MY OWN YEARS by Barry Broadfoot


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Whimsy, nostalgia, and western Canadiana served up in hearty, corny abundance. Now domiciled in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Broadfoot (b. 1926) grew up in Winnipeg and spent a quarter century as a journalist before turning to oral history. (His popular tetralogy, Ten Lost Years, Six War Years, The Pioneer Years, and Years of Sorrow, Years of Shame, chronicles life in Canada from 1895 to 1945.) Broadfoot writes boozy-lyrical prose (he calls himself ""hard-drinking,"" which also seems to fit many of his friends and informants), full of backslapping bonhomie and tough-tender enthusiasm for the simple life and homespun folks of his youth. This mixture of personal memories and on-the-road interviews is unabashedly provincial (and sometimes chauvinistic, as in the comment apropos of a struggling B.C. singer that, ""No pay is the punishment for daring to be Canadian""). But Broadfoot's real problem isn't boosterism: it's the way he cheapens what might have been honest regional literature with conventional pieties and picturesque cliches. The young QuÉbecois hobo he meets near Prince George, the roughnecks he works with in the Manitoba wilderness, the Siwash angel of mercy rescuing desperate Indian girls in Vancouver, the crazy old autodidact holding forth in a Saskatchewan ""prairie pub,"" the utterly bourgeois prostitute from Moose Jaw--these vignettes all have a certain interest, yet none has any depth. Worse yet, when telling his own story, Broadfoot reveals almost nothing, preferring instead to rhapsodize with or over some grizzled veteran of the Golden Days. Readable enough, but routine.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Doubleday