The Book of Frog, Jan Zwicky, 89pgs, Pedlar Press, pedlarpress.com $20.00
You may recall last summer’s literary maelstrom, a debate over the role of negative reviews waged between poet and National Post columnist Michael Lista and author, editor and essayist Jan Zwicky. Zwicky is a Wittgenstein scholar and has held many lofty academic positions. Which, by way of preface, is to suggest that engaging in her work — specifically as a reviewer — is daunting. One would expect her work to be inaccessible, potentially pretentious, perhaps even boring. The Book of Frog, fortunately, is none of these things.
Frog consists predominantly of an exchange of emails between a granite frog (what else would you expect?) and his imaginary friend, an albatross (of course!) in a style similar to the German novelist W.G. Sebald’s collage of artifacts and juxtapositional illustrations and photographs. The frog and albatross’ correspondence forms a trail as their owners, academic Hugh and musician Liz, travel the world for conferences and concerts. Simple? Yes, quite. And that is the charm of this slim tome.
Reading like a series of postcards, each entry provides an insight into the inner complexities of Liz and Hugh, who are separated not only by time zones, but by the directions their lives have taken them. Quietly, the difficulties of their separation and feelings of longing surface.
It might be trite to say Frog is cute, but while many of today’s acclaimed books drown their readers in in rivers of platitudes, exhausting prose and tedious themes, it’s refreshing to read something playful. Frog’s intelligence and curiosity truly amuses the spirit. (Justin F. Ridgeway)