Labyrinths of Voice: Conversations with Robert Kroetsch


246 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-920316-41-7





Reviewed by Don Precosky

Don Precosky teaches English at the College of New Caledonia and is the
co-editor of Four Realities: Poets of Northern B.C.


Subtitled “Conversations With Robert Kroetsch,” this book consists of 200 pages of a transcribed conversation about writing among Kroetsch, Shirley Neuman, and Robert Wilson. Interspersed in the conversation are quotations from authors (mainly critics) whose ideas have been alluded to by the speakers.

I have many complaints about Labyrinths of Voice. Here are the main ones. First, there is a lot of name dropping. The three participants seem involved in a not-too-well-concealed ego trip. Who can quote the most? Who can attempt a synthesis of the most unlikely sources? Second, most of the quotations are useless. They are either redundant (in the manner of bad freshman essays) or they serve the purpose that esoteric footnotes do for pedantic scholars. And they are about as interesting. Third, Neuman and Wilson talk too much. Kroetsch is the drawing card. Let him have the limelight.

Did the editors listen to the tapes and then spend endless hours looking up the references? Or did the three have a preconversation conversation where they planned what they would say so that they’d all sound as if they’d committed Barthes, Frye, and the Russian Formalist school to memory? I smell a setup. If you really want to understand Kroetsch better, reread his novels and poems.


Neuman, Shirley, and Robert Wilson, “Labyrinths of Voice: Conversations with Robert Kroetsch,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024,