Saturday, July 21, 2018

Hot Off the Press, Part 3-and-a-Half

by Jean Roberta.

Have you been counting the number of titles I mentioned in Hot Off the Press, Part 1?

I've finished describing the four upcoming titles from Lethe Press, but I had even more reading to do. I had to design syllabi for the three classes I am scheduled to teach in September.

In the English Department where I teach, it is a rule that students in a first-year literature-and-composition class have to read an assigned novel on their own and write an essay about it.

An allegorical Canadian novel from 2015, Fifteen Dogs, seemed to me to be a good, thought-provoking choice when it was new, but then I discovered that a growing number of reviews and critiques make it easier for students to plagiarize. So I set out to find something even more current.

I wanted to stick with Canadian content. I ordered a library copy of Warlight, the most recent novel from a prestigious author, Michael Ondaatje, through Interlibrary Loans. (It arrived within days from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. The university where I teach started life as a local branch of this institution.)

Warlight is an impressive achievement, but I thought it too historical, too complex, and too subtle for the kind of first-year students I usually get. Many of them are from faraway countries, and have a sketchy grasp of English, while some of the locally-sourced are the products of a public school system that seems increasingly reluctant to fail any student for any reason.

I looked for recent Canadian novels with indigenous characters, and found The Marrow Thieves, a YA novel from 2017. Stay tuned for a longer description.

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