Driving Home: A Dialogue between Writers and Readers


96 pages
ISBN 0-88920-148-X




Edited by Barbara Belyea and Estelle Dansereau
Reviewed by Alexander Craig

Alexander Craig is a freelance journalist in Lennoxville, Quebec.


Who reads, who writes, and how do the people doing these things relate to each other? These are basic, indeed huge, questions that will never be satisfactorily answered. Nevertheless, attempts have constantly to be made. Among the latest is the book under review, the result of a conference held at the Calgary Institute for the Humanities, established at that city’s university in 1976.

A number of the eight contributors — eight in addition to the editors — are professional literary critics. So there’s some difficult, even dense, writing to get through (such as in the introduction); but both there and elsewhere in the book it is in the end rewarding.

There’s some practical stuff here — an interview about what the UNEQ, the Quebec Writers’ Union, sees as its role — but readers, as opposed to writers, will find more fruit in the varied approaches by other participants in the conference. The poet Doug Jones, for instance, is good on “The Mythology of Identity,” but his determinedly CanLit approach is challenged by English-born critic Christopher Wiseman and, even more, in what is the most eloquent and moving contribution to this collection, by the Quebec writer Jacques Brault, in the concluding article, “Murir et Mourir” (approximately 15 pages of the book are in French).

Brault doesn’t have too much time for critics. Aritha van Herk is much more concerned about readers. Her contribution exemplifies how wide-ranging and stimulating this book is. Hers is one of the most cross-fertilizing essays, in fact, entitled “A Literary Affair.” How, she asks, “do we seduce an audience, make them want us as much as we want them?... The importance of the reader as lover, as the one who completes, is only too often ignored or underestimated.”

Lovers of reading will find this book, how shall we say, interesting....


“Driving Home: A Dialogue between Writers and Readers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/37426.