The Best Canadian Essays 2012, eds. Cristopher Doda & Ray Robertson, 296 pgs, Tightrope Books, tightropebooks.com, $19.95
The editors of this collection have crafted an interesting, at times uneven, but altogether satisfying collection of previously published pieces. Most, but not all of the seventeen works published within set about tackling the ever-changing subject of identity—of self, of community, of industry, and most of all, of whait means to be Canadian.
Ryan Bigge’s “Indie Won. Now What?” (originally published in Issue 49 of Broken Pencil) looks at the success and subsequent death of “indie” as a movement, and whether or not it can be harnessed for profit while retaining its credibility.
“Man of a Hundred Thousand Books,” “Canada Reads… at what cost?” and “How the Giller Swallowed Canadian Literature” offer a trio of perspectives on Canadian publishing and bookselling—from the life and times of a political anarchist-cum-antiquarian bookseller in Vancouver, to the celebrity culture of the CBC Canada Reads competition, and the glitz, glam, and possible corporate collusion behind the scenes of the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
The Alberta tarsands also get their due as well in a pair of essays: the first, “Our Tarsands Man in Washington,” profiles the shifting perspectives of Garry Doer, regarding the Kyoto Accord; the second, “Paradigm Shift,” is written as an open letter to Alberta’s 14th Premier of Alberta, inviting him to help kick-start a new industrial revolution.
It’s Atif Rafay’s “On the Margins of Freedom,” however, that steals the show. His narrative on freedom, imprisonment, and the falsehoods surrounding the glorification of incarceration as a test of one’s inner strength, is moving and beautifully written. It is the heart and soul of this collection. For this entry alone, The Best Canadian Essays 2012 is a collection worth investing in. (Andrew Wilmot)