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Featured Reviews of “Climber’s Paradise”

“As PearlAnn Reichwein shows, Wheeler’s ACC wasclimber's cover color_lowres_6x9_RGB instrumental in creating and promoting the Rockies as a ‘‘climber’s paradise.’’ In doing so, it worked both with and against the federal government’s Parks branch over the course of the twentieth century, pushing for conservation and preferred access as well as negotiating the changing landscape of outdoor recreation. Inspired by the British Alpine Club, the ACC can be thought of as an ethnic institution, one that sought to encourage an appreciation for the mountains and the promotion of mountain recreation as well as scientific exploration. It also acted as a political lobby group…”

Tina Loo and Meg Stanley, The Canadian Historical Review


“Canada’s national parks have a complex history in which sport-oriented nature tourism is a key element. PearlAnn Reichwein. Climber’s Paradise provides a detailed account of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) and its entwined relationship with Canada’s mountain parks. This history focuses on western Canada and a western Canadian sport heritage. It is a valuable addition to social, environmental, and sport historiographies…”

Elizabeth L. Jewett, University of Toronto Quarterly


“Wilderness. Symbol of nationhood. Playground. Sanctuary. Revenue source. Over the last century Canada’s mountain parks have been imagined and reimagined through a spectrum of meanings and contending desires. PearlAnn Reichwein’s history of the Alpine Club of Canada explores these incarnations and tells the fascinating stories of the people who cared fiercely for the mountains and struggled over their use and value. Just as importantly, Reichwein traces out the less visible tracks of class, race, and gender that weave through the grand narratives of adventure and conquest. This is vital reading for anyone who cares about our vanishing wild heritage.”

Thomas Wharton, award-winning author of Icefields


“This is a remarkable story. It’s about how a small group of urban, middle-class, Anglo Canadians, working through the Alpine Club of Canada, sought to assert their narratives of alpinism, the environment, nation, and interpersonal relations on Canada’s western Canadian mountain parks, and the conditions they faced, the institutions they created, the political victories they achieved, and the struggles and setbacks they encountered. Professor Reichwein tells it brilliantly, bringing both a climbers’ love of the mountains and a social historian’s critical distance and research to her subject. Her analysis is illuminated with mini-biographies of the key players, grounded in their speeches and personal correspondence resourcefully dug out of archival collections, and an extensive collection of photographs. It’s an important contribution to the history of Canadian sport and recreation and a telling case study of volunteering, but anyone who has ever holidayed or even contemplated a hike in a mountain national park would enjoy and benefit from this book.”

Bruce Kidd, University of Toronto historian and Olympian


Climber’s Paradise is both an informative and entertaining read. It makes a good companion book for specialists wishing to learn further details about national park history, the history of mountaineering, the making of Canadian nationhood, and other topics. Due to the accessible nature of the text, it also provides an enjoyable gateway into Canada’s past for nonspecialists.”

Jessica M. DeWitt, Canadian Journal of History


Read more reviews on our website.

Featured Reviews of “Landscapes of War and Memory”

“This is a passionately written academic book – a characterization which the author would probably agree should not be an oxymoron. The passion suggests that it is written as much for curious general readers as for academics. I hope it reaches many of both, particularly those who know or have known war survivors…. Grace’s specific subjects are Canadian literary and visual representations of 20th-century war created in the 1977-2007 period, and the tasks of collective national memory that these perform…. Official war histories record the losses, gains, and casualties but seldom the savage and often impulsive and unnecessary means by which these came about. In these 600+ pages Grace examines numerous novels, plays and television films…” Frank Davey, Frank Davey Blog, January 1, 2015

“… officialdom and media have celebrated wartime exploit as a central fixture of the Canadian experience. This is factually dubious but worthy of thoughtful analysis. Professor Sherrill Grace, a professor of literature at the University of British Columbia, examines the phenomenon. The result is striking and poignant…. Prof. Grace examines this ritual of remembrance over a 30-year period, citing hundreds of Canadian poems and films, novels, memoirs and documentaries.” Holly Doan, Blacklock’s Reporter, January 17, 2015

9781772120004_large“An extraordinary and seminal work of truly impressive and seminal scholarship…. [E]specially recommended for academic library Canadian History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.” Michael Dunford, Midwest Book Review Bookwatch, January 2, 2015

“[The prominent Canadian literary critic Sherrill] Grace’s new book is an exhaustive look at the way Canadian artists have recently understood and remembered both wars. Her work is nuanced, probing the contradictions and ambiguities of the ‘good’ war, particularly through Joy Kogawa’s Obasan. Grace regularly returns to the theme of democracy and freedom being ‘fragile,’ especially during wartime. She also asks crucial questions using the metaphor of memory as landscape.” Jamie Swift, ActiveHistory.ca, April 9, 2015

“[Sherrill Grace’s book] examines the work of artists, who can be instrumental in voicing and depicting war memories that are painful, sometimes heroic, and often shocking…Blending raw personal point of view with objective academic discourse, Grace describes how she was propelled into writing this book…. Landscapes of War and Memory is a compelling and provocative cultural study that poses important questions regarding where Canada stands today in relation to war.” Anne Cimon, Canada’s History Magazine, June 1, 2015

“Despite the passage of five decades, Canadian novelists, memoirists, playwrights and artists are decidedly far from finished with the World Wars—with the experiences of our predecessors in battle and the sometimes atrocious actions of citizens on the home front. In particular, UBC literature scholar Sherrill Grace argues, we are concerned with memory, with remembering and forgetting… ‘Forgetting is a trap,’ she shows us. Art, then, does the vital memory work of ‘bearing witness’ to our troubled and restless war-scarred past. Naomi K. Lewis, Alberta Views, July 1, 2015

In Landscapes of War and Memory, Sherrill Grace examines the twin processes of commemoration and amnesia that have shaped cultural responses in Canada to the two global conflicts of the twentieth century. Her study, immensely rich, surveys works of theatre, visual art, and film as well as novels and stories, but above all it is concerned with fiction in a catholic sense — with the perpetual reinvention of the past…. I cannot do justice in a brief review to the six hundred pages of her book, and in summary I suggest only that it is a pleasure to read despite the sobering topic: Grace is an admirably clear writer, her study perfectly accessible. It will appeal to specialist readers of this journal as well as to students of Canada at large.” Nicholas Bradley, BC Studies, online, March 1, 2016

Featured Reviews of “The Chinchaga Firestorm”

“This is surely the definitive account of the Chinchaga complex. It will be welcomed by the North American fire community and by anyone interested in the settlement of the Boreal Plains Ecozone of western Canada.” Stephen J. Pyne, BC Studies, October 15, 2015 [Read full review.]

9780888646613_large“[Tymstra] ties in the impacts on wildfire ecology, wildfire management policy, wildfire behaviour, smoke and most interestingly of all, the human side of the whole event. People’s stories intertwine with historical facts and demonstrate their resilience and persistence in the struggle against wildfire.” Janelle Lane, Environment and Parks Insight, October 16, 2015

“…the author not only describes the fire and its impact, but adds technical details and history to survey forest fires at other times and how people handled them. Though the 1950 fire changed how fires are fought in Alberta and elsewhere, they also affected scientific research, forest management, and ecological studies, making this survey of western Canadian history a far-ranging examination holding much more of interest beyond its Canadian boundaries.” The Bookwatch, February 22, 2016

Featured Reviews of “Weaving a Malawi Sunrise”

“Most everyone has a place that inspires reflection and contentment: a Paris café, a salmon run on the Miramichi River, your grandmother’s kitchen table. Roberta Laurie is an Alberta Rotarian who finds her place at a Malawian school for girls. The result is intriguing and joyful. Weaving A Malawi Sunrise never patronizes. Laurie is a delightful writer…. Weaving A Malawi Sunrise is kind and eloquent, by turn angry and evocative…” Holly Doan, Blacklock’s Reporter, December 12, 2015. [Read full review.]

weaving a malawi sunrise“Roberta Laurie, a former Rotarian, has written a book that is both heart warming and sobering. On the one hand, we read about young women experiencing life changing educational success. On the other hand, we read about the challenges girls and women experience in rural Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world…. [The book] portrays the development of a courageous, visionary leader…. In addition, the book is rich with the history, culture, geography, and politics of Malawi. This material is deftly presented as the context for the development of [the school]…. The emphasis on the stories of Memory, Christie, and the students move the narrative forward and capture and hold readers’ interest.” Dean Wood, ClubRunner, January 4, 2016. [Read full review.]

#1 on the Edmonton Journal’s Bestsellers list (Edmonton Nonfiction) for the week of November 27, 2015 The Edmonton Journal.

“…very highly recommended for academic library Contemporary African Studies reference collections…” Julie Summers, Reviewer’s Bookwatch, February 2016

Featured Reviews of “Standard candles”

“Alice Major’s 10th poetry collection, Standard candles, covers a huge distance in its slim text, racing through a dozen different poetic forms and countless cosmologies. It references everything from Greek mythology to quantum uncertainty to Henrietta Swan Leavitt, the inventor of the standard candle itself. The book is like an ultra-dense kernel containing all things—history, theology, astronomy, geometry, an infinite list. It’s the universe right before the Big Bang, titanic forces contained within a few thousand tightly packed words, almost ready to explode and race endlessly out.” Bruce Cinnamon, Vue Weekly, October 21, 2015. [Read full review.]

“In her latest poetry collection, Standard candles, Alice Major continues to draw from science as a source of metaphor to ground the big ideas floating around the universe. Like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, who bring scientific concepts to a public consciousness in their documentary television shows, Major takes up the poet’s essential challenge to make grand concepts accessible and relatable to the reader. The result is a collection of thoughtfully crafted suites that feel mythological or biblical in scale, yet as familiar and common as our offices or kitchens…. In reading Standard candles, there is the potential f9781772120912or a most palpable experience of having one’s mind blown. Readers will certainly find themselves putting the book down to stare out the window at the night sky and feel a sense of loneliness wrapped in communion.” Prairie Books Now, Fall/Winter 2015, Steve Locke, Prairie Books Now, December 1, 2015

“In her poetry she uses her knowledge of specialised – even arcane – fields in the same way that British playwrights Tom Stoppard and Michael Frayn have done: to provide startling and vivid analogies with the human dynamics of a complex emotional universe with which her readers will be more familiar. This is a handsomely produced and carefully organized book, divided into themed sections…. This substantial collection gives ample evidence of Major’s poetic craft and verbal dexterity…. [A] fine collection.” Michael Bartholomew-Biggs, londongrip.co.uk, January 2016 [Read full review.]

“I always look forward to reading a new book by Alice. Her genius is very well represented by your press, in my opinion” Neil Querengesser, Concordia Univesity

Standard candles was #6 and #10 on the Edmonton Journal‘s Bestsellers list in November 2015 , and #9 in January, 2016.

Hear Alice read from her collection, Standard candles.

 

Letters to a Young Reader of Reviews by James Gifford

Dear Young Reader, or Old(er) for that matter. We hope you’ll enjoy James Gifford’s musings about how to deal with reviews of a more negative nature. James is a UAP author; we published two of his books, Personal Modernisms and From the Elephant’s Back.

Boring, Risible, and Execrable, and Those are Just Its Good Qualities

I was invited to write this blog after the marketing team at UAP saw a particularly nasty review of one of my books. I believe they read some of it out loud, perhaps even with accents. It was the kind of review over which even the most casual reader must pause and invent the backstory of an Elizabethan revenge tragedy.

The reality was more mundane than salacious, and the risks of liquidity (ahem) in academia all too often lead to short tempers and long, if blurry, memories. However, like college hazings or British prime ministers with pig’s heads, the insult review is an initiatory rite in academia to which we all submit—and the point isn’t so much how to avoid them as it is how to avoid reading them. Either Boethius or Buzzfeed, I can’t recall which, had sage advice on the matter. And no one ever pays attention to it:

“Never read the comments”

For academics early in their careers, not reading the comments isn’t an option. The negative reviews may not be public, but the privacy of blind peer review can make the commentary all the more biting. To add to it, the pressures of early career “professionalization” mean graduate students are pushed to develop a research profile that often necessitates sending out work before it’s ready or before the authors are ready for the professional grumpiness that can be voiced behind the curtain of blind review, like some irascible Wizard of the U of Oz. Yet reading those reviews is also often the main source of feedback for developing the work. So how should we read and yet “never read” the comments?

I have always found it helpful to look at the disagreements in reviews. It’s easy when Reader A adores what Reader B condemns as “execrable.” This was my favourite word scrawled on one of my undergraduate Chaucer essays juxtaposed to “A-” and a rather liquid harrumph of explanation: “That must have been near the bottom of the pile…” meaning late in the night and deep in the cup. He was a fantastic Chaucer teacher, actually. When readers disagree in this way, any author can easily think “Reader A is clearly a good human being with a history of volunteerism and charity for small birds in winter months,” but the corollary is too easy. Reader B, after all, may not be picking the legs off ladybugs in her or his few spare moments between stealing markers from the whiteboards in classrooms and using them to scrawl “execrable” on the front of undergraduate papers. And who’s to say my “A-” trumps the descriptor “execrable”? I was, after all, young and foolish enough to disagree with my professor…

The truth is, the disagreements are what matter. Even if the disagreement is between your research findings and the reader’s response, that disagreement is the issue at hand, and not necessarily how one or the other of you is wrong. Speaking to those disagreements in revisions is, most often, a more effective response than bending to the disparagements, rejecting them, or tearfully taking up a cup of the same “proof” of God’s love (so said Benjamin Franklin) that nurtured the grumpiness in the first place.

This isn’t to say an author shouldn’t be mindful of when a methodology might be wrong or data collection methods insufficient—those problems are real across most disciplines, qualitative or quantitative. We have blind review exactly for the purpose of catching those slips and exactly because they’re hardest for a like mind to spot. The sympathetic reader is also not the keen reader. However, such slips are also not personal. And as much as possible, they don’t grump or offer sour (even fermented) grapes. They propose improvements, which is for the best of the authors and readers alike.

But who wrote the comments?

It doesn’t actually matter who wrote something grumpy. It may be better to ask, what were the circumstances?

Mostly likely, reviews are written in haste and between other commitments, very often without much time for reflection or revision. I’ve probably reviewed 25 book manuscripts, more than double that for articles, and outside of blind review I have the dubious distinction of nearing a double fistful of years contributing to the always enormous Year’s Work in English Studies. It means I’ve published hundreds of book reviews. So I have a good deal of sympathy for the life of the humble reviewer.

Reviews are always service work, often done outside of work hours and after all the other chores are done. Which is to say, those circumstances also wrote the comments. So the onus is to be a more generous author than reviewer, because that’s the truth of it—everyone spends more care on their own work than remarking on another’s, so authors have the burden of generosity in reading the hasty scrawlings of their evaluators. Rather than the #humblebrag answer of compassion for the reviewer’s self-evident idiocy, simply recognizing that grumpiness is beyond both interlocutors’ control can be a real help.

“I Have Shot Mine Arrow O’er The House, And Hurt My Brother”

There is also the distinct possibility that the grumpiness never existed in the first place… Like the broken kettle, the reviewer didn’t get grumpy, the review wasn’t grumpy when it was written, and the reviewer never wrote it in the first place.

I reviewed a work of Canadian literary studies some time ago only to discover after the copy editor had “tidied” it up that I had, myself, shone not light, but rather grumpiness. A few select cuts here and a bit less punctuation there made a hesitation into a rather snide snipe. Albeit, I didn’t suggest the author was of the genus Suidae nor given to inappropriate relations with future prime ministers, but the result was nevertheless something decidedly harsher than I would have wished. Sometimes things just happen: the material conditions of production can lead to unanticipated negations.

The Hatchet Job of the Year

H.L. Mencken said of The Great Gatsby, that the American masterpiece is “no more than a glorified anecdote, and not too probable at that.” As reviews go, it’s fairly kind. The Hatchet Job of the Year was established in 2012 to reward negative reviews, and even those at the hatchet end of the stick must admit that no press is bad press. That is, “no press” is worse than “bad press,” and not by a little: by a lot. Bad reviews open curiosity as much as anything else. What remains is the question of exactly what is in the piece that is so eminently provocative? The labour put into a nasty review is itself a clear indication of the merits of keeping calm and carrying on. You can even say as much to your editor.

What to Say to Friends and Colleagues

So, what is one to do? In no particular order, I tend to give friends and colleagues variants on five points:

1. Acknowledging disagreements is often better than resolving them.
2. Never read the comments. And after you do, don’t answer them in kind.
3. Editors often recognize that intensely dismissive reviews are one way of expressing an even more intense interest. That interest is likely to be shared by other readers, so it’s worth bringing the project to completion.
4. We who survived (post)graduate studies are used to sorting through the liquid bluster of an angry chap at the pub working through his (often but not always “his”) childhood disappointments. If you can understand his directions to the toilets, it’s likely you can understand what grains of truth are to be gleaned from a hatchet review.
5. Always, always ask your editor for advice. Inevitably, she or he knows more than you about the exigencies of the review as well as the needs of the press.

So, put on your best impersonation of the grumpy reviewer (accents help), and read aloud with bluster. Then get the revisions in, on time, and carry on.

~ James Gifford
Twitter @GiffordJames
https://www.ualberta.ca/~gifford/

 

Featured Reviews of “The Little Third Reich on Lake Superior”

“The firsthand accounts collected through interviews over the years alone make The Little Third Reich on Lake Superior: A History of Canadian Internment Camp R an important addition to the literature, providing a much better understanding about life in a Canadian internment camp. Further, the experience of Camp R demonstrated to Canadian authorities the need for better constructed facilities, provision of adequate recreational activities, and the need to avoid mixed camps of hard core Nazis, prisoners of war, and interned civilians. It was the origin for rewriting prisoner classifications and rights within internment camps in 9781772120318Canada…” Research Matters, December 11, 2014 [Read full review.]

“In the carnival of Canadian oddities, none is more curious than The Little Third Reich On Lake Superior. Historian Ernest Zimmerman of Lakehead University chronicles the strange events that saw 1,150 men and boys – Jews and Nazis alike – herded into bunkhouses northeast of Thunder Bay in the winter of 1940. It was a “third-rate jungle prison”, one inmate recalled; another complained it was like being kidnapped and dragged into the wilderness.” Full review by Holly Doan, Blacklock’s Reporter, October 3, 2015

Michel Beaulieu’s interview on CBC Radio’s Superior Morning talking about the book and the launch on October 27, 2015