Marginal Notes: Challenges to the Mainstream
M.W. Conley was Associate Professor of Political Science at Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
Rick Salutin’s book is one of those strange pieces that the reviewer never knows how to deal with. Indeed, this book is both frustrating and fascinating. It is not a “good read” in the traditional sense because it really is not a traditional book. Rather, it is about Rick Salutin’s sometimes bizarre but always interesting life. Marginal Notes is an unintentional biography while at the same time it is a social commentary on his times. I say his times because Salutin is very much on the margin (fringe?) of Canadian society. His writings, sometimes absurd, other times sensitive, have most often occurred in This Magazine and are therefore not generally known to most Canadians.
The book is loosely organized into ten divisions, each containing a number of articles/notes on topics ranging from Canadian culture to a rather strange report on Salutin’s visit to Mozambique.
The pieces, for it is difficult to describe them as articles, usually are an attempt to provoke the reader. There are at least two brilliant exceptions in this book. An article entitled “It Happened Here. Earlier. And Worse” examines the infamous “Red scare” in the National Film Board. The piece reminds us that as Canadians we had our own McCarthys and many good people suffered as a consequence. The other piece is a moving eulogy on labour leader Kent Rowley, who died in 1978. Had all of Salutin’s work been of the calibre of these two articles, the book would have been a best-seller.