness of its own narrative, delighting in conflicting scholarly references, Louis Riel is a sophisticated polemic, unabashed and humane. Chester Brown is currently working on a comic book adaptation of St. Matthew's Gospel, so his explorations in the cartoon narrative form will undoubtedly deepen.

Philip Hawes traveled from Edmonton to Frog Lake in the summer of 1991, under the auspices of the Alberta government. There, in an empty field, he hammered, as instructed, a sign proudly proclaiming the contributions that Alberta Lotteries had made to that community.