Dust Shit Glory


215 pages
ISBN 0-385-25038-X





Reviewed by Bruce K. Filson

Bruce K. Filson was a freelance writer and critic residing in Chesterville, Ontario.


Dust Ship Glory belongs on the reading list of every curriculum purporting to deal with Western Canadian literature. In the words of Northrop Frye, it’s “the moving story of an authentic prophet; that is, of a man considered mad and dangerous by the community, yet who lives according to an expanded sense of reality while everyone around him clings desperately to their illusions in the middle of the waste land of dust-bowl Saskatchewan.” No accident that Louis Riel also comes to mind when we read over this remark. The story touches base with the central concerns of prairie literature: the powerful presence of the land, the garrison mentality, rugged individualism, and the big sky that accommodates big dreams. Andreas Schroeder has made of Tom Sukanen a name that conjures these mythic proportions where others have failed.

The book’s form borrows directly from cinema verite. Testimony and fact are patched together, then stitched where necessary with fictional licence conservatively used. Rather than historical fiction (an overabused genre of late), it is based on a true story and related in the words and speech rhythms of the witnesses. This conveys, better than I’ve ever read before, a sense of the use of English in Saskatchewan. The book is also full of Saskatchewan history and geography, moving one to read further. Another good reason to put it on the Western Canadian corpus.

Even though this lonely Norwegian remains, to me, an extraordinary lunatic, a victim or product of harsh and unrelenting circumstance, to others he may be almost anything one imagines him to be, just as Louis Riel is imagined to be a hero, which makes Damianus Sukanen a gloriously controversial subject. What a great story!


Schroeder, Andreas, “Dust Shit Glory,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35019.