The Centre of the World at the Edge of the Continent


247 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 0-920336-82-5
DDC 971.69




Edited by Carol Corbin and Judith A. Rolls
Reviewed by Kim Fahner

Kimberly Fahner is the author of You Must Imagine the Cold Here.


This collection of finely crafted essays on Cape Breton culture will
appeal to a wide audience of readers. Edited by two communications
scholars from the University College of Cape Breton, the book emphasizes
the important of social interaction. “The cultures created by mass
communication cannot replicate the authenticity, the aura, of engaging
with human beings,” observes Corbin and Rolls. “The one-of-a-kind
artifact, the kitchen parties, the personal cup of tea can never be
replicated in mass media.” When people in Cape Breton gather together
for a kitchen party or a spirited game of tarabish, they also converse,
play instruments, and sing. This respect for orality ensures the
continuity and transmission of “traditions, life stories, and fiddle
tunes,” while at the same time strengthening the fabric of the social

Divided into four parts (“Pastimes,” “The Arts,” “Community
and Family Life,” and “Culture and Identity”), this book contains
essays that range in content from the Irish settlement of Rocky Bay, to
the use of nicknames in Cape Breton, to the transformation of
traditional Cape Breton fiddle music into a recent pop-culture
“discovery.” No stone is left unturned, it seems, as the authors
discuss the cultural implications of music, cinema, and the dreaded
spread of “tartanism” as a tourist draw in Cape Breton. The humanity
of this collection, the woven web of story and recollection, will leave
many readers yearning for a personal experience of Cape Breton culture.


“The Centre of the World at the Edge of the Continent,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,