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Edited by Gary Geddes. Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre, c1986. 328pp. cloth. $24.95. ISBN 0-88894-479-9. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Barbara Pell

Volume 14 Number 5
1986 September

The concurrence of Vancouver's centennial and Expo 86 has resulted in an abundance of celebratory books. Vancouver: Soul of a City is edited by former Vancouverite and noted anthologist, Gary Geddes, and published by one of the most vigorous West Coast publishers. It is a collection of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry by more than seventy authors: residents and visitors, historical and contemporary, famous and obscure. The book is divided into nine sections under thematic headings, but the meaning and unity of these divisions are very problematic (e.g., "Back to Earth and Other Options").

This is a popular anthology for a general audience, with enough scope and variety to entertain most adult readers. Geddes introduces the book as an attempt to define the essence of Vancouver, but despite his suggestions of philosophic unity ("Beneath the benign surface of moderate climate, pleasing landscapes and apparent financial well-being lies another Vancouver that is shifting, troubled, uneasily perched on the edge of the Pacific, half-conscious of the moral and geographical fault lines upon which it is built"), the collection is a multi-faceted, impressionistic kaleidoscope. Most of the selections are well-written. The expected major authors are represented: Birney, Bowering, Carr, Laurence, Livesay, Lowry, Munro, Thomas, Webb, Wilson, and many more. There are some lesser-known delights, and a few entries thai are merely crude and pointless.

This is, however, not a scholarly text. There is no attempt to trace a chronological development of regional writing or perception, no delineation of purpose or criteria for the selections (does any mention, however tangential, of Vancouver suffice?). The lack of contextual information for the pieces is frustrating: essays are clearly out of date, but not given dales; excerpts from novels (always a pitfall for anthologists) float in a vacuum, unacknowledged and unexplained. The reader must flip to the front for the acknowledgements and the back for the sketchy notes on contributors, in a vain search for illumination. This book is recommended for libraries, but it is not a teaching anthology.

Barbara Pell, Dept. of English, Trinity Western University, Langley, B.C.
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