Hugh (John Blagdon) Hood Anthony Robertson - Essay

Anthony Robertson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Around the Mountain is subtitled, 'Scenes from Montreal Life'. A collection of essays, some of them apparently non-fiction fiction, about the varied aspects of life in Montreal that moves from scrub hockey leagues, to suburban development, to the old quarters of the city. Hood loves the city. He walks it, he bicycles it, he drives it. Some parts of the city foster life, some parts do not. Hood accepts both. Progress means scummed rivers, vanishing farms and sculpture on the overpass pylons of uncompleted freeways. Hood sometimes likes what replaces the farms and streams, sometimes he does not. The waterfront is filthy but active. He goes there frequently to get the feel of it; just as he goes to the top of the mountain. Both places are the city, not any city, the city. Perhaps if he were designing the city he would do it differently, but he's not, so he'll take it as it is. His eye is honest. He does not use his subjects as ways into himself, although the self of the observer is plainly there. The essays are not excuses for condemnation or commendation. Most of them are in one way or another mood pieces; definitive of elusive moments within the ordinary. Hood is a topographist of a particular kind. His attachment is to what moves between what he sees and his quizzical undetached self. The city and its inhabitants are alien to each other, but for Hood there is some connection between all, the things and people he describes that does not make the city a place of total alienation. However disjointed, it is a place of superb life.

Anthony Robertson, in a review of "Around the Mountain" (copyright © June, 1971 West Coast Review Publishing Society, reprinted by permission of the publisher and the author), in West Coast Review, Vol. 6, No. 1, June, 1971, p. 53.