Saturday, 30 October 2010

Winnipeg, Oct. 2010

The relatively new bridge spanning the Red River on the east side of downtown Winnipeg. The imagination involved in planning structural features to overcome ice and flooding are fascinating.

The view southwest from the bridge.

An intriguing tribute to Gandhi, at one end of a park commemorating the Aboriginal/Metis role in building Winnipeg and Manitoba.

Portage and Main, windiest intersection in Canada, and arguably the centre of the country.

The muddy shores of the Red.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Roy MacGregor, "Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson..." (2010)

I will reserve some of my comments for this book as I have discussed it in the book review below:

Gregory Klages. Review of Roy MacGregor's "Northern Light: The enduring mystery of Tom Thomson and the woman who loved him". American Review of Canadian Studies 41/3 (Fall 2011).

For those interested in research regarding Thomson's death, I also recommend that you look up my chapter entitled "The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson", in Archives and Canadian Narratives, Kathleen Garay & Kristl Verduyn, eds. (Black Point, NS: Fernwood Press, 2011).

For those who can't access these articles, however, I can say the following:
1. The most important aspect of this book is that it is guilty of promulgating a multitude of incorrect or highly dubious claims about Thomson's death and the related activities that followed Thomson's death, many times describing them as if there is no doubt about their truth. The number of times the book incorrectly interprets or represents the historical record in such an egregious way can only be understood as sloppy consideration on the part of the author. All researchers, of course, will be guilty of errors, but these errors should not diminish the likely truth of their conclusions. In the case of this book, they do.

2. The book is frustrating in that it does not source its quotations. When an author decides to not tell the reader where they obtained quotations from, it always suggests to me either a certain sloppiness with regard to collecting data, or perhaps even a certain hesitation to have their work challenged by comparison back to the original sources.

3. The book appears to derive most of its observations from some one else's research, namely - Death On A Painted Lake: The Tom Thomson Tragedy. This fact might also provide the answer to the previous concern, essentially suggesting that the author did not devote as much time to weighing the evidence as attempting to 'write a good yarn' on the foundation of an historical event.

4. The book makes some intriguing observations: firstly, that a photo long identified as Thomson's potential love interest may be incorrectly identified, and secondly, that a forensic specialist has suggested that the skull exhumed in Algonquin Park could be reconstructed to resemble Thomson's visage. Unfortunately, the first does not particularly change the story of Thomson's life, while the second requires significantly more scientific argument to produce reasonable cause to argue for an exhumation of the remains in Algonquin Park - an exhumation, it might be added, that many agree is necessary to resolve one of the mysteries surrounding Thomson's death and burial.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Bruce Hutchison, "Mr. Prime Minister, 1867-1964" (1965)

Bruce Hutchison, Mr. Prime Minister, 1867-1964 (New York, : Harcourt, Brace &​ World, 1965)

This book is ideal bedtime reading. It presents a genuinely engaging, pleasant read, surveying the basic biography of each Canadian Prime Minister from Macdonald to Pearson. It strikes a nice balance between identifying personal traits and tribulations faced by each Prime Minister, and surveying the political context each man served within. No chapter is overly long or tediously detailed, and yet each manages to touch on major points of concern. Particularly meritorious, to my mind, was the information concerning some of the Canada's earliest Prime Ministers (such as Bowells and Mackenzie), of whom it is often difficult to find information, or to understand how their tenure of service related to 'brighter lights' around them, such as Macdonald and Laurier.

The language used in this book is sometimes a little amusing. It takes me back to a time when people actually read and wrote, when biographies of 'great men' were written without cynicism, apology, or disclaimers. Additionally, it is unfortunate that the book essentially stops with its survey of Diefenbaker. Although Pearson is discussed, the likelihood of his success as Prime Minister is more a case of speculation than review. I can only wonder how Hutchison might have assessed Trudeau, Mulroney, or Chretien.