Deserts: A Literary Companion.

Description

176 pages
Contains Bibliography
$24.95
ISBN 978-1-55365-326-4
DDC 808.8'032154

Publisher

Year

2008

Contributor

Edited by Wayne Grady

Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations
consultant.

Review

These six slim volumes constitute an enthralling compendium of short stories and excerpts from longer works written by a who’s who of Canadian and international writers, some contemporary, others long dead. Each volume or “Literary Companion” presents writings on a specific theme—mountains, the sea, rivers and lakes, night, deserts, gardens—that the collection of writers have addressed.

 

Four of the volumes are edited by Wayne Grady, general editor of the series; two are edited by Merilyn Simonds. Both editors, husband and wife, are themselves award-winning Canadian authors. Their selections focus not only on the specific topic at hand but also on their human relationships to that particular topic: humanity’s relationship to nature and its environmental significance. The David Suzuki Foundation is noted as co-publisher.

 

Each of the 20 or so excerpts per volume both stands alone and is an integral part of the whole. There is a general introduction to each volume, and an excellent short biography of the author precedes each excerpt.

 

The choices of pieces are eclectic, relevant, and enlightening. Highlights of Gardens include Vita Sackville-West’s musings on the Transvaal daisy; Jamaica Kincaid’s emotional walk through Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France; Germaine Greer’s struggles to indulge her passion for gardening within the confines of London’s urban setting; and Pliny the Elder’s comments on the smell of good soil.

 

Mark Twain reflects on India’s sacred river, the Ganges, in Dark Waters Dancing To A Breeze: A Literary Companion to Rivers and Lakes, while Theodore Dreiser acquaints himself with the River Thames and Henry Beston and Bruce Hutchison describe the awe-inspiring St. Lawrence and Fraser Rivers respectively.

 

Deserts are documented by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in North Africa, Ariel Dorfman in Chile, and Ellen Meloy in Baja, California.

 

The mysteries of Night are explored by Wayne Grady, Pico Iyer, and Grey Owl; The Sea, the origin of life, is experienced in all its fury in Genesis, scientifically studied by Charles Darwin, and endured with calamity by Nicholas Monsarrat.

 

“Because they’re there” is the motivation behind the challenge that faces both the first-time mountain climber Michael Crichton and the experienced Jon Krakauer. They, along with Carl Jung, H.G. Wells, and Earle Birney, describe their feelings towards mountains in Where The Silence Rings: A Literary Companion to Mountains.

 

The charm of this series is its ability to bring such a great number of authors’ works together on a single topic. Reading one volume, one wants to read them all. There is also the temptation to read the excerpts out of sequence, according to one’s interest in a particular writer or subject.

 

The very idea of compiling a series such as this one is intriguing; its execution in these volumes is excellent, both educational and most entertaining.

Citation

“Deserts: A Literary Companion.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28599.