George Bowering Leon Surette - Essay

Leon Surette

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Vonnegut, Barth, Fowles look out: Here comes Bowering. The parody of realistic fiction or anti-novel (to use the familiar semi-literate label) is itself parodied in A Short Sad Book. George Bowering has descended from the Black Mountain to cock a snook at post-modern fiction, to have some fun with Canadian nationalism, Canadian history, Canadian literary personalities, and to raise some heavy philosophical issues…. A Short Sad Book does have a beginning and an ending, but like scenery and Canadian history, it is mostly middle, and—to put the cart before the horse in this review—a delightful middle. (pp. 84-5)

[There] is something for everyone in this book. The professor of literature will find his undergraduate lecture notes comically echoed; the student of Canadian literature and history will find his clichés trotted out and thumped; the trendy follower of contemporary fiction (amongst whom the present reviewer must meekly number himself) will find himself cleverly out-trendied; the observer of Canadian literary and academic politics will recognize a variety of send-ups; and, finally those worrying about Canadian identity might be able to laugh at the comical echoes of their worries.

A Short Sad Book is a truly delightful piece of comic writing, and one that I have not begun to exhaust in two readings. (p. 86)

Leon Surette, "Mostly Middle," in Canadian Literature, No. 82, Autumn, 1979, pp. 84-6.