Modern canadian essayists


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Mainly, I had to decide what sort of writing would be eligible for inclusion. The first and basic principle was that essays had to be by Canadian authors and published in Canadian journals or magazines I would have no problem using works by Canadians in foreign journals, such as say Adam Gopnik, but lack the time and resources to go hunting them down. Naturally it means non-fiction: for all intents and purposes, essays are generally non-fiction but not all non-fiction is an essay.

For instance, much online writing lacks the cohesive structure necessary to be considered an essay.

Lisa Robertson

In spite of the significant energy expended online, I find most blogging is primarily about imparting content with little attention paid to form or style. I opted to rule out book reviews, mostly because they are too short, narrowly focused and really point to other works. I also excluded excerpts from longer works, as they are not stand-alone pieces and usually printed as teasers for something bigger.

Furthermore, I made the crucial decision that essays that appear in the volume must be reproduced exactly as they appeared in the original publication.

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As an issue, this comes up every year as one or two authors will try to revise their pieces or, more often, reverse changes that were made at the editorial level before initial publication. But the idea is that each volume should represent a snapshot of the year's best essays and not subject to authorial whims and revisionism.


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  • But overall, when I've come to define an essay for inclusion, I've cast a fairly wide net. Every volume that I've done has featured a few pieces that would be better described as straight-up journalism than 'traditional' essays, the sort of lengthy personal meditation on a subject. The first is commercial: many people, with dire memories of the dreaded five paragraph essay structure drilled into them in class, quail at the sight of the word ESSAY. Often when I tell people about this editing gig the first reaction I get is: "Ugh I hated writing essays in school," so I thought that 'non-fiction' might alleviate people's negative associations.

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    Secondly, it is a more expansive term. I have ultimately decided against this change because of my antipathy toward the term itself however. It certainly privileges the novel and short story over the essay and the treatise as art forms. Moreover, built into the very word is the assumption that fiction is the dominant mode of prose and that non-fiction is some sort of deviation.

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    Besides, in our post-modern era, the distinction between fiction and non-fiction can be fairly blurry and both are dependent on narrative craft and techniques for their forcefulness. A non-fiction reader picks up a book for information certainly but also for the way it is imparted, its flow and flair, characteristics more akin to fiction. Besides, I am more interested in expanding the definition of the essay itself. The essay should be an inclusive, not an exclusive form: it should hold a multiplicity of not only opinion but style and variety in its expression. If there's one thing I've noticed as an editor and reader for Best Canadian Essays the Guest Editor and I split the reading equally is that themes often emerge in different years.

    I even dubbed the volume "the Law and Order Issue" because half of the total pieces we used fell under that subject. One year I read a lot about animal rights. Canada being what it is, there's usually a fair amount of writing about nature and the environment, particularly around the oil patch in Alberta Alberta is Canada's Texas in more ways than one. When I started in , there was a great deal of writing about Canada's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and when it would hopefully conclude.

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    Under the previous government of Stephen Harper there was a great deal of concern about government secrecy and muzzling of scientists. Arguing the essays are central to Orwell's enduring literary, political and cultural value, Marks shows how we understand the complexities, subtleties, and contradictions of Orwell better when we understand his essays.

    Peter Marks's book is a fine, original addition to Orwell criticism, a work of genuine scholarship and integrity, true to the spirit of Orwell's own writing. Yet some of our finest writers have traditionally used the form to consider key issues of cultural, social and political import. Foremost among these is George Orwell, and Peter Marks has done this currently under-rated writer an immense service in this major new study of the whole of Orwell's literary and political journalism through the three decades of his writing, situating it comprehensively within the biographical, historical and publishing contexts of its production.

    Whether examining his responses to the complexities of left-wing infighting in the s, the debates about national identity and political renewal of the war years, or the strains and divided loyalties of the Cold War era, Marks is a massively well-informed and reliable guide not only to the permanent value of Orwell's non-fiction prose but also to the pressures and priorities of the age in which he wrote.

    This study goes a long way towards restoring Orwell's reputation as both a practitioner of English prose and an astute and long-sighted commentator on British culture and society. You can unsubscribe from newsletters at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in any newsletter. For information on how we process your data, read our Privacy Policy.

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