An American's Notes On Canadian Culture
With these notes on certain aspects of Canadian culture, most of which appeared originally in The New Yorker, Edmund Wilson performs like someone taking rabbits out of hats. That is to say he brings his bright transfiguring mind to bear on what is for the most part a dull subject. With his simple but elegant style, his erudition, and his immense receptiveness to an author's intentions, he always manages an interesting, indeed at times a striking, interpretation. He is especially good with the unobtrusive Catholic psychology behind Morley Callaghan's fiction, and the three-way (French, Canadian, American) socio-political implications of Hugh MacLennan's novels. He ranges over much of the contemporary landscape, brilliantly illuminating the current Separatist struggle going on between the French and English factions ("...the French in Montreal, who outnumber the British three to one, still refer to them as 'les anglais' or 'the garrison'"). And his analyses of the political machinations of the late Maurice Duplessis and the past censorship tactics of Quebec's clerical hierarchy are pointedly Set against the younger generation's mood of rebellion, exemplified in part by the avant garde work of Marie-Claire Blais and the existentialist concerns of John Buell.