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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




Respectable Burial: Montreal's Mount Royal Cemetery
By Brian Young
$50
cloth 232 pp.
McGill-Queen's University Press 0-7735-2529-7
non-fiction


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New Document In 2002 Mount Royal cemetery celebrated the 150th anniversary of its first burial; the following year Quebec designated the cemetery and surrounding grounds as a protected environmental and historical site.

In Respectable Burial, Brian Young explains how the original concept of this venerable cemetery (now in the heart of the city, and cheek by jowl with the Catholic Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery) came to fruition. He has done an excellent job of setting the story of the non-profit Mount Royal Cemetery Company into a broader background of social history, and of explaining the three broad trends which affected the cemetery.

In 1760 the city's most important burial ground was inside the walls of the city, between St. Francois Xavier and what is today Victoria Square; Protestants were buried in a corner of the Catholic cemetery. In 1797 the Protestants bought land for their own burial ground outside the city, in what is now the site of complexe Guy Favreau on boulevard René-Lévèsque. As this and other graveyards filled up, "the trustees of the Protestant Burial Ground...toward the end of 1845 began to promote the idea of building a new non-denominational cemetery well outside the city's suburbs. A spot should be chosen, the Montreal Gazette argued, that was far enough away from town to be out of sight and large enough to meet the needs of Montrealers for a century or more."

The first meetings for developing the cemetery involved Protestant denominations, Roman Catholics, and a Jew. "Despite the trustees' sectarian convictions and their ambivalence to Catholicism, their burial grounds were marked by an inclusiveness that offered burial to all Montrealers - suicides and the excommunicated, for example - who did not find place in a consecrated Catholic burial ground." This inclusiveness was extended to the indigent dead, those without a faith, and, later, Catholics who chose cremation.

Land on Mount Royal was purchased in the 1850s, and the trustees sought advice from the American specialists of the rural cemetery movement. The design was based on that of Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and involved a grandiose entrance area, green spaces, extravagant urns, crosses, and a Romantic landscape. The Victorian ideal of the time is detailed in this first phase - this was to be a rural cemetery, not an urban graveyard.

During the next century, the "Lawn Plan" became a more fashionable cemetery model. The superintendent of this period, Ormiston Roy, turned against the "unkempt" nature of the rural cemetery. "His generation was uncomfortable with the Victorian exaggerations of Death, Classicism, Religion, and the Individual...He used blasting, forest-clearing, and construction technology to create a more secular and park-like setting..." The ideal at this time rejected mausoleums and overt signs of death, emphasizing flowering shrubs and headstones laid flush on the grass to facilitate mowing. (Mechanical mowers were introduced in 1897.)

Finally came technology: computerized record keeping, a unionized workforce, backhoes that could open a grave, winter or summer, in 20 minutes. The company also faced environmentalist concerns and growing Quebec nationalism, with its perception of the cemetery as being English, rich and elitist. A major threat was from the multinational "death-care" corporations which devoured most of the funeral homes in Montreal. In order to survive, Mount Royal Cemetery Company had to enter the funeral business itself, and to learn new and aggressive marketing. The Cemetery Company has also had to become a bilingual association, and to solicit business from ethnic communities.

The subject of cremation has a chapter of its own. The opening of the crematorium (paid for by a donation from William Macdonald of the tobacco empire) took place in 1902, and for many years this was the only crematorium in Canada. "In contrast to the place given in the past to public grieving and memorializing in the cemetery, cremation was promoted as discreet, sterile and essentially private," replacing the gruesome with order and decorum. "The purging fire of cremation had clear links to purity, soap, and what the Methodist Christian Guardian called 'the gospel of the toothbrush.'"

Geoffrey James's photographs are superb, capturing the cemetery's many moods in different seasons. Though his images are peaceful and spare, James does not ignore the tension inherent in a necropolis which is also a park: in one photograph an open grave is a stark reminder of the real purpose of Mount Royal Cemetery.

Margaret Goldik is co-editor of the Montreal Review of Books.