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The Robert Kroetsch alphabet book : sketches of a thesis Fero, Alanna Carlene 1991

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THE ROBERT KROlTiCH ALPHABET B O O K i SKETCHES OF A THESIS By ALANNA CARLENE FERO B.A. The University of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1989 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH We accept t h i s thesis as conforming to the required standard: THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA Apr i l 1991 copyright Alanna Carlene Fero, 1991 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date AffrL SO. m/ yl. DE-6 (2/88) iii ABSTRACT: The Robert Kroetsch Alphabet Book: Sketches of a Thesis Robert Kroetsch, a contemporary Canadian novelist, poet, and cr i t i c , can often be found investigating systems of ordering: he examines their contrasting characteristics of symmetry and arbitrariness; necessity and inanity; their potential to be both banal and surprising. My thesis on Robert Kroetsch's aesthetic comprises twenty-six chapters, each corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. Kroetsch's work has Increasingly come to be affiliated with the "language poets"; his absorption with system invariably leads him back to the nature of the linguistic sign, and the possibilities and limitations of significance. For example, both Kroetsch's most recent novel, What the Crow  Said, and "The Sad Phoenician," a long poem in which he reflects upon his identity as a writer, focus on the alphabet. In Crow, the nature of the alphabet as a paradoxically enabling and confining structure is explored thematically; in "Phoenician," the alphabetization of stanzas forms the enabling and confining structure of the text. Thus, the form of my thesis responds to those of Kroetsch; it is a form which becomes, f inally, a thesis in itself. iv The Instructions for the Presentation of Graduate Theses hand-out provided by the UBC Faculty of Graduate Studies asks that abstracts supply a problem, a summary of methods of investigation and the general conclusions. If any one "problem" can be said to be the focus of this thesis, 1t 1s the foregrounding of the arbitrariness and reductiveness of just such linear and teleological methods of research and interpretation. This thesis does not purport to solve any problems, but merely to offer steps toward fuller recognition of them. As the subtitle "Sketches of a Thesis" implies, I have simply looked at Kroetsch's work from a variety of different angles—making brief pencilled studies, if you will—without attempting to paint the portrait itself. If any conclusions are to be found here, they must be dis-covered, investigated and interpreted by my archaeologist/reader. ACF April 25, 1991 T A B L E OF C O N T E N T S Abstract iii List of Abbreviations vii Acknowledgements ix Archaeology 1 Biography 11 Canonicity 18 Dialogism 25 Educator 39 Feminism 44 Genre 51 Hangover 72 Interview 73 Juvenescence 91 Kroetsch 99 Language 100 Metaphor 107 Note 119 Oral 127 Postmodernism 128 Risk 139 vi System 146 Tall Tale 158 UN 167 Veracity 170 West 184 X, Y, Z 193 Archaeology 195 Appendix A 203 Appendix B 204 List of Epigraphs and Text Windows 212 Selected Bibliography 218 Sketches of a Thesis 232 v i i LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS* ACC M.E. Turner, "Canadian Literature and Robert Kroetsch: A Case of Canonization" BL Kroetsch, Badlands BO Robert Lecker, "Bordering On: Robert Kroetsch's Aesthetic" C Kroetsch, et a l . , Creation CANAM Canada AM: An Interview with Robert Kroetsch (27.28.3) CJ Kroetsch, The Crow Journals CP Linda Hutcheon, The Canadian Postmodern Crow Kroetsch, What the Crow Said EP Kroetsch, "The Exploding Porcupine" FN Kroetsch, Completed Field Notes FOW Laurie Ricou, "Field Notes and Notes in a F ie ld : Forms of West in Robert Kroetsch and Tom Robbins" FWPF Kroetsch, "The Fear of Women 1n Prair ie F ic t ion: An Erotics of Space" GI Kroetsch, Gone Indian LTW Kroetsch, The Lovely Treachery of Words LV Shirley Neuman and Robert Wilson, Labyrinths of Voice: Conversations with Robert Kroetsch MCNE Louis MacKendrick, "Robert Kroetsch and the Modern Canadian Novel of Exhaustion" MDAC Kroetsch, "The Moment of the Discovery of America Continues" *Bibliographical Note: I have abbreviated the t i t l e s of only those works which I c i te with relat ive frequency. Complete citations for these and al l works cited may be found in the bibliography. Quotations from Kroetsch's papers are referred to by category, box, f i l e and (where catalogued) page number. viii MNS A. R. Kizuk, "Meaning and Narrative Strategies in the Novels of Robert Kroetsch" NYJ Kroetsch, "Towards an Essay: My Upstate New York Journals" PDM Peter Thomas, "Priapus in the Danse Macabre" P&E Kroetsch, "For Play and Entrance: The Contemporary Canadian Long Poem" PF Brian McHale, Postmodernist Fiction R Walter Anderson, Reality Isn't What it Used to Be RDT John Marshall, "from THE REMEMBRANCE DAY TAPES" SHM Kroetsch, The Studhorse Man SHN George Bowering, "Stone Hammer Narrative" SOS Roy Miki, "Self on Self: An Interview with Robert Kroetsch" UH Kroetsch, "Unhiding the Hidden" UST Robert Wilson, "Robert Kroetsch: An Uncompromising Spinner of Tales" VK Kroetsch, "The Veil of Knowing" WOMR Robert Kroetsch, Words of Mv Roaring ix ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Many people contributed to bringing this project to its present form. To each of them, I can only offer in return my deepest appreciation and these few words of thanks: To Appolonia Steele and the staff members at the University of Calgary Library, Department of Special Collections, for their kindness and assistance while I was researching there; To the many friends and colleagues who gave so tirelessly of their advice and support, particularly, Karen Boyes and Cherry Davies, who shared with me their homebaked cookies, their wonderfully cuddly pets, and their insights into areas of myth and philosophy which I had not before explored; Ray Edney, who never once uttered a cliche; Sherrill Grace, who f irst introduced me to Kroetsch's work and who offered helpful suggestions along the way; Mava Jo Powell, who taught me about metaphor; Kerry Sloan and Erin Soros, who tirelessly listened to crisis after crisis and read draft after draft; and Diane Travnik, who devoted so much time to solving my multitudinous computer problems...a wonderful support network of generous, caring individuals; To the students whose willingness to explore "Stone Hammer Poem" and Badlands with me helped me to question my questions; To the members of my thesis committee, Richard Cavell and William New, who had the courage to support this project when even I wasn't certain of i t , and who provided such helpful suggestions; To Laurie Ricou, my sometime-supervisor, sometime-counsellor, and always mentor and friend, without whose constant support this project might never have reached inception, let alone completion ( I think I know where I'm going Laurie, but I will be forever grateful for your contribution to lighting the path); And, of course, to Robert Kroetsch, for generously allowing me carte blanche in quoting from and reproducing excerpts from his papers, and whose kindness and wit—to say nothing of his literary genius--turned a daunting scholarly enterprise into a whole lot of fun. One very special acknowledgement remains: to my parents, Marlene and Raymond Fero, who gave me the strength and conviction to pursue my goals, who taught me the true value of education, and to whom this thesis is dedicated. X The alphabet intrigues me, the sense of the absolute rigour that we have to learn ABCDEF. It's not like numbering—it's a complete arbitrariness. Robert Kroetsch to Shirley Neuman and Robert Wilson . . . A pressure towards madness. And against i t : photographs, collages, analyses, protests of accuracy and source, afterwords. Robert Kroetsch, "For Play and Entrance" Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; person attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn. 1 ARCHAEOLOGY The poet as (inspired? shamanistic? mad?) archaeologist. * * * The metaphor of archaeology provides a theoretical framework or ideological method which informs Kroetsch's work. It is not, however, as complex or scholarly or esoteric as such jargon would imply. Indeed, when teaching Kroetsch's "Stone Hammer Poem" to first-year students, I begin simply by asking them to brainstorm on the word "archaeologist" (sometimes I tell them they are constructing a semantic field; sometimes I leave even that bit of jargon out). As a group, we usually end up covering the blackboard with a scattering of phrases that looks something like this: pre-historic skeletons digging artefacts research bones fossils ancient civilisations mummies dinosaurs site art objects museums reconstructions 2 heat fragments tribes models tools functions icons Egypt/Greece/Rome/Peru sifting dust discoveries ruins cl ues picks and shovels tombs and burial grounds hieroglyphics speculations layers caves rubble decipher excavate interpret unearth evidence temples pyramids shards borings surveys primitive tablets Once we get to this point in class discussion, I tell students that they have figured out the poem. They usually do not believe me (actually, they usually laugh at me) and it generally takes a couple of hours of lecturing and further discussion and connection-making to convince them, but I firmly believe that anyone who has some grasp of what an archaeologist does for a living possesses the tools necessary to comprehend the strategies of the writing (and reading) of Robert Kroetsch. Grab a shovel and we'll dig in. I'm going to write a novel with a fossil-hunter somewhere at the center. Most (Many) of the dinosaur bones in the American Museum of Natural History come out of the Red Deer River Badlands. The men who went out there were wonderfully mad, gambling their lives to haul bones out of the wilderness. 3 The site into which I intend to delve in this thesis is the work of Robert Kroetsch—all that he has written and much of what he has spoken-beginning here with his continuing poem, Field Notes, appropriately named after the "field notes kept by the archaeologist, by the finding man, the finding man who is essentially lost" (P&E, 103). This concept of lost-ness is extremely important to any discussion of Kroetsch's archaeology metaphor for it implies the absence of hypothesis or goal or pre-conceived end-point. The archaeologist gambles that the patch of land on which she has staked her claim will yield something—she knows not what. The archaeology metaphor subjugates what is sought to the process of seeking and the possibility of finding; it demands the abjuration of theses and plans and teleology in favour of "a perpetual delay as we recognise the primacy of the forthcoming and as yet unmade discovery" (P&E, 93). Kroetsch's t i t le , Field Notes, speaks to another of the important aspects of archaeology as methodology. Field notes are "the unrealised raw material of art, not the achieved object (FOW, 120). Miming the shards and pieces of fossils and pottery whose discovery they record, field notes are fragmentary, disjointed, only sketches of, glimpses at, the potential picture which may exist or once existed. No matter how fully Kroetsch may describe his "find" in his notes, there will always be pieces missing, pieces which can only be fi l led in by the reader, who is also archaelogist in this process, who must 4 God help us we are a people raised not on love letters or lyric poems or even cries of rebellion or ecstasy, but rather on old hoards of field notes. Those cryptic nota-tions made by men who held the words themselves in contempt but who needed them nevertheless in order to carry home, or back if not home, the only memories they could ever cherish: the recollections of their male courage and their male solitude. reopen the site and speculate on/participate in the finding. George Bowering's "Stone Hammer Narrative," is perhaps the most eloquent example of reader participation and archaeological method in the canon of Kroetsch criticism. Bowering begins simply by stating that "this will be a narrative of my reading of the "Stone Hammer Poem" (131); he offers no thesis, applies no theory, enforces no rigid criterion. He just digs into the poem, section by section, and carefully, beautifully, records what he finds. Bowering's narrative is field-noting of the first order, exploring every possibility, leaving no "stone" unturned. "Stone Hammer Poem," a small tour de force which serves as the prologue to Field Notes, can be read as a map or field guide to the archaeological metaphor Kroetsch extends to his reader, a testament to the process of dis-covering. The poem's numbered sections recall the labelling and recording into inventory of the archaeologist's fragments—importantly, in the purely arbitrary order of finding, not the enforced order of chronology or history. In section one, the reader encounters the initial physical presence of the stone hammer: 5 This stone become a hammer of stone, this maul is the colour of bone (no, bone is the colour of this stone maul). The rawhide loops are gone, the hand is gone, the buffalo's skull is gone; the stone is shaped 1 ike the skull of a child (FN, 1) The archaeologist identifies his find: it is a stone/hammer, a hammer made of stone, a stone "cut to a function" (2). He notes its shape and colour, correcting himself when realising the magnitude of his discovery (the stone, the minerals of which it is composed, clearly prefigures the human hands which shaped i t ) . The archaeological sketch then follows: the speculation on missing fragments, purpose, significance, perhaps also the possibility that further 6 digging will yield some trace of the "rawhide loops," if not the missing Indian hand or the skull of the extinct buffalo on which the Indian thrived. This field-noting continues in section three, where the archaeologist theorises on the means by which the stone/hammer came to the site where it was found: Grey, two-headed, the pemmican maul fell from a travois or a boy playing lost it in the prairie wool or a squaw left it in the brain of a buffalo or it is a mil 1 ion years older than the hand that chipped stone or raised slough water (or blood) or (2) This segment of course strays beyond the purely scientific and precise records that field notes pretend to be. I think it useful to read them as the interior monologue of the archaeologist, excited beyond all belief at his discovery, wildly scanning his mind for all of its possible ramifications. Indeed, the 7 extended spacings ("a boy playing lost. . ."; "a squaw left. . .") would seem to indicate the breaks in thought, the silences as he collects himself, groping for ideas. As well, the whole section has a certain breathless quality, conveying a sense of delight and immediacy. Dawe stepped off the grass. He went onto his knees. He straddled the hard, slippery ridge; with the ridge of clay between his legs he put his hands forward, lifted his body, thrust forward and down, moved his hands again. He proceeded out, downward, three feet, four feet, the naked, unscalable walls of the ridge falling off on either side. . . . Slowly, carefully, Dawe worked his way down, his legs swinging free, his body thrusting; then his knees catching again at the slick clay, his hands moving forward, the raindrops pelting and sliding away . . . . He turned and shouted up to Tune: "It's a bone." From a more overtly ideological perspective, the archaeologist, the lost finder of fragments, understands that all of the possible ramifications will never be found, that the fragment disallows such totality of vision, that the very notion of the possible precludes such finality and closure, as indicated by the "or" which ends, or, perhaps, refuses to end five of the lines. The site/poem is open and is intended to remain that way. The archaeologist recognises that some answers will never be found—that perhaps the only course available when trying to discern "?WHAT HAPPENED" (4) is to question the question. The poet thus invites the reader to draw her own sketch, offer her own speculations, make her own discoveries. The sense of fragmentation in the text not only encourages this kind of reading, but quite literally demands it. 8 Kroetsch has said that perhaps "the only way we can proceed from an archaeological site is into language" (LV, 167); thus his recognition of the multiplicities implied by archaeological method is actualised in his use of language: the fragmentation of field notes, the refusal of transition and the subversion of continuity, the open-ended lines and brackets, and the ever-present word-play which prevents even the closure of meaning involved in etymology and definition. An example is found in section five of "Stone Hammer Poem," where we are told that the stone is as old as the last Ice Age, the retreating ice/the recreating ice, the retreating buffalo, the retreating Indians (3) The ice retreats and recreates as do the Indians and the buffalo: each goes back over the territory it once covered, changing i t , making it over, and perhaps even playing as it does so. And all of these possibilities are equal and/or simultaneous, as implied by the virgule which insists on the open interpretation. The decision-making role has been handed on to the reader, who must read "bloody hard" (LV, 9) to find "the grammar of the fragments" (EP, 60). Kroetsch's commitment to the archaeological metaphor seems to me to involve more than just method or ideology. Kroetsch seems to see in the 9 archaeologist a kindred spirit , a similar kind of risk-taker. A parallel can be drawn between confronting an isolated patch of land, shovel in hand, and staring at a glaringly white, blank page: the archaeologist has only a gut instinct that there may be a something worthwhile buried metres beneath the soil; the poet has only an idea that maybe what he is thinking will have the makings of a verse or stanza. Each, i f he is going to last at his chosen career, must have a love of the process of the work involved, because there is no guarantee of product. And, each must rely on some instinct or inner voice that cannot be encapsulated in mere words. This stone become a hammer (1) The opening of "Stone Hammer Poem" can be read in a number of ways. The line can be regarded as invoking the absence that is part of archaeology, the searching for what is not yet found, as signified by the "missing" modal: i.e. has become? will become? perhaps even can become? Conversely, the line can be read as an imperative (Stone BECOME a Hammer!), revealing the desperation of the archaeologist, scrutinising every rock he finds, hoping that it will be more than just a rock, hoping that it will have the marks of an artefact, a genuine discovery. So too does the poet react to each carefully orchestrated line break, each chosen subject; thus the opening lines can be read as an invocation to the (archaeologist) muse. 10 And, here, the poet and archaeologist merge: the real and imagined presence of the stone/hammer is muse to them both, inspiration for the work, a glimmer of hope to ease the struggle and daily grind, a raison d'etre: Sometimes I write my poems for that stone hammer. (7) He let himself cry out: "They'll find us here, Anna, you, me, all of us, bleached bones, bones bleaching in the blaze of the sun; they'll find us and wonder what happened, what we looked like, what brought us to this end." 11 OGRAPHY A biographer is a person afflicted with sanity. *** I here l i r a * ao- U f a al tera* Una- b*t»»»n raxloua p t n i ox th* f roat ler at ai ldera*** and T*rloa* eaiTeram**. I n i barn i n 1MT i s H*l* ler , Albert*, ah*r* mj father aad s r u t f i t f c v b O B M t M a t a i t l t l M T l s f the ttmi.lt eater a l i i l o Srooe C o u t r , ftitarlo. I attended th* UulT*r*lty o f l l b c r t « i up 00 « T * . a a * t l j i ( 1 f l a e north to th* 6UT« Hirer to eork aa • eabcaxar as fee fort seJth per tae*. for th* f o l l o a l B f tao **atcn* I ca l led as th* Haokeasle ElT*r r l T c r b o a t * . renala*- froa /ar t Smith ksxtfca do* a t a th* Arct le aeaat. than I aant a**t t a t a k * • eoar** Is th* - v «» M o S i l l O n l r « a l t r aadar Bufk Ih*7 , . . . . . . . . . . . , — . ^ . . . f c . eat a m n*» •paper Tor the 9 .8 . A i r for**, X entered MledlebarT I . C e l l a g * , Teraoat. X reoelroft mj M.A. to 1*66, and a * m a d \ J « ( l rX froa l o r t h Carol ina . 1 that e*a* rear X took a taaehlac aealetaatehlp at the OnlTar«ltj of Ioaa. th* tlaj* I reeelTod nj thS I hat . / * b a r a to a r i t a poatr j , tha p e a * epptarlaa; l a *ri — Jt*JU> and Cajiaj^a£_PjgQB> l a th* aneatx of I N t X a a a * • ( • I s l * f t eoednle and returned to th* Heekenalo BlT«r-»to begls aerk OD a a o r a l . X oo*pl«t*e th* aoral ta KCBaT I2U), an i le l l r l o g l a tnglaad OB a fel loeehlp aaardet ejr tha state Bnlrerel ty of lea Tork. freeantl* X aa aa Aaalataat Profeaaor o f Inal lah at larpar Col la te , Ua«-haatea, tha pr laa lpal U b e t a l arte eeatar l a the tttate O n i r e r i l t j ef lea l a r k . X aa at aork oa another a o r a l . / / i ^ - e« •*> v<» 12 GRADUATE COLLEGE S T A T E U N I V E R S I T Y O F I O W A PLAN OF STUDY FOR THE PH.D. DEGREE Name of Student fiflfcpflj . IWl . ^SftWOfc Major Department . ....HBCWA Minor (if my) Approximate date degree is expected .. .FMnflQTa. 2$£L Title of Ph.D. thesis (if determined): ...Th* B&pOtMMSd* A VOHtL . . . 1 If you have a Master's degree, give name of school and date 060**07 CoU#fl»* Master's thesis topic (if none, so state) SDOft C R A D U A T E COURSES A L R E A D Y C O M P L E T E D Please duck ( V) title of counes transferred u advanced tundiag from other isftitutiaaa. 1. In Major Field 2. In Minor Field Ii SUI list Dept and Course No. TiUe Sen. Hi*. Grade If SUI list Dept. and CcmM No. Title Sen. Hit. Grade | 1 6 t U 6 diitbetlNB Qn»* 3 A t A B i z a t A Uodsfrr. IrUh ?m* 9 am t A t iUr t i - , Cri t toim b i : 51380 1 A 6 3 A s A 1 A 8 A | A ferae & f t 1 A m 1 M erf BenaBkioiM I i ShskMpocrt t S i l l * t A t A s o n • 3 A t 8 A Yoa Art of Fiction S A 8i391 90ia3 aer i 3 A SttQL Old feclish 3 A 8.300. 3 A I f 8 9 9 Steady of Un#»J i A 3 A Fletion Ttortehop 6 A u 3 A ffcowlf 3 .A • 8tt% t A J|ffl3 IPcJdl* &ngllJh J 6 t l l 6 3 i!12 ShakoepMr»i t A 33ilU 4>th and IfuMun 3 8tl0t» A 8t3U 3 8 t l 0 3 3 A 8.301 WMSO*' s Total credits completed in Major Total credits completed in Minor 13 jl*B&iS!"P*» " mm~£? *** ' l»»*urA *reedom v response to -ay. and any kind ..w on that kind of think, to dream—I was a , dreamy kid. They used to tease me about i t . I was always daydreaming, because I realise now I was very much a story maker. I had made up a l i t t ' -cosmos of my own that I lived *-had elaborate narratives *-inhabitants #•*•* mm* I ... I only learned by the act of reading that II I had long been w r i t i n g the autobiography of D my r e f u s a l to be g r a t e f u l to a generous world. Castle Hayne, X . Z. HOT. 5th. 1S6S. Sear Sen: tour book arrived Wednesday, Ban; thanks for sending us one, an congratulations. Hope I t Is a KUL SUCCESS. J l sh I could have beard y Mien ysu spoke over radio, know you were Sft£*I, only hope »• can see you when you appear oo I . V . *e so TEKX PROUD of you. Tours Is the f i r s t V0V2L which I have takes t lae to read In ove twenty years, but read I t I d id , and think you have lo t s of talent as wr i t e r . Tour description of the boats and r ive r was magnificent, and believe you wrote Just l i k e those r ive r men spoke, thei r laungage etc; and this Is what the publ ic (soae of thei) seea to desire In thei r read I n ; these days. But I dsn ' t think ay pastor, nor our deacons would appreciate reading such language, sow, de you? VO C77DTCS. Would l i k e to see the day when yon w i l l wri t* another novel , with a different background, V£ rRCTiSTTT, a person, or people I l k * Peter ekrahal l , or BILLY SRaHtf, and I know I would throughly enjoy reading I t , and so would lo t s of other people. Tou CAJf wr i te , you bave proven y o u r s e l f w i t h your f i r s t book. I f you would write such a book, would be so TEXT PR CCD of you, and would X show l t t l I ' l l s«yl So why not try one of this type Is th* future* Tour wr i t ing i n th is book resisds aw of something Ernest H*a-alagway wrote, VO, can't say that I ever resd one of b is through, as I did yours. Did see the aovl* version of •En* SHCH CP Kll lananjors*, know that i s n ' t the correct way to s p e l l the las t word, but I know that you know th* one I Bean. .Hemingway wrote the way be bad l i v e d , and In cy opinion such a wasted l i f e . I f Heaalagway would have aarr led ay daughter, s ight have read on* through, a** i f you can't writ* a novel which J know ay pastor could, and would «aJoy, also •pprec la t*T??m Oon't work too hard, take ear* of your heal th, for there I sn ' t any aonay wnlch can buy your health back for you, whtn you loos* ** TTOUSJOBG » U I TCCS VBXJ SCCC V M BE 11X17Tt l l U say by* for now, as I wish to wri t* your wife . Take r ea l good car* of kary Jan*, and Laur l* for a*. Kiss then both for a*. bow l a u r l * Is getting as cut* as an angel. Oh, she would t a very good subject to write about. T i t l e s such as, *ry Baby*, Our LIT • i o j e l * •Cur L i t t l e Darling*, • something wonderful In Vv L i f e * , or Just 'Laura*, Ob there are so many t i t l e s you could use when ycu wrote about her . a l l ay love . Bother. 14 POKxZOI ^ k l T i w l t l a l a laattaa l a to* K a a a U a * * r U a i af «a* r m a a i l i ttTtdea. Tat BPMatlai HFMB*? tor " ' mt —11—1 l j bavvr l sg a* affaaUf* a a a a U i . —at af tat rtinnin j — * t «f tar f«r«» ; > af a alga. rVata af aarat* jat a U aUiaary I ) , at k h v U M aaa • t a d a l r u r , tat tolfaral*/ af aar fUat i aa ta> a a » , tadf*** far ta* •aajalnC faata, i n far taa vara •ar te , aaa a a l v u l a * Uakaa « t t » to* a w - ' l t m a , toifarri*/ af I to aare l l j l a r i a w a l to •ar lsa* *7»*» af < , (utn, our ia, turn, jm<m< a*Uu«. •**•>• » . •> aaa toUtan • • l i */7*» af torts ( S B , M , aaatot* i *•*)# i . to aacat aarl e»*U*t** tad arraafM far aayan* af fata far OU> a l l a m at t tadlai taa 1G1F A i r aarakal later* teakls ta rsa l , aa l —<-»-«— llaaaa a l to ta* I W aaaaal a f f U l a U . f . to a n r l A M arVarlal t far **aaatloa afflaa* at taa ISaV attoa • and!** i a a l r spat ia l a i i iMaai aaaa n a a i r W f, to a a a i m a f M a « a taa r t io i aat toeMaaat ataosUoa lapafto. 9 . to faaeUca* u aaslstaa* to ta* r* i n—1 Sa r r l aM Offtaar a* aay to r a q i i n d W aroaet* aaa imaUatsa tk« to»«ial Sarrl*** i ( t a i l laralT** a t rc rUalac , aiaaalslea, —»["». am AM> tmst ar \ox •o c 3 O • • «M ** • B •H O c • £ c • « r K > • >, B TJ k o fx 3 . C C >, — 3 TJ - • O C • >, a n • O T J O • C £ « +• n >* •»* > .« c 3 a O A *> e B • « — c o.x • • O •« 3 +> C — i p •« a >s 3 B 0"*J a n « J e •* « * • 5 E *» 3 ri M o-CF I thought everybody was always writing. I had no idea that IT" thi s was somehow a perverse a c t i v i t y I was engaged in. IP ehttf alara rardnaaa*) i c r U - tor, 1»S0 M W I ' feme* Jj«j - .«* , Iff. warahoiA—an Stpti . ltf l * III BUBS uvuli «Bd of B T l t r t l e n t w o B Bm«re> ffr (tt WMUrneomaad. C r u d l w ' l ^ , * w ^ 4 f h t | •at of t o n l H a r a r t U l a r »nd of aarltatlaB a*a»oa O W U T U Tl (0*. MM. «W M r f M a M f . M?- .WTMWI Crgrloj-iloCrmOim. tort ChurchUl. Uanltaba go bock to galTnaltr  BStf, 6OQM U r B a n . Ubrader 04tf, OoeM t i r B u i , Ubrader - hind ta aaatroal, Ho* M w a n a n JH m u •dueitton 41 rhetor c o n f l d t « t U l t>0» >VT OB aai iaaj.ru! ftafyt jfaaurV •••tarda*, ahila • taring with a friend la Winnipeg, talking with her •bout thl* oeeaeion, I gried to rdeall ahen f irs t I began to write. Initeed of reaaaberlng • etorr or aauat • poea, or even »ord», Z eould think only of a wo ode B box I buil t then I was a young bay oa • fara l a central Albert*. I built the box to contain ay flr»t book*, ordered froa the l a ton* • aXcgx catalogue, "a bad no bookshelves la the heuie. The box was * aquare and heavy and lea and t l l d under ay bed i s tha eaat reoa (and la true prairie fadlrlon aa identified rooas la the houee by direction). After a anile I began to add letter* end ealentiaea and failed atteapta at diary-keeplBg to the eatrtente of the box. I hare ao idea noa ahat aaa on theae aha eta of paper-.and I aanta* regret I don't have tha a to se l l to Drl Olailer. What I caaat able to recall i t tha box Itself. It aaa that box, in a curious way, that turned as into a ar i ter . It aas tangible evidence of thought. It contained apace. It eould be locked or opened. It caused ae—if you ' l l forgive the extravagance..to £ taa>*k« . deal with experience concretely. It taught a* ao Bathing about both selection and laaglnatlon. It ordered the world. II n II II it n u II it II i\d I a up 1 ^ * Y s % o w « i n », -» "tS.'SlfeS ISe i women would aeVT ,r about family r u dn*«.Tnd t h.y wouId M b ^ a 1» B i oomt—lM • ••• .• ui-..r,:V.« ' -t . e * t i ^ ,-.re» 2 , Ba arga&ist t o f f -4at7 art**/ P « w p txtbook*, tad t d r t r t U M f o r rttalMrU). J . Ba •d***T * i «t« tad *4xda±*T»*ra t a t i t a t b t ^ ^ b o d g t i i f a r t a » r t * j » A ^ J a » d PERSONAL HISTORY STATEMENT 17 R e a d t h * eert if teate * t t h * e n d o f t h i s q u e s t i o n n a i r e before B U i n i i a y o u r U I K T I . P r i n t o r typ* all e a * » e r * . AU ou t t t a t e r aen t a m o r t be c o m p l e t e d . I f p r o p e r a n s w e r ia " N o " o r " N o n e . " *s> stats. D e t a i l i a r e q u e s t e d for y o u r p r o t e c t u s u b s e q u e n t m v e t t i f a t i o e j w h i c h may b e c o n d u c t e d , d e r o g a t o r y i n f o r m a t i o n o n pe r sona o f u r n * o r s i m i l a r n a m e s m a y • a n d b a c k g r o u n d i n f o r m a t i o n is n e e d e d f o r c l e a r i d e n t i f i c a t i o n . Pill o u t , s i g n , a n d e x e c u t e i n d u p U c a t e a n d r e t u r n b o t i r e q u e s t i n g a g e n c y - I f m o r e apace i a r e q u i r e d , uae apace " R c m a r k a " or a t t a c h s e p a r a t e shee t . 11 Sept 52 I. LAST NAMC-f IRJT NAHf-MIBOU N A M KROETSCH. Robert Paul r U C I Oooaa 111 Base, Labrador l mCKMaaS. ALIASES. OR CHAM6D OF NAME Bob  ( M A ? ' • l l t f . W - * * J | 4 . a.JI BAT oalldbreajl b a l a t t l M Ua) | T . B . J ] a a d l t t i t e l s j l . . . during harvest, when the bunkshack out in the yard was f u l l . I liked to sneak out at night and l isten to stories of travel , of adventure, of hard times, of home; they were story-makers, those dispossessed men of the th ir t i e s , myth-makers. I began to recognise the archaeological site of my own short l i f e . . . . I became, profoundly, a 1 istener. ' i Am oa survict II PSA? II ~ ~ ~ ~ i scniAi. NUManiS) c i v i l i a n AMI) 0* nrXSCNT C M P I O Y I N G ACMCV | | 10. FftBOfT ROIOCNCf ASOROS (.31,—) aaal HUM II Goost A i r Bast !! Labrador <*•,. oily, M l i lt . COLO* OF t T D | | brown IL COLO* OF HAM brown It. COMFU f a i r Its. NO* OSTAJNCDt • HATURALfZATTO* Iks B KRTM • T H R O U G H FAjrorrr MATUR« IO cooer or juRSOtcnoa II . OATI NATURAUa 9 , Ht ftBotleu aa aaalaiaari i t th* i ty U FttrsiT«d %» prtawtt tad * * * l l Q i M [this larolTM t d w l l a i a c , orgaalala«j fn tocpt AMP mat or m deeljlosai r Baity «00aasaT*dartleBJ rcsadt, tad t va*rt« of t ia t , aaaktaaT tduMtl^atl adriaa tad a H i l t n O. DAT! OF BIRTH U. R A C f O F MRTH (Crty. eawatr. Slant anrf oavntrj) H a i a l a r , A l b e r t * , Canada Many th lnge . But I suspoot that f i n a l l y I speak aa ' M n a > K o a " one who fol lows the generat ion that know tha T h l r t l e a aaaonton. A l b e r t * • t i n t o f high 1 dao 11 am and b i t tar f ac ta . I auspoot Z a a a tha t t i n t lna d i f f e ren t and I hop* new l i g h t . Whan I waa t l x or e r r an, during the Depression, t Ce//.g.*> nan threatened my father for not accept ing the S o o l a l Cred i t t h e o r i s t being advanced by the f o i l owe. a of Major Douglae i n A l b e r t a . - - - - - * • Douglae i n A l b e r t a . Somehow, or en than, the Meea i an lo>± i c .H ie l 1933-19LL. nature o f p r a i r i e p o l i t i c s cade an l.pression on me— >h s c W loLfTlofif the peou l l a r oomblnatlon of fundanen ta l l t t lo r e l i g i o n fi 3 C ^ ° ° - ,°ri}°?< GRADUATE COLLECE t a d r a d i c a l poUtla t.1 theory. I r<sn«ciber an aunt who S T A T E U N I V E R S I T Y O F rtiDcot e^ tXAafc i da te degree ia e i p e c t o d 3. t he i i a ( i f d e t e r m i n e d ) : j O o a & * *° o a r house, desperate beoauua she had to eead a . l e x a i l y . l e t t e r bat d i d not hare the aoney to buy a otanp. v a H g - r b -P L A N O F S T U D Y F O B T H E P H . D . D E C R E E . . . . " ^ " ^ f-omolns wi th t o l a an i n t e r eat l a the ooalo nor s i OATtJ Of arTENOAMCt 19U5-19U8 JLSl n . . . M i n o r ( i f a n y ) »»a * from the tfreot O J D I O i o g l l e h n o r e l l s t e of the l B t b oentury to iJlokene to the eontaaporary e a t l r l u t t . I raaeabered people l su^h lng dar ing i'he Depreealon. i Master ' s degree, g ive a u s e of school a n d date sis t o p i c ( i f none, so state) a a W J Combine with t h l a the ooay u n l r e r s l t y world l a ah l ob I matured; the utuienta car? of the prosper i ty that preased - - i n on ua froa a l l a ides ; the man of fhe T h l r t l e a beoome C t U secure and offerln«{ ua new br lbea , new oomproolaee. IN WteCM TOU MAVI HE ! Who night want to read t h i s book? G R A D U A T E C O U R S E S A L R E A D Y C O M P L E T E D , Phase check ( V ) dtla of coosai naa f snd as idviacad itaadlaf f m other UatL=Is*7 9 0 d y . alor F i e l d Title Saaa. H n . C n d * | A tar*/ tad ecarwa t A | 8 Uttfawy crlUastaa k XI i » « A t A | A t '^ShSi'^arT 1 t 1 Tht Art of Flt i lon t A ouratuab t A Stody of laa^eaait 3 A p^ttlea ntiatiwj « i raaaalf i n d A a h d i a I i 11is l t s .asr j i f • A ^^SS f a a j 3 A 2. In M i n o r F i e l d 1 / S U l L t Dept aad C a a a * No. T a b Sam. H a . O a d * StaftS m t r t r t a a i Qraaa 1 A tan 'HaaaSaa t^at t A •l |00 «S»^a*»eSaa 1 A 8 l*0 II t A II II II Just l i k e those r i v e r men spoke, t h e i r laungage ' the p u b l i c (some of them) seem to desire l a t h e i r ; But I don't think my pastor, nor our deacons ito\ \ S such language, now, do you? ICO OFFENCEe a to see the day when you w i l l write another no^ background, SO PROFANITY", a person, or people 1: r BILLY GRaHriM, and I know I would throughly en, so would l o t s of other people. You CAN write, j e l f with your f i r s t book. I f you would write i aaVi " " i T t h t a t$H 1*11 I lived four-and-a-half miles from school and I went by horse to school a l l my l i f e ; I never had a bus. Every day of my school l i f e I spent 45 minutes going to school in that landscape and 45 minutes coming back. StUA gBBi& a W * M > II Ernest llthrough, £ ||LlananJor: II but I kr "he had l i l l i l d have |Jf you can' | JJsaJoy, als ork too hard, take care of your health, for thez hich can buy your health back for you, when you l o DERING 73HAT YOUR NEXT BCCK WILL BE LIKE??? y bye f o r now, as I -.fish to write your * i f s . ' ttary Jane, and Laurie f o r me* Kiss them both fc 18 CANONICITY Since I define a writer as one who writes, I'm a l i t t l e wary of becoming too involved in the social image of myself. * * * The etymology of the word canon (as in the l i t erary one of which I will speak here) and cannon (as in the mil i tary weapons of which everyone has been speaking since the invasion of Kuwait this past August 2) shows that the two words stem from the same root. Robert Scholes, in his a r t i c l e , "Aiming a Canon at the Curriculum," has quite succinctly made the connections between these two can(n)ons and has traced their provenance from the ancient Greek word used to refer to certain types of reeds, and, eventually, to the various metaphoric and metonymic extensions of the word for reed, such as rule , standard, model, severe c r i t i c , metrical scheme, astrological table, l imi t , boundary, and assessment for taxation (101). Scholes goes on to say that 19 both modern words—cannon with two n's and canon with one—can be traced back to the properties of the reed: its tubular inner structure, its flat outer edges, its regular jointed stem, and its consequent straightness and rigidity. (102) The etymological connection leads me (laughingly) to conjure images of a "United Academics Coalition Security Force"; but then, perhaps as a student of (Post?)Modern Canadian Literature, I should not be laughing. As I have been forcibly reminded by Medievalists, Miltonists, Victorianists and the like, throughout my university career, in the larger frame of the Canon—here with one n and a bold, capital C—University English Departments s t i l l tend to regard English Literature and not Literature written in English (the fast emerging, more politically correct, but far from culturally entrenched term), as their domain. In this context, of course, it is nothing short of absurd for me to be contemplating a chapter on Robert Kroetsch's canonicity in Canadian Letters because Canadian Letters, by default, by exclusion, constitute non-canonical studies. This exclusion, however, is not a state of affairs which has ever troubled me; my perceptions of the canon-builders handing down the judgements as to who I should read were hardly positive. I have no idea just who these all-powerful decision-makers may be—nor, it seems to me, does anyone else. Academics, when pressed, generally point to publishers, editors of "learned" journals, and book reviewers as at least the arbiters, if not the creators of the canon, but none of them is capable of naming a name or offering a concrete example. At any rate, "they," whoever these amorphous architects of canonicity may be, have always struck me as so conservative, authoritarian, dis(en)abling and downright presumptuous that I was glad to be studying non-canonical works. 20 I took great pride in abjuring the power structures and reality-constructions to which the canon is a contributor. I enjoyed positing my own critical position as outside of academic, e l i t i s t , confining systems—or, at least, I would tell myself, as existing on the margins of those systems, in constant tension with the centrifugal forces of prerequisites, course requirements and comprehensive exams trying to suck me in to their (absence of) heart. I am much less sanctimonious today, however, having to my great shock and wonder discovered that Canadianist scholars, perhaps rebelling against their afore-mentioned colleagues, have entrenched a (sub-? quasi-? alternate?) canon of their own. In i t , the subversive, anti-authoritarian, canon-busting literature of Robert Kroetsch is as canonical as it gets. I face the paradoxical and acutely uncomfortable reality that with this thesis, I have become one of "them." * Kroetsch's canonicity is itself without question: his works appear on syllabi in universities across the country. Not merely required reading in Introduction to Canadian Literature courses, Kroetsch's works are also taught in courses on regionalism in writing, the development of the long poem, modern fiction studies, metafiction studies, and postmodernism. In addition, a Kroetsch novel or poem is often included in first-year survey courses of all description, the sheer numbers of which provide a significant boost in book sales, and, graduate seminars on his works alone have been offered at many Canadian institutions. He has won a Governor General's medal, a Fulbright and a Killam Fellowship among other prestigious grants; he appears not just in 21 dictionaries of literary biography, but in Who's Who in Canada; he is granted only slightly less space in The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature than are Northrop Frye and Frederick Philip Grove and equal space to writers nationally dubbed "world class" such as Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence and Hugh MacLennan. The terms of that canonicity, however, are perhaps subject to greater debate. The types of courses in which Kroetsch's works are taught is an indication of this dilemma: regionalist as opposed to postmodernist, or what A. R. Kizuk has neatly dubbed Kroetsch's "bar talk" and "club talk" (MNS, 58). Kizuk refers to the split in Kroetsch readership and criticism between those who are attracted to Kroetsch's work for its authentic portrayal of the Canadian Prairie landscape and people (the "bar talk" contingent) and those whose motivation for studying Kroetsch centres on his allusions, aesthetics, and for lack of a better term, his "theoretical" tendencies (the [faculty] "club talk" contingent). Even a glance at a l i s t of titles of dissertations and articles on Kroetsch's work reveals a split between categories which Kizuk refers to as "regionalist" and "literary" (64) criticism. As he acknowledges, these categories are, as imperfect abstractions, unfairly reductive (ibid.); to draw so sharp a line between "readers" (people "one normally comes across in a typical prairie bar" [58], who look to Kroetsch as representing them, who are drawn to his realism) and "critics" (academics who write about Kroetsch's subversion of genre, manipulation of narrative, recontextualising of myth) is to ignore the many academics who choose to write on Kroetsch's careful research into Prairie culture and history, his efforts to augment his personal experience; on the importance of landscape and climate to recurring images and themes; on the richness and complexity of his handling of characterisation, 22 voice and tall tale. More importantly, the rigidity of the argument from the winged-back chairs portrays the prairie reader as not only non-academic, but as culturally i l l i terate, able neither to recognise nor to apprehend the full measure of Kroetsch's texts—an el i t ist and stereotypical assessment which should be negated by the very fact that the literature in question is written by a one-time prairie farm boy. Kizuk's argument beautifully bridges the gap between "schools of thought" on Kroetsch in a way that the schools themselves have yet to master. It is only, ironically, with Kizuk's conclusion that I must differ. He writes that club talk confirms [Kroetsch's] membership in a milieu, and ratifies his use of style. In the long run, however, his bar talk has the winning ticket. The opposition between these two modes of communication is not an equal contest, since in the club Kroetsch is merely one among many, and must accept the marginality of his authorship, while in the bar he is elected to a position of power. (68) I must question the lottery in which Kizuk argues Kroetsch is playing. Certainly, his story-telling abilities and his "home town boy makes good" status back in Heisler are likely to get him a free beer in the local pub now and then; however, Kizuk is forgetting that it is the "club talk" crit ics , editors, and reviewers who, in ratifying Kroetsch, made him good. He is also forgetting that Kroetsch is also a member of the club; he is a Professor of English himself, and his success ensures that whatever "ratification" is going on is a mutual one; far from being "marginal" in the faculty club, Kroetsch's protean abilities lead him closer to election as "Grand Poohbah," or whatever 23 club presidents are called these days. Indeed, I'd be willing to bet that a few "scholars" would be lining up to pay for his draught and bend an ear in campus pubs too. Thus if positing a division or a hierarchical distinction in Kroetsch criticism is debatable, in a discussion of Kroetsch's canorncfcy it is necessary. The "regionalist" aspects of his work, as important/well -received/authentic/beautiful as they are, are not the factors which placed Kroetsch's work firmly in the canon. Kroetsch's induction was virtually simultaneous with the proclamation of the "postmodern era" and the (silent but powerful) shift in academe by which ignorance of post-structuralist theory became tantamount to being (theoretically) i l l i terate. With that shift, and its accompanying shift in aesthetic tastes and acceptable l iterary/critical forms, "Robert Kroetsch: Canadian Writer" became "Robert Kroetsch: Lion of Canadian Letters." * M. E. Turner, in his essay, "Canadian Literature and Robert Kroetsch: A Case of Canonization," argues that the Kroetsch phenomenon, i .e. the multiplicity and variety of Kroetsch's textual products, and not the texts themselves, has been the subject canonised. While not nominating Kroetsch for sainthood, Turner argues that the status now granted Kroetsch is indisputably that of "a literary icon" (68). He points to the way in which Kroetsch's speaking out against one tradition has served to entrench another—based on poststructuralism, narratology, intertextuality, and the theories of deconstruction and reader-response criticism (57), thus again drawing 24 attention to the irony of the violently anti-system, pro-chaos writer positioned at the forefront of a replacement "-ism." The celebration of the margin has become the centre of literary trends in the 1990's. Turner also postulates, in a way particularly pertinent to this discussion, that the reflexivity which Kroetsch cultivates in his own work and in his commentators makes it difficult to discuss one aspect of his work without being drawn into all the rest—that phenomenon of Kroetschian multiplicity—and that Kroetsch's critical influence is best understood not in terms of his own critical work, but in the theoretical approaches and vocabulary his works inspire, in the ways in which Kroetsch criticism shortens the distance between the study and its object (68, 61). This reflexivity, Turner argues, is part of the work of many people writing about Kroetsch, partly because Kroetsch and his reflexive critics come to writing with common presuppositions and critical/theoretical positions. It is also. . . because the people interested enough to write on Kroetsch are interested precisely because they are influenced by him; a self-perpetuating cycle occurs as they find more to explore in Kroetsch's writing as they explore their own. As critics write about Kroetsch, the text they are interrogating in turn interrogates them—the assumptions, the method, the discipline itself. Kroetsch's reputation. . . exists in part because the criticism his work invites shapes his reputation as it is itself shaped by the work it seeks to crit icise. (60) Turner's remarks, of course, speak to the reflexivity of my own form/ulations. 25 DIALOGISM I believe in a dialogic relationship with the world.. . . It's being willing to enter into the dialogue that counts. * * * Entering the dialogue with Robert Kroetsch is not an option; it is a must. Any text, "readerly" or not, allows for reader-interaction; Kroetsch's texts, however, foreground their inadequacy, their absences, their inability to mean without the input of an Other. They leave Iserian gaps, necessitating imaginative speculation, demanding response. Mile Zero [RK, poet/editor, afraid, perhaps to trust me...] :being some account of a journey through western Canada in the dead of six nights [AF, novice reader, pondering said statement...] did he really make the trip or did he (?) just make it up? writing poetry by the dashboard light? is there a song there? being some account, continuous tense, vagueness, tall tale? [RK, persona, first-person story-teller in past tense...] 1. I looked at the dust on the police car hood. I looked around the horizon. [AF, suspicious reader/politicised c r i t i c . . . ] there's a (possibly better) story not being recounted here, how come he's standing by a police car? did he get pulled over? was there an accident? did he get a ticket? did he get out of one? [RK, editor.. .] (Insert here passage on nat u r e — try: The sun was b l i g h t enough for the wild rose. A musky flavour on the milk foretold the cracked earth... try: One crow foresaw my f r i g h t , leaned out of the scalding a i r , and ate a grasshopper's warning... try: A whirlwind of g u l l s burned the black f i e l d white burned white the dark ploughman and the coming night ...) [AF, having-read-the-kroetsch-papers...] these birds do crop up all over the place, fascination with crows, always personified or mythologised [RK, back to the story/persona...] I AM A SIMPLE POET I wrote i n the dust on the police car hood. [AF, intertextualising...] ?did he curse ?did he try to go back ?what happened I have to/I want to know (not know) ?WHAT HAPPENED [RK, minus first-person, in dialogue with his/story.. Chateau (A Landing) Frontenac crisp, and the wind the winter bleat rain and the best are never mulled champlain is green madonna the river is hungry champlain, look in the window absurd as undertow or word the hurt of lovers hand in hand repay the rot the risk, the rain madonna madrona announce and enter adding (end) champlain is green has empty eyes westering is madrona, west the wooden shore to look inland 28 [AF, questioning self . . . ] forgot to notice the editing {a silent RK, using pictures instead of words}—i was supposed to "insert this" before the "SIMPLE POET" sequence {AF, intertexting, "silent poet sequence"?}, as indicated by the 1ines and arrows [AF, questioning text...] if this is a journey through western Canada in the dead of six nights, how come we are suddenly in quebec? maybe i'm just picky because i'm from the (west) coast, but [RK, questioning/remembering the "second night"...] 2. Where did the virgin come from on my second night west? [RK, interrupting, telling a different story...] Let me, prosaically, parenthetically, remark from what I observed: the lady in question took from the left (or was it right?) pocket of her coffee-stained apron a small square pad of lined sheets of paper. She bit the wood back from the led of a stub of pencil. And she wrote, [AF, materialist feminist, noter of details. . .] just how does he know she's a virgin? another (tall) tale untold, "coffee-stained apron"? apparently she's a server? maybe in some greasy spoon truck stop where he grabbed a cup of Java and [RK, editor, interjects, again silently, with markers, signs...] {AF, commenting on her own (comment)...} signs... like detour markers, maybe even dead-ends, on the crazy highway (labyrinth?) that is this poem/story/road 29 Driving, Accidental, West 1. the shaped Infinity to hammer home help, and the wild geese heading south and every way and which, confuse the fall of light the fatal peen how, and the commonest crow or sparrow speak the pale or sensing moon 2. accelerate, the swan sing, or eloquent as antelope, the crisp rejoinder of the duck's quack to the deer's leap, and, even then even, a static dream twitter and acquit the k i l l , wait, for and the nasty snow fal l , fa l l , and for tonight, only, dream [AF, bibliographer...] this poem has been published in whole or in part (mostly in parts) in 17 different revisions (4 of the whole; 13 of the parts," according to my (probably inaccurate but praise- worthy nonetheless) calculations, all of this took place over at least 15 years, possibly longer, if we are to believe rk when he says it takes him a while to muster the courage to show his work to anyone (much less, one would think, to publish i t ) , so, the question this raises (for the voice-hunter more than the bibliographer but) is just how many kroetsches are 30 we getting here? there are potentially 5375 of them if we just allow for day to day changes in a single voice over 15 years, not even allowing for multiple roles. {AF, burnt-out thesis-writer, "i was told there'd be no math..."} [AF, frustrated interviewer...] march 18, 1991, evening, talked to rk on the phone and asked at what point in the writing of mile zero he decided to add the inserts and footnotes, etc. he doesn't remember... [RK, re-remembering the coffee-stained-aproned lady.. .] without once stopping to think, the loveliest goddamned {RK as regressed adolescent male} (I had gauged her breasts when she wiped the table) poem that Christ ever read. She had a clean mind. [AF, now militant materialist feminist...] why does he have to include such hormonally-overcharged inanities? and just what does that "clean mind" crack mean? she turned him down? [RK, claiming another temporal shift, now problematised by the discovery of the 15 year incubation period...] On the third night west a mountain stopped us. [AF, consistency freak, interjecting...] hey he never mentioned a travelling companion before, who is this "us"? did he pick up the virgin waitress from the truck stop? 31 [AF, voice-hunter, interrupting her interjection...] maybe the "us" is the poet and reader, the dialogue, or the Other selves, the multiplicities The mountains were lined up to dance. I raised my baton: rooted in earth, the lightning rod on the roof of the barn, on my soul's body. A crow flew over the moon. I raised my baton, a moon, a mountain. [AF, intertexting...] didn't the cow jump over the moon? * {RK, editor; AF rebelling} The crow flew over the mountain [RK, editor cum self-justif ier. . . ] *I have removed from this stanza two lines Verily, I insist: I did not raise the purple crow (and I like the ambiguity created by the line break) partly because the "Verily" intrudes what we might call another language code, and that an unfortunate one in this case, for all the play on truth; partly because the sexual innuendo puts me, as actual poet behind the implied speaker ("I") in a bad light; that is, self-mockery is, so to speak, harder to come by, as one (the poet, the implied speaker, the I or the "I") grows older (RK). [AF, with new understanding, a new (out)look...] problematising the problematic... we've got a whole lot of language levels here: "Verily" so, indeed. 32 [AF, not understanding, being a young, innocent lass. . .] i don't see any sexual innuendo in that line, just what did he not raise and where does the crow f i t in and how come purple? [AF, older, less innocent...] oh [RK, in italics and lower case again {a printed voice?} helpless to prevent my refusal to follow his direction...] Descent, as Usual, into Hell I've told her now so long so often and sojourn sa7ut diamond star or (ouest or quest or) worry bead relinquish redolent as always as the heated rose summer and a scent {RK, meta-poet} (allot illusions as 1s necessary to) annealing praise reticulate as tongue mighty and a mouse alike a maze can he her up haul or over if and may asylum for her worship in the night announce 33 the word of way widen and weave the was or 1s of story 1s a story of [AF, student of s tyl ist ics . . . ] interesting play on/with/of prepositions [AF, bibliographer/voice-seeker/novice/critic/?] the diction becomes more opaque, the possibilities more penetrating [RK, your guess is as good as mine...] 4. * Order, gentlemen, Order [RK, editing, inserted dutifully by AF. . . ] Awake, Awakening Inhale, enact the crappy sun or face finagle far, and the body wait (the blackfoot had no names for days) the banjo, call clairvoyant, st i l l gesticulate triumphant strum and the morning 34 first, archaic be, become wrong or alone we live, in delay's body bone, altering bone after the word (after which there can be no after) cart and the whipped horse I lick your nipples with my hand [AF, fan...] beautiful weaving and interweaving of now un-cliched cliches [RK, post-insert, {pre-insert?}... exponentially voicing...] is the ultimate mountain. I raised my baton. [AF, starting to lose innocence again...] i don't think he sees himself as a wizard (at least not as in "merlin") [RK, editor/academic/theorist...] *I have removed from this stanza the single line (her breasts were paradigms) (originally in parenthesis, as indicated) because I am somewhat offended by the offhand reference to paradigm. And yet, is not the mother figure the figure at once most present in and most absent from this poet's work? The concern with nostos is related to a long family history of losses: e.g., the paternal side of the family landing in New York in June, 1841, aboard the Pauline, and the mother of the large Kroetsch family, settled in Waterloo 35 County, Ontario, a few years thereafter widowed, and the early death of the poet's mother in Alberta, a century after that first un-homing. Both quest and goal become paradigmatic (RK). [AF, unsure of posture...] i was thinking when reading "Order, gentlemen, Order" that rk has a lot of nerve to exclude me (she) from his text this way. and i was thinking, when reading "(her breast were paradigms)" and rk's offense to the off-hand reference to paradigms that maybe i should be offended by the off-hand (off-person/off-subject) reference to breasts, but then he goes and puts it all into a maternal context, and a personal one at that and my biographer self (to say nothing of my sentient being self) knows how painful the loss of a mother at such a young age must have been and so i hesitate to chastise, i also don't even know if i get the whole quest/ goal/paradigm point and so don't know if i should say much of anything from this shaky critical foundation. [RK, male/poet/persona(?)...] 5. The bindertwine of place— The mansource of the man— The natural odour of the stinkweed— The ache at the root of * the spinal thrust— [RK, (harsh/self-) c r i t i c . . . ] * Surely this is where the original version of the poem (1969) fails (Ron Smith of Oolichan Books on Vancouver Island, pointing to the reliance on dashes—the poet, come to a crucial moment in the journey, hesitating to write the longish poem the occasion dictates. The westward and return journey that fascinates Kroetsch is here turned entirely into implication without adequate substance (i.e., ground), into, at best, intertext... Only later do three couplets suggest themselves, relating to the poet's equal fascination with the visit to the land of the dead (in search of?)— (interior, the dark shore) the godfish hole 36 the b a i t b a i t , and the hung hook hang — b u t i t i s too l a t e now, too l a t e to weld such post-surreal n i c e t i e s into a voice that i n the s i x t i e s insisted on a source that was at once oral and local ( R K ) . [AF, struggling polyphonist...1 surely here is where rk most overtly problematises his own discourse... what here is text i f the passage is "at best" intertext? who is speaking to us (me) if it is this third-person other kroetsch who is fascinated by the journey? [The Anonymous Inserter...] Weather Vane muse I figure hold us, cock and a f t e r a f t e r the hot sun Clydesdale or and forecast 1f under adam's gun we l i v e or dithyramb of sor t s , allow s e l f , portraying s e l f think you think the globe round the cupola the deem or dream trajectory of ignorance (the bent pine r e s i s t i n g west) wind, swing the arrow's edge 37 [AF I the muse, the weather, the many changes of seasons of writing this, of writing— portraying whose self, what self, how— the trajectory of my ignorance is wide; the arrow, the vane (vain?) ordering me to insert and delete— order [RK, on the road again...] 6. What I took to be an eagle turned out to be a gull. We glimpsed the sea. The road ended [ ] but It did not end: the crying gulls turned on the moon. The moon was 1n the sea. Despair that had sought the moon's meaning now found the moon. (Mile Zero 1s everywhere.) The roar of the sea was the sea's roar. 1969/1981 Binghamton/Wlnnlpeg [Arrow Function... {as indicated [ ]}] Collected Poem Every year 1s the same: It's different. visions of exactitude Death 1s a live Issue. The world 1s always ending. 38 When you get to the beginning stop. Green apples make you shit like a bird, or once in a while, just over the next low hill legs are longer than arms with few exceptions why doesn't bogus rhyme with slump I want to see one square cloud. (tempus forgets) The tree 1s there every morning. Maybe you noticed that too. [ [ every voice is the same: it's different but my visions of exactitude one (?) small (?) problem (?): there is poem left over outside the arrow indicator and after the sign-off—beyond, removed from, the time-space continuum of mile zero the story of the poem become the poem of the story become 39 EDUCATOR . . . the mere onslaught of detail merely overwhelms. We grasp at something else. And that something else is the professor's domain: the world of reflection, of understanding. The insight born of leisurely and loving meditation. The word made human. * * * Defining the professor's domain in Gone Indian. Kroetsch certainly expresses the ideal of higher education, the dream that each student takes with her as she approaches the world of university. She hopes, as did I, that the blissful intellectual stimulation and growth of Educating Rita is in her future and that she will find a Michael Caine-like figure to f i l l her mind with the fine insights of a scholar. The portrait of academe and academics found in Gone Indian, however, could not be further from this (perhaps questionable) ideal: Kroetsch writes, instead, of professors who hate teaching and live on (and for) prestigious research grants and publications, dissertations that somehow never get completed, jealousy and resentment between office mates and fellow students, and a general sense of a purposeless, wasted, abysmally unhappy existence for all concerned. 40 In a 1973 letter to Patricia Knox, the New Press Promotion director handling Gone Indian. Kroetsch describes the novel as follows: . . . it is on top of everything else an academic novel; an academic novel, let it be said, of a radically new kind, dealing not with power and politics but with the relationship between professor and student, the relationship between the two of them and knowledge: sometimes in parody, sometimes in earnest, the author pursuing the ideal to its moment of test . . . . (27.1.13.40c) The relationship between Jeremy Sadness, Ph D candidate, and his would-be (if he could stick to a thesis topic) thesis supervisor Professor Madham is — I was going to say unusual, but I do not know if that is true, though it is not to my knowledge typical either.. . I could say it is unproductive, but Jeremy does grow out of the experience, at least, of rebelling against Madham... And Madham, networking through Jeremy, gains an improved social l i fe , so to speak (he has an affair with Jeremy's wife)... Only one thing is (perhaps) certain: in terms of education, neither is very progressive, or making very much progress. My parents raised me on aphorisms; they had a million of them, and I have, much to my dismay, committed them all to memory and will no doubt subject my children to similar maltreatment. One of Dad's favourites comes to mind when considering Jeremy. Dad always told me that "the teacher will appear when the student is ready to learn" (he also said that "the world will step aside to let you pass if you only know where you're going" and that "even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there," but 41 I ' l l stick with specifically education-related metaphors for now). Jeremy needs to "find himself" and he is looking in all the wrong places—when he remembers to look at a l l . In short, Socrates himself could not do much for poor Jeremy. Madham, however, is no Socrates. His idea of encouraging his protege may be encapsulated in this comment regarding Jeremy's introduction to a proposed thesis: "Jeremy my boy, you have used this same opening in two other failed, futile, rejected attempts at writing a dissertation" (21). Notice the deft pedagogical skill and eye toward encouragement with which Madham has chosen his adjectives. Saturday, April 2, 1977 Winnipeg, Manitoba Mrs. Aylesworth. The fierce-eyed, red-headed teacher at Red Deer High School who told me I should become a writer. Again, today, I thought of her. My debt to a teacher. Perhaps then, we come to understand Jeremy's need for escape, for change, for transformation. And in the face of that experience, of searching for Grey Owl and finding a self (an extra-academic self, a l i fe beyond the book), the l i fe Jeremy led as a graduate student, and the system controlling all of i t , is revealed with greater clarity. In comparison to the rural environment, to the physicality and routine of day-to-day existence in the "real world," the system of academe is found somewhat wanting. As A. R. Kizuk has argued, Jeremy's journey leads him to recognise the gap existing between rural and academic ways of living, and leads also to "an experience of dream-time in which language, writing, history and logic are perceived as inadequate and impotent" (MNS, 62). 42 As we think the book closed—academe censured by one who has been through it—we must remember that Kroetsch is not through i t . He is s t i l l in i t , a university professor of modern literatures. And, his SUNY Binghamton address and his prairie heritage match those of his fictional (?) Professor Madham—no less than a gilt-edged invitation to draw parallels and/or to question Kroetsch's opinions of academic l i fe and his own role in i t . I posed that very question to him in interview, and his response could easily serve as a synopsis or critical squib for his anti-academic novel: "I ache to see how many academics don't live in the world that surrounds them. They treat knowledge as an escape from the world [and . . . ] hide in what passes for knowing. . ." (see my page 86). This low general opinion of academics is perhaps one reason for (what Kroetsch claims to be) the "non-intellectual"-ness of his novels (cf. Hancock, 35), a necessary Going-Indian, an escape. The other escape takes place in the classroom, which can be steered toward the periphery of, or insulated from, the system. Kroetsch speaks and writes often of the positive influence of his students on his l i fe and work, and obviously enjoys striving toward the antithesis of Madham's pedagogical style, clearly understanding the significance, the potential, of the teacher's role. The time he is willing to take for a student who, as my Thursday, September 7, 1972 Little Meg went into grade one yesterday. Her first day of school. Her excitement is beautiful: she can hardly wait in the morning until it is time to depart. She comes home reporting how she likes her teacher, her classmates. My sense of the overwhelming importance of that f irst experience compels me to listen in silence. 43 father would want me to add, is ready and willing to learn, is a testament to that understanding. In a box in the Special Collections Division of the University of Calgary library, buried between invitations to conferences and all manner of correspondence related to editing and publishing, is a letter from a high school student in Saskatoon, named Melanie Davis, who had heard Kroetsch give a reading at a Prairie Writers Workshop and asked a stream of questions, essentially demanding an explanation of the usefulness of art; stapled to the back of it is a carbon copy of Kroetsch's three-page reply, dated only days after Melanie's (334.84.1.5.5). The original has, no doubt, been given pride of place in a scrapbook or memory box, as Kroetsch likely knew it would be. Another memory box full of special treasures to be perused by nieces, nephews, and I hope, children and grandchildren, now holds copies of a series of letters, this time from a struggling graduate student in Vancouver attempting a thesis on Kroetsch's work, asking more questions (by multiples) than Melanie, and who received careful, detailed replies, a postcard, a photo, a wonderful poem, and, without question... an education. [Simon and Shuster Author's Questionnaire] EDUCATION: BA U of Alta 1948 PhD U of Iowa 1961 Educated by the weather on the wheat plains; educated by the isolation in the sub-arctic; educated by the students at SUNY Binghamton. 44 FEMINISM Dear Dr. Kroetsch: As a woman and a feminist, I feel I must write to you to express my appreciation for the significant contribution _ your work makes to feminist studies. You use your power as power to—not power over—ensuring that your privileged position as an inductee into the canon, as a respected member of academe, is a positive force to enable Others to advance themselves as well. The magnitude of your generosity and the uniqueness of your talents quite simply astound me. Not only have you created wonderfully authentic female voices, women in indisputable subject positions, such Attn.: Mr. Robert Kroetsch, As a woman and a feminist, I feel I must write to you to express my disgust at the many and various ways you find to exploit and objectify women in your work—though perhaps I should say "Woman," as your writing bespeaks the politics of the Same. You spend a great deal of your interview time (and a great deal of time it is) extolling yourself as the voice of those absent in history, as an alternative to the mainstream line, as a proponent of the democratic sensibil ities of the prairie pub. Yes, you work very hard at setting yourself up as Mr. Sensitive New Age Guy— 45 as Anna Dawe and Anna Yellowbird in Badlands, but you also go beyond this to skilfully use the male voice to reach your male readership. Your recognition of the fact that the masculinist readership which must creating the persona, the author-function, which so many of your readers unquestioningly transfer to their conception of your work. Readers have come to know and 1 ike the Kroetsch they meet in interview—such an open, nice, "average Joe" kind of guy—and they This Miss Cohen. It started quite by accident. Let's make love up against the bookcase, I suggested. Are you kidding? she said. So I slipped it to her right there, Lit and Comp I, Section 13, tits on her like snowcapped volcanoes: we were in my office in the Library Tower. She wanted to know about passion. What is a destructive passion, Mr. Sadness? she inquired. My office looked like a barbershop after, there were pubic hairs scattered from my Norton Anthology through Anatomy of Criticism . . . . And in walks my office mate, this decadent virgin bull dyke from Long Island they've quartered on me. be led to self-consciousness in order to eradicate the sexism and misogyny so pervasive in our society will not respond to overtly feminist discourse has gone too long ignored by the feminist community. Were all your novels like Badlands, narrated by a woman, nakedly speaking the feminine, you would alienate the very audience we need to penetrate. But, of course, you know this. Thus your masterful (mistress-ful?) handling of the tech-ignore the blatant misogyny which greets them as they enter the world of a Kroetsch text, renaming it self-parody or, better yet, irony. In the event that you may be left with any doubt by this point, Mr. Kroetsch, let me assure you: I am not among this group of readers. I see your work for what it is: the perpetuation of the masculinist tradition at the expense of feminine subjectivity. Let's look at a few case studies, shall we? 46 niques of irony come into play. Your systematic construction and deconstruction of masculinist codes and values in Gone Indian is nothing short of a tour de forcel As Jeremy Sadness (a beautiful naming—he is the personification of that which brings sadness into the lives of all The Studhorse Man: Yes, here we meet your friend Hazard (nice, macho name) who spends half of his time trying to get his horse and himself laid and the other half bragging about i t . And this is a bragging of a special sort: he has become a regular connoisseur of mammary glands. Every shade, every texture, every possible degree of nipple erectness and Hello? Carol? I see it now. I apologize. I was wrong. I'm guilty. Right. Your favourite professor drove me to i t . By putting that goddamned Reggie in an office with me; she studies twenty-four hours a day. No wonder, who would screw her? And yet she has time to organize the EGO. English Graduate Organization. Magnificent. She's at my ear day and night . . . . and hour after hour I hear her swallowing chocolates one at a gulp. Something like ninety-nine beautiful sex-starved females in that department and I've got to share an office with the chocolate monster. enlightened women and men) persists in objectifying the women in his world, we are called upon to judge not the women he disparages, but rather the source of the disparagement. Every misogynist remark Sadness makes has at its root his hatred of his own pathetic condition. Here is a man who cannot face his own inadequacies, who must instead project them onto an Other. You ensure the failure of that arousal... he has a category for them a l l . And I do mean aJJ.. No species of mammal escapes Hazard's careful eye. Kroetsch's world: where men are men and sheep (horses? pigs? sows? bulls?) are nervous. Gone Indian: yet another version of the male quest for (parts of) the female. Jeremy Sadness is every woman's nightmare (and he does see 47 . . . Her tits were like nothing so much as two great speckled eggs of a rare wild bird. . . . A crow's egg, he guessed first— but no, the colour behind the freckles was lighter. And the freckles themselves, around the nipples they were the shape (very small) and the color (very light) of the freckles on a chickadee's egg. . . . Next, farther back from the nipple—. . . the freckles were as small and faint as the spots on the egg of a red-winged black bird. projection, however, by insisting on the failure of its source. Sadness is the epitome of impotence—sexually, to be sure, but professionally and spiritually as well. Thus if your male readers see their masculinist values mirrored in Sadness, they must see, also, a reflection of their ultimate folly. That which is projected onto the Other is quickly refracted back to the Self. This same technique serves you (and us) well in The Studhorse Man, where Hazard's breast-fetish renders absurd once and for all the Western males' synechdochal representation of Woman as Tits & Ass. Hazard's endless women as Everywoman—witness the beauty pageant at which all of the contestants are identical in appearance). So threatened is he by any gl impse of female power (and there are only glimpses in your works) that he must attempt to conquer i t . He thus either copulates with a woman or pronounces her unfit for even that. And, really Mr. Kroetsch, these scenes are unworthy of you. Surely you could have come up with a more original approach than to merely paraphrase the line which any remotely talented woman has already committed to memory: "Okay, so you're a bril l iant writer/neurosurgeon/ attorney, but I wouldn't want to fuck you." 48 meditations on nipple shades and relative roundness and firmness devolve into similar discussions of the mammary glands of horses, cows and male pigs, so that your male reader can no longer laugh conspiratorial ly with Hazard and his locker/bar-room banter, but must begin to laugh at Hazard, and con-sequently at himself. This wonderful evocation of male self-reflection is solidified when the reader makes the discovery that the biographer narrating this journey into the Male is a patient in a psychiatric hospital, lying naked You see, part of the problem that I have with your work is that it is vour work; here the author-function you have set up is working against you. You are an educated and knowledgeable man; you espouse l iberal, egalitarian values; yet you persist in portraying women as flat (no pun intended), s t e r e o t y p i c a l , non-subjects, nonentities. And what is worse, all the while you appropriate the stylistics and forms devised by women who were trying to break out of the very oppression to which your work Martha's own breasts were of chalk white, their nipples of red jasper. I am sure they were what is called well-preserved, for a woman of thirty-seven. . . . in his bathtub, making penis-hats out of the 3x5 cards on which he has jotted his research notes. Again and again, you deftly employ irony to cut the male ego off (.. . at its knees). contributes. "Your" notes and journals are genres which were once the only preserve available to women. Your fragments and erasures are the feminine attempt to break out of the linearity 49 Equally of interest to me, as a student of feminist theory and linguistics, is your ease in invoking the stylistics of ecriture feminine. So many writers, male and female, cling to the structures of their patriar-of phallogocentrism. Women were relegated to the margins in which you now play~we did not freely choose to be an absent presence, and your overtaking of our genre(s) only absents us once more. The only woman in creation I COULD NOT SCREW UNDER ANY CONDITIONS WHATSOEVER: and I'm locked up in a cage with her for sixteen hours a day. chal forefathers, the linearity and teleology, the insistence on control and Author-ity. You defy this tradition, though, and defy your own central ity as a white male, by finding your voice, instead, in the margins that are home to the feminine. Your work displays not merely a comfort with, but a sheer revelling in the uncertainty, the questioning, the erasure and fragmentation that charac-terises the womanwriter. You, too, are at home on the edges, in the silences, the absences, the openness of what we might call vulvalogodecentrism. And please do not make the mistake of imagining (as too many critics have) that just because you offer one female character who actually lapses into thought or speech beyond the praising of the male hero that you can get yourself off the hook. Anna Dawe is at most an aberration in the Kroetsch canon, and even she tells not her own story, but one of male questing and bravado. And here, too, you rely on the same masculinist tropes: Anna Dawe is more intelligent than any of the men in her l i fe; therefore she is a 45 year-old virgin. Body and mind 50 Last, but arguably most profound, is your essay style in "My Book is Bigger than Yours," where you self-consciously reveal your own inadequacies as a man reading/ writing women. If pen is envy, I must confess, I envy you the potency of yours. Yours in sisterhood, Alanna Fero cannot merge in your world, can they? —At least not if one of them is female. If pen is envy, I can only say that, treating women the way you do, you should rightfully be experiencing a genuine fear of castration. Truly not yours, MS. Alanna C. Fero Total and absurd male that he was, he assumed, like a male author, an omniscience that was not ever his, a scheme that was not ever there. Holding the past in contempt, he dared foretell for himself not so much a future as an orgasm. But we women take our time. 51 GENRE We have to face some goddamned interesting formal problems right now. Kroetsch's generous inclusion of genre -labels on f i r s t editions of many of his works is perhaps the only means by which his reader** can distinguish between his novels,*** poems,**** and criticism." Genre: broadly defined as Kind; Sort; Style; A category of a r t i s t i c , musical, or literary composition* characterized by a particular style, form, or content** (QED). More specific to 1iterature # # #, genre may be understood as a type or category into which literary works can be grouped according to form, technique or purpose (Coles Dictionary of Literary Terms fCDLTI). ** Reader: a) one that reads b) one chosen to read aloud to others: as Lector c) one who evaluates manuscripts d) one who reads periodical literature to discover items of special interest or value e) one who reads lectures and expounds subjects to students f) one who reads and marks students' papers g) a device for protecting a readable image of a transparancy (QED). For these 52 purposes, we can eliminate b, d, e, and f; however, this s t i l l leaves a rather gaping discrepancy between merely taking in printed material and evaluating it (cf. criticism, fn. *****) *** Novel: A f ict i t ious # # # # prose # # # # # narrative # # # # # # or tale of considerable length (now usually one long enough to f i l l one or more volumes), in which characters and actions representative of the real l i fe of past or present times are portrayed in a plot or more or less complexity; The particular type of literature which is constituted or exemplified by this class of f i c t i o n . # # # # # # # (Formerly without article; now with the) (QED). The 53 novel may be regarded as the third stage in the evolution of fiction narrative, of which the epic was the first and the romance was the second Poem: 1. "The work of a poet, a metrical composition" (Johnson); "a work in verse" (Littre); a composition of words expressing facts, thoughts, or feelings in poetical form; a piece of poetry. In addition to metrical or verse form, critics have generally held that in order to deserve the name of poem, the theme and its treatment must possess qualities which raise it above the level of ordinary prose, b. (in a more general sense): Applied to a 54 composition which, without the form, has some quality or qualities in common with poetry. 2. fig. Something (other than a composition of words) of a nature akin or likened to that of poetry (with various implications, as a r t i s t i c or orderly structure, noble expression, ideal beauty, etc.) (0ED). A composition in metrical form, characterised by qualities of imagination, emotion, significant meaning and appropriate language. A poem may be written in rhyme, blank verse, or a combination of the two, but the expression is usually rhymical and designed to give aesthetic or emotional pleasure (CDLT). 55 Criticism: 1. The action of criticising, or passing judgement upon the qualities or merits of anything; esp. the passing of unfavourable judgement; fault-finding; censure. 2. The art of estimating the qualities and character of literary or artistic work; the function or work of a cr i t ic , b. spec. The critical science which deals with the text, character, composition, and origin of literary documents, esp. those of the Old and New Testaments. 3. An act of criticising; a critical remark, comment; a critical essay,******** critique (OED). The art of judging and defining the qualities and merits of a literary or artistic work. Each age has its crit ics , who, by setting standards and affecting tastes, influence the work produced by artists and writers. 56 Literary critics range from the journalistic reviewers who discuss three or four books a day, to the learned critics who study and make informed pronouncements on the merits and faults of literary works (CDLT). * Style, Form and Content are differentiated according to the following conventions: sty7e refers to a characteristic manner of expression, as according to the writer's style or the style of the period in which the work was written; form and content indicate the shape and structure of a work as opposed to its subject or substance (QED; CDLT). 57 Composition: 1. The act or process of composing; specif, arrangement into proper relation or proportion and esp. into artistic form. b. The arrangement of type for printing. 2. The manner in which something is composed, b. General makeup. 3. Mutual settlement or agreement. 4. A product of mixing or combining various elements or ingredients. 5. An intellectual creation. 6. The operation forming a composite function ( O E D ) , m m m Literature: 1. Writing, grammar, learning. 2. The production of literary work esp. as an occupation. 3. Writing in prose or verse, esp. writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of 58 permanent or universal interest b. the body of written works produced in a particular language, country, or age c. the body of writings on a particular subject d. printed matter (OED). Strangely enough, this is the one term that the dictionary of literary terms does not define. m* Fictitious: Of, relating to, or characteristic of fiction (QED). (cf. fiction, fn. m ) . Prose 1. The ordinary language people use in speaking or writing. 2 . The literary medium distinguished from poetry esp. by its greater irregularity and variety of rhythm and its closer correspondence to the patterns of everyday speech (OED). Spoken or written language that is not metrically diversified. While prose may be rhythmical, it is without the sustained metrical regularity of verse. Variety of expression is achieved through diction and sentence structure. Novels, essays and most modern drama are written in prose (CDLT). ###### N a r r a t i v e : 1. The act or process or an instance of narrating. 2. Story. 3. The representation in art of an event or story (OED). In prose or poetry, the type of composition used to recount an event or series of events In simple narrative, such as newspaper accounts, events are told in chronological order. A narrative with plot is often less chronological. 60 Events are arranged according to a preconceived principle determined by the nature of the plot and the type of story (CDLT). 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 ******* Fiction: 1. Something invented by the imagination or feigned, a. specif, an invented story, b. fictitious literature (as novels or short stories) (O^D).^Narrative writing drawn from the imagination or fancy of the author (CDLT) , a a a a a a a a Essay: 1. To put to a test. b. An initial or tentative effort. 2 . The result or product of an attempt. 3 . An analytic or interpretive literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view (OED). A discussion in prose of a certain topic. An essay may be classified as formal or informal, depending on its subject and style. The formal essay is characterised by qualities of dignity, serious purpose and logical organisation. Examples range from the serious magazine article to scientific or philosophical treatises of book length. The informal essay, sometimes called the true essay, is moderately brief and instructive. Among the qualities that mark the informal essay are: humour, graceful style, a personal element, unconventionality or novelty of theme, and freedom from stiffness and affectation ( C P U ) . m m m 62 A note on my choice of research tools for these definitions: I am motivated to use such diverse materials as the Oxford English Dictionary and the compendium of the Coles publishing company because I feel the two represent the hierarchical poles of the scholarly spectrum. The OED is generally regarded as the reference of choice for academics, while the lovely bold stripes and $3.95 price tag of The Coles Dictionary of Literary Terms are a major attraction for high school and undergraduate students. Thus the information provided by these two somewhat incongruous sources wi l l , I hope, combine to provide what at least approaches a consensual opinion on meanings, insofar as such a thing may be understood to exist. 63 For my own purposes, as both a reader and a c r i t i c of Kroetsch, I will treat the two terms as though they are synonymous. Though I recognise that such may not be the case for a l l readers, I will dare to offer the bold generalisation that most readers, whether or not they actually come to the point of recording their thoughts about a text in writing, do, in fact, evaluate and or make judgements regarding same, based on personal preferences, expectations, inherited cultural beliefs, or other socio-political and/or ideological considerations or c r i t e r i a . m This definition raises an interesting question as to whether or not the texts which Kroetsch has subtitled nove7 and/or which agents and 64 publishers and booksellers have marketed as such should in fact be construed in this way. What, indeed, is the length required of a "volume"? And, to what degree may we say that Kroetsch's "novels" are representative of real life? Certainly, the authenticity with which he portrays prairie peoples, their land and culture (here understood as signifying "day-to-day way of l i fe , " and not the "high" culture of opera, ballet, and art galleries) is oft-noted and perhaps even verifiable. The definition, however, does not specify whose real l i fe is under consideration. If Kroetsch's works do not represent nvy. real l i fe , am I thus to consider them something other than novels? And what of this "third stage" issue? The mythic journey through time and space which is 65 (doubly) recounted in Badlands may be argued to have epic proportions. And either conception of the generic designation "romance" (restoration of order or "happy ending" vs. a version of a "love story") could apply to several of Kroetsch's works: Words of My Roaring. Gone Indian, and the aforementioned Badlands, to cite only three. Is the "third stage" in the development of prose thus to be understood to include the previous two, or am I thus to consider Kroetsch's works as regressions to or representations of these earlier forms? Even more importantly, the addition of the definite article to the usage of the term in contemporary English would indicate that the genre is antithetical to Kroetsch's professed stylistic preferences, i .e. for multiplicity and variation. 66 Provided that we accept, for the sake of argument, that the designation of poetical form as that which is metrical or in verse may include metres or verses other than the iambic or trochaic and the rhymed couplet or quatrain, it is possible to apply at least this segment of the definition of poem to Kroetsch's work. However, the question becomes more problematic if we expect that any two readers will be able to agree as to what constitutes a treatment of theme which is "beyond the level of ordinary prose," has "significant meaning" (is not all meaning significant?) and "ideal beauty." One woman's "ordinary" may be another's "ideal." Which is to say nothing of the fact that whether a work is designed to give aesthetic or emotional pleasure begs the question of whether or not it succeeds. 67 A crit ic may estimate qualities, participate in a critical science, or possess a talent for the art of judging. Surely this is the very sort of paradoxical and nonsensical definition for which a writer such as Kroetsch was born to f u l f i l . A crit ic may be virtually anything. The criticism produced, of course, will also be criticised, as indicated by the glaring value judgement stratifying the journalist (apparently intended to be understood as newspaper or magazine columnist, and not the editor of a scholarly periodical or quarterly) and the learned cr i t ic . Kroetsch, I take i t , would fall into the latter category, given that his work has influenced the setting of standards in Canadian Letters; however, these standards have been set more as a result 68 of his interview persona than his "critical" or even "fictional" one, so this conclusion, too, is open to debate. m m Perhaps, given the protean nature of Kroetsch's talents, and the eclecticism of many of his texts, they would all be best understood as compositions, abjuring other possible, but apparently at best, reductive, at worst, inaccurate categorisations. 69 What of the autobiography, tall tale, and ethnography of a "poem" such as "Seed Catalogue"? What of the myth and archaeological (re-) construction(s) of "Stone Hammer Poem"? mmm T h l - S <jef-jnjtion would indicate that with all Kroetsch's research and insistence on the hard core of authentic detail and voice, that his works are not fictional (I hesitate to say non-fictional, setting up an other, equally rigid category as it does). Does this mean that the hot springs scene in Alibi really happened? 70 "Effing the Ineffable," focusing as it does, on the poetic qualities of farting, could probably quite accurately be construed as free from "stiffness" and "affectation." I also like very much the concept of the essay as tentative and testing. Of course, by this definition the term applies better to Kroetsch's "poems" and "novels" than the category of criticism of which essays are ostensibly a part. * Given the apparent dichotomies between "poem" and "novel," "verse" and "prose," how are we to differentiate between, for example, "novels" such as Gone Indian or Badlands, and "long poems" such as "Letters to Salonika" or "Excerpts from the Real World"? The structures of all of these works find 71 their basis in transcriptions of tapes, letters, field notes and journal entries, and there is l i t t l e demonstrable difference between their sentence constructions, use of the vernacular or story-telling capabilities which could indicate their genre (cf. fn *). HANGOVER Begin: the body writes the poem. Interviewer: Would you ever wake up in the morning and say, "My being is not feeling well today. If I sit down and write today, I will not write well."? Kroetsch: Yes, I would, (laughing) We call that a hangover. The poet: stone hammered. 73 INTERVIEW Deferral Contingency Mr. Potato Head ((??wearing a condom Post-[Canada} Absence Wickedness Dodging Accuracy Silence . . . The following interview took place via Canada Post, somewhere in the spaces between Vancouver and Winnipeg, December and March, questions and answers, the hard drive and the floppy disk, the written and the oral. The section titles and asterisks indicating "important" questions appeared on the original l i s t and all are reproduced here in their original order. Kroetsch's (the Post-man's?) replies, their all-at-once-ness, are recorded here as I received them, unedited—by me, at least. ACF, April 1, 1991 74 INTERVIEWS AND INTERVIEWING Are you comfortable with interviewing? Do you get nervous anymore? Do you read your interviews when they are published? Are you generally happy with your answers or do you find yourself mentally editing? I'm comfortable being interviewed. I find i t d i f f i c u l t to read about myself in any form. At best I read about myself as someone I seem to recall having once known f a i r l y well . When you are writing, do you ever think about the ways in which your work will be critiqued or interpreted or the kinds of questions it will raise in interview? Do you ever write hoping to elicit certain questions or responses? When writing I do not think of the poss ib i l i t ies of interpretation. I work toward the delights and complexities of writing a story (when writing f i c t i on ) . At the moment I'm concerned about my f i r s t day as a user of a computer. Hey he j u s t skipped And I notice that I am already in 3 *** questions! trouble with the f i r s t person singular pronoun. What do you see as the "function" of the interview, i . e . , why do we do them? why do we read them? turn to them as source, etc? The function of an interview? Extension of the text—whether as elaboration, interpretation—whatever the shift in discourse kind might be. Even autobio-graphical material—however one is to understand that to manifest itself— relates to the text as a version of plenitude. 75 LANGUAGE *** You are often referred to or quoted assayingthat youwrite "against" traditions or conventions or forms or systems... the tyranny of narrative. What would you say you write for? The problem is what critics (you critics) nowadays lump under the label, power. Tradition and convention—either can give or take away power. What do I write for? In a certain way, at least, I write to give the reader power. Over his or her own narrative of a place in the world. Being here. How do we go about being here, without being told how to be here, without being prevented from being here? I dunno either * * * 7h7s is more a question about post structuralism in general than about your work in particular and I'm not really sure that I expect you to be able to "answer" it, BUT given that we now see language as being about signifiers and not signifieds and meaning as endlessly deferred... what motivates you to continue writing? I have said enough about signifier and I didn't think so; signified. I, it would seem, resist that's how come I the transcendence attributed to either. asked Again—being in the world. Contingency is the clue (not key) word: contingency, speaking its condition against the violent dream of absolutes. Do you want your work to be understood more or less than you want it to be appreciated? Understood? As Morag Gunn might say, What means understood? I invite the sweet complicity of the readerly act. What does that mean? 76 Back to this topic of signifiers and the multiplicity of meaning and textual open-ness, etc., how do you feel about the criticism of your work? Have you read anything that you would consider a mis-reading? (No need to name names, just give me a hint or two as to what sparked your response...) I feel I've been extremely fortunate in the appearance of critics willing to talk seriously and even passionately about my work. We talk seriously, together. What is the nature of the dialogue that print enables us to engage in? Just who i s interviewing who? Orality... the importance of voice and tall tale and vernacular in your work all comes back to the oral. Talk, if you will, about the problems of issues (theoretical and practical) in trying to write the oral. Writing the oral—perhaps in the past I had or held to a rather simple notion of voice. We are each many voices. Among our dialogues are the important dialogues we conduct within the fiction (?) of the self. Some of the voices within us are slower thinkers than others. At times I think I see a suspicion of the purely written medium in your work. Not only do you seem to strive for authentic "voices" in your characters, but you add photographic images or transcriptions of tapes... Can you talk about that? Perhaps I have a suspicion of the purely written because it silenced the voices that inhere in my own. 77 What about language and criticism? My own pet peeve of late (and the motivation for my approach to this thesis) is the way in which so many critics talk about the innovative language of postmodern texts, for example, and yet still rely on Aristotelian forms and the notion that the critic has access to some meta-1anguage, outside the language of the text. One of the things that first attracted me to your work is the way you seem, to me, to resist that. Any comments? The valorization of Aristotelian form played a part in that silencing. Critics like you, by opening the form, let the abundance of voice, of voices, be heard. You are right—I distrust the u r right metalanguage and the dialectics of 1t means the metalanguage that pretend to speak so much (for) that metalanguage. And community & —that should be the voicing of so Uttle community—not up speaking to down. I prefer the horizontal axis. GENRE(S) *** How do you decide that a given idea has to become part of a poem or part of a novel? For example, why, when you found the ledger, did it become a poem and not the genesis for a novel set in Bruce County? How does your work in one genre affect your work in others? I tend to see your work as part of one big genre, pushing the boundaries of all the categories. Would you say that's a fair estimation? *** About the "note" form you so often use... no matter how I ask this question it's going to be loaded, so I may as well tell you that I am planning to argue that the "note" is a Kroetschian genre of sorts and just ask you to respond to that... 78 Language as foreground makes for poem; narrative makes for story. The ledger for me was both—I hear in the consequent text both poem and story, both language and ... the place where genre hesitates to assure the reader and begins to bargain instead. I think of those wonderful market-places where we, in rituals of approach and withdrawal, try to agree upon value. In this situation (site; citing?) the *** note becomes a tel l i n g genre. I like your speculations. Scraps and shreds of paper with notes jotted down on them turn up all through your papers—"Hell is prelogical"; "Canada: That which has not happened"; "If we don't have the courage to do this, we deserve our monotonies"—Is this one of the ways in which you generate ideas or at least keep track of them for future works or is this just a trail left for pathetic graduate students like myself, looking for meaning on the back of every cornflakes box? Scraps and shreds of paper. Contingency again. In the world, in the bar, in the kitchen—words seeking transformation— and only traces of the bookness of which paper is the bearer. Of course, graduate students should be led into the labyrinth. But I mark the way by getting lost myself. While I'm on the subject of your papers... Did you go through them and/or edit them in any way before depositing them in Calgary? I did almost no editing of the Calgary papers. The librarians invited me to keep hands off. And I liked their offer of creative participation. They gave rein to their own impulses to make story. 79 At what point in your career did you begin to realise that someday someone would be sitting in a Special Collections Division somewhere, trying desperately to decipher your handwriting? Did you start saving more of your notes and drafts? Ever think of leaving any trails (the wild-goose-chase variety or otherwise) for potential researchers? Knowing that someone would look at my papers (I destroyed a whole novel in the late fifties because I didn't know about papers) has possibly led to a bit of destruction. Given my nature, I am more inclined to cover trails than to leave them. I am in some way extremely private, even (offensively) secretive. People who have worked with me for years complain that they know nothing of me.... Perhaps, on the other hand, the writer is an empty box. MOTIVATIONS/RESEARCH I was amazed, consulting your papers, to see the degrees to which you go in research, i . e . , consulting Weston's field notes at the Ottawa archives or writing to farmers and weather bureaus about the number of weeks of drought a wheat crop can withstand. Why is that accuracy so important to you? Accuracy is part of my way of being in the world. Being in heaven or hell is easy. But dailiness The dailiness of our lives. How measure that? How guess story with your eyes pressed to a head of hair, with your ear pressed to a crow's calling? Is the crow calling? Do I guess wrong? 80 If the fiction makes us real, what does the "real" make our fiction? Your fiction/real comment. Right on. I've been puzzling about that lately. I want to read what you decide. It wasn't a comment It was a question . . . nice dodge *** How would you describe the relationship between realism and, say, theoretical content in your work? Do you see it as more of a harmonious balance or a tension? Perhaps realism is only one form of linguistic play. And, yes, perhaps the word tension has been worked too hard in this century. Part of the pleasure resides in the precarious, the impossible balance of . . . Where are you words? The balance of. . . I try to put it l i teral ly , into my poems. Where is it in the novel? . . . Harmonies. Do something with that, please. How "real" do your characters become to you? I noticed, again, in your notes to yourself, the number of times you were struggling to find just the right voice for each character. Wow. Have you read my papers! Yes—why should not a character in a novel be just as "real" as a person in l i f e . Both are based on discourse strategies that are mostly narrational. And that prairie landscape? Would you ever consider abandoning that setting? Do you think it would affect your work whether a given novel were set there or not? 81 The prairie landscape. It centers my own narrative sense. I talk of that, outward from that. Even when absent it is, I would hope, present. It helps me locate a narrative that resists the powerful eurocentric narratives that we so unwittingly accept. Consider the fate of the potato— moving heroically from South America into a resisting Europe, a converted Europe, a back to our version of America. Other narrative possibilities are everywhere around us. Consider the wheat that we think so basic to prairie landscapes. Consider the straw hat. Jeopardy! The game of supplying the right question to the answer I'm losing but I'm enjoying the game but WRITING/RITUALS Here we enter the labyrinth Most of your novels open with epigraphs. At what point in the writing do you choose them? *** I noticed that several of your novels are plotted out, chapter by chapter, on the backs of old maps. Is this just because maps provide a single sheet of paper large enough on which to compose or does this have something to do with the importance of place in your work? 82 What about the many poems that are scrawled on the backs of SUNY Bing health questionnaires or course outlines? There's kind of a neat sense of intertextuality in reading a poem written over top of the canon of modern literature, but I can't make a connection between "A Physician's Evaluation of Patient's Mental Attitude" and the draft of "Wong Toy" written on the back of it. Are they related? How important is a place like YADDO in your career as a writer? Didn't you help establish a similar artists' retreat in Saskatchewan? How do you know when you're finished? In a way I was aware of the contextuality —the poem scrawled on the back of a "written" piece of paper. You are a reader who likes risks. YADDO. I'm exhausted. A long day. I'm trying, at the moment, to listen to a program on Martha Ostenso's WILD GEESE. It's a novel I include in my undergraduate course in the Canadian novel. I don't know how to get to the top of page four using this machine. Page 3, it says at the bottom of the screen. But I've printed out the first three pages to see if I can use the printer. News: about Iraquis [sic] trying to surrender to the occupying forces, with the war over. News: the disasters that are Yugoslavia. What awaits Canada? What is the place of fiction in this story? We try to locate fiction and poetry in politics. The weather: minus 8 tonight, plus 5 tomorrow. We measure.... 83 I begin to see jeopardy/risk question the questions the answers will appear YADDO. I could take it for short periods of time only. Maybe two weeks, in order to finish a work. I should write about the experience but can't. The concentration— being alone and writing from say 9:30 in the morning until around 5 in the evening —we were provided with lunch, lovely studios— I was interested in seeing something similar evolve in Saskatchewan. That program blossomed, then a couple of years ago came under crippling economic f ire. It may be staging a comeback. The boom and bust that is so much a part of prairie l i fe is a part of artistic activity as wel 1. Epigraphs. They tend to strike me late in the process of writing a novel. And as for maps—I read them as a boy in school, I read them now—as muse, as story, as dream. I know a book is finished when it tells me to leave the story. FEMINISM Basically, I have this problem discerning what's going on in your work with respect to women. I find that I am torn when trying to decide when and if you are being 84 ironic. It seems to me that, as a body of work, your novels are either incredibly powerful parodies of masculinist attitudes or they are among the most striking examples of sexist work. They can be read either way, depending on reader attitudes with respect to irony, etc., but not, I think, both ways. Anna Dawe and Anna Yellowbird are two of the most beautifully written female characters of which I am aware. However, I can point to few other female characters in your work which I can argue are given full subject positions. And characters such as Reggie the Bull Dyke or Martha or Julie are at best portrayed as flat and stereotypical—at worst, one could argue, with more than a l i t t l e misogyny. How do you respond to this issue? I am curious also, on this issue of women in your work, as to why you have never been questioned about this before. I've read 27 "Interviews with RK" at last count, and no one, to my knowledge, has even raised the issue. Can you hazard a guess as to why not? About the male world— ??Is there any other I am a parodist. Reggie and Martha and Julie are studies in the fantasy lives of some pretty shaky males. I am fascinated by point of view as shaper of what we see—an unforgiving (for the individual whose it is) element in what I'm here calling contingency and a side of contingency that makes some readers long for the "universal." Susan Rudy Dorscht, of Calgary, has a book coming out on my writing/reading of women—it should be out in May. You mention 27 interviews. Good grief. I'm going to keep quiet, this is my last interview. Interesting that I don't catch so much as a glimpse of the interviewer. Another version of silence? (The sister of mine who died 85 in California was in some ways my—I resist Jung—anima; we were two voices within a voice.) AUDIENCE Do you have an ideal reader? What do you know about your "demographics," as a publicist might say? Do you think about issues of elitism when you write? Are you conscious of who may or may not "get" your allusions or fully comprehend what you do with language? (I guess I'm getting back to the realism and "story" vs. language and theory again...) I'm surprised when people find me hard to read. Perhaps that's because I'm my own ideal reader. My sense of privacy makes it difficult for me to show unfinished work to anyone. Smaro has helped at times, with her sense of the physicality of ideas. But mostly I'm secretive. By the way, I'm at the moment trying to work through an unfinished draft of a novel with an editor (Ed Carson) and I have found it useful. I make a book as easy as I can make it without lying about what I'm writing. I'd blush to be called elitist—I'm at heart a prairie democrat with a literal sense of what equality means. EDUCATOR How do you see your role as teacher? What considerations do you have in mind when you design a syllabus? 86 Have you ever taught one of your own works? Do you think being a teacher and, essentially, helping the novice learn to interpret, affects your writing in any way? What about didactic elements in your work? Do you ever feel as though you are trying to teach a lesson or convey a message? You often seem to parody academics or academic criticism in your novels. I'm thinking of GONE INDIAN in particular, but the same could be said of much of your fiction. What does this say about your opinion of, or your membership in, academe? I like to think of myself as an enabler. Students tell me I somehow "give them I see now permission" to write what other forces why RK & LR prevent them from writing. I have became such fast never taught one of my own works. I like friends to think I am generative as a teacher, as a writer. The two roles are not in conflict for me. In fact I experience some anxiety at the thought of being a writer and no longer a teacher. My "construction of self" works better when I teach than when I write. Yet I parody academics. I ache to see how many academics don't live in the world that surrounds them. They treat knowledge as an escape from the world. They hide in what passes for knowing and pretend to some kind of absolute knowing. Our "knowing" (and the puns are important) depends on context of emotion, of ignorance, of silence, of —for lack of another word—love. The erotics of knowledge. The erotics of teaching. The erotics of writing and reading. 87 MYTH What do you see as the role of myth in our culture, or do you think it has a role any longer? What attracts you to mythic tropes or modes of writing? The necessary fictions. The trouble arises when people begin to forget the fiction part and ki l l and maim in the name of their myths. The fiction part keeps us open and lets us evolve. Consider the history of the condom in our own brief time, from marginalised "secret" to TV star. That's delightful and important. The condom become icon. And the implied, again, erotics—we f l i r t with the transcendence because it too is an appealing fiction—but we should make love in a dialogic not a submissive way. There's a lot of "questing" in your work, whether the "serious" or the"parodied" variety. Again, what draws you to that theme? Questing. Tell me how to get around that one, Alanna. Is not parody the only way? Is it mortal time, the time of clocks and calendar—for all our versions of transcendent time—that tells our story at the same time that we are telling it? On this one we should be talking, not writing. And yet— consider those remarkable fictions—the week, the 60 minute hour in a 24 hour day. You seem to see keys to the present as being found in the past. Why is that? 88 I suppose I tell story against the inherited story and in subtle abrasion with the inherited story and in wicked complicity with the inherited story. / came across references to Joseph Campbell's THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES quite a few times in your notes. Recall, if you can, what that book is about for you. The appropriation of myth has become rather a hot topic of late. How do you respond to the argument that writing using Native myth, for example, is best left to native writers? I have heard, through friends who attended your reading at Sechelt this past summer, that you said you would "hesitate" to publish "Old Man Stories" today. Why (or, I suppose, why not)? And if you would not publish them today, why do you continue to read from them? am As for willing, . My a hesitation When I read Joseph Campbell I read him as a barebones writer. I now see that he too had an agenda, appropriation—I would be willing, now, to risk a l l . hesitation at Sechelt was in the face of the question how? How, these days, use other stories. To write is to appropriate. Even to write so-called autobiography is to appropriate. Like the rumored Indian, we must ask forgiveness of the deer we are about to k i l l . Somehow I don't think this here cowboy movie pun was intended BIOGRAPHY If I were an actor hired to play you in "The Robert Kroetsch Story," what would I need to know in order to get a sense of my character's motivations? 89 If you were the guest of the week in "THIS IS YOUR LIFE," whose voices would be coming out from behind the magic curtain and what would they say about you? Your questions are fabulous questions. I see how skilled and wicked you are as an interviewer. Gee, another great dodge this box Isn't empty there's a trickster Inside SANS-CATEGORY What do you think you would have done had you not become a writer? If you had to choose between one of the roles you now play, i . e . , you could only teach or only write poems or only criticism, etc., do you think you could choose? Which would it be? Surely this is your major category, oh wise undoer of the world's small designs. Until I went to Portugal, a couple of weeks ago, I would have chosen teaching over writing, given that impossible choice to make. Since my two weeks in Portugal I would choose writing. Perhaps I have chosen writing. As for other careers—I can imagine being a print maker or a potter—but haven't the slightest talent for either role. I notice that either would, as writing does, allow me to be alone while worrying endlessly about society and culture. 90 Your questions are beautiful. You make an art of the exactness and the impossibility of questions. It's your move. Robert Kroetsch March 17-18 (a long night), 1991 91 JllVENESCENCE A whole unlearning of the acquired self, back to the boy who would have written the novel. To letting him write i t . * * * Neat the way that serendipity takes over at times, especially when you are absolutely desperate. I mean, I was doing fine for the f irst nine chapters... A through J were easy to figure out. But then I got to J . What was I going to talk about? You know, when I started this project and first began telling people about i t , every smart-aleck in the department emerged to say, "Oh yeah, so what are ya gonna do about Z, huh?" Or maybe if they were of the slightly more original sort they'd pull out the big guns and cite X as the letter that would confound me. I had those covered, I'd chuckle. Who'da thought that a comparatively innocent letter like J would turn out to be my nemesis? I was not about to let one l i t t l e letter spoil the whole thing, so I set about finding myself a word. I began my quest with a couple of volumes of Kroetsch's poetry. I thought there had to be a J word in there somewhere that 92 r I could spin in to an argument about something—its significance as a symbol in the poem, maybe as a mise en abyme for something; i f I was really lucky, maybe I could even find something really profound, like a synecdoche. (You see, my experience has been that the more obtuse the literary term you choose to exploit, the more impressive your work appears). No luck, though. I found a "just" here and there and a "jiggle" and even a "John" and a "James," but nothing that even I, a self-proclaimed wizard at bullshitting, could spin into an argument. Next I turned to the four sets of encyclopedias my father had bought me as a kid—well, they're not exactly sets per se. You see, my Dad would start buying them when they were on sale at safeway one volume a week if you bought $20.00 worth of groceries but after a week or two he'd forget see daddy's a chef and lots of times he brings home leftovers from work only I'm not suppose to call 'em leftovers an' I'm not suppose to tell anyone cause daddy could get in trouble with his boss that assole uh-oh I'm not suppose to use that kind of language either even though nobody tells me why except mommy says daddy likes me to do as I say not as I do anyway we don't really need to go to Safeway every week like other kids families do an' even though I wouldn't say this to daddy cause I love him alot he's getting kind of old an' he doesn't remember stuff so good anymore so even when we do have to go to safeway if I don't go with him that's one of my favourite things to do cause daddy carries me around the store over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes an' pretends he doesn't know where I am but so if I don't tell him to he'll start talking to the vegtable cronies that's what mommy calls the neighbour ladies who ask all the questions an' so they have a new recipe they want to try an' he's a chef so he 93 knows how to do it an' he comes home an' gets that funny I'm sorry duck look on his face an' mommy rolls her eyes and so I don't get the next encycrapeedia an' the stores are kinda mean if you ask me cause if you miss one of the books they won't let you get it the next week cause once they start selling the EUR-GOT they won't let you buy any CLO-EUR's an' daddy says it something called a shaft an' when I don't get it he just laughs an' says I will when I grow up so anyhow I have four part sets of encycrapeedias an' I use them to do all my school reports just cause I don't have all the way up to z doesn't mean I can't do good reports I just pick topics that start with letters I have like when we did Canada I wrote about be an' when we did western europe I wrote about Italy an' when we did south america I wrote about brazil an' did an oral report on ecwador for bonus marks but then when we did eastern europe an' I had to do checkoslovackia when i wanted to do rusha or the ussr like we're suppose to call it now but no matter what you call it I still don't have the right letters... —Hey, wait a minute. That's a story! Wow, amazing how just one image can take you right back to the immediacy of a whole lifetime, or at least childhood, of experiences. And profound how the alphabet is s t i l l structuring my academic life—something about those formative years... The point was, of course, that I had two sets that made it up to the J's, but neither of them had any light to shed on my dilemma. The final attempt: I latched on to the complimentary dictionaries and thesauruses (thesauri?) that always came with the encyclopediae (another tricky one), and started plowing through the J section. When I'm really in 94 trouble, I always f a l l back on old habits. Gives you a sense of security, you know? My dictionaries had never let me down as a kid, and sure enough, I found the word: "juvenescence." It means "to grow young." How do you grow a poet? You go back to his beginnings. And that's just what ( l i t t l e Bobby) Kroetsch does in his writing. Kroetsch's works return the reader again and again to the "seeds" of his childhood, of his self. His settings revert to the prairie of his boyhood; his characters recreate the townspeople of rural Alberta; his plotlines trace the themes and images that were significant to the place in time where he began. More importantly, however, Kroetsch captures the worldview, the s p i r i t of a child, clearly regarding i t as a central component to writing and creation. The writer here, is conveyed not as the Author or possessor of Truth, but as a fellow quester, a bundle of questions. Anyone who has ever spent any length of time with a small child is familiar with the endless stream of questions which spring forth from them as their minds wrap themselves around new ideas. Children, when f i r s t learning grammar, for example, want to know why a l l sentences must have subjects? verbs? objects? Why does this or that word need a capital? How come so many words aren't spelled the way they sound? Why do parentheses need to close? One can almost feel the degree to which their new ideas are being moulded and limited as a result of the conventions and rules to which they are made to conform. Kroetsch, instead, prefers to explode those limits, exploiting and at times ignoring the rules, and his readers find themselves faced with texts that look 1 ike these: 95 ?did he curse ?did he try to go back ?what happened I have to/I want to know (not know) ?WHAT HAPPENED ("Stone Hammer Poem," FN, 4) I AM/naught. That's all I is. Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. (After Paradise," FN, 267) ((I have aspired to all forms of folly; now I am being wise ("Letters to Salonika," FN, 160). Indeed, children are aware of the "arbitrariness of the linguistic sign" in a much more profound way than are we adult students of Saussure. They want to know why a dog is called a dog and a cat a cat, and all we can tell them is "because they are," and feel inadequate as they look at us in disappointment, knowing that this is not a satisfactory answer. It is not, I would argue, so much Kroetsch's knowledge of contemporary linguistic theory that leads him to probe the limitations of the significance of words, as it is his childlike fascination and sense of wonder at the possibilities which, for example, S7x definitions of the word ledger may offer him. How do you suppose butter was discovered? Kroetsch's approach to language and form parallels "the emergence of meta-1inguistic awareness in the child: a distinct maturing is achieved when he is aware of himself as word user, and able to laugh at word play" (FOW, 96 118). A child's favourite thing to do (well, probably a runner-up to consuming vast amounts of sugar and destroying property) is to create language. My best friend Jenny and I thought we were the coolest kids on the block when, at about the age of eight or nine, we "invented" Pig Latin: we had our own l i t t l e world and a special way to combine communication and rebellion. We could talk about secrets in front of our mothers and teachers and they couldn't understand a word we said—or so we liked to think. And my big brother and, sister used to comb Mom's giant 1956 Modern Medical Cousellor (pawned off on her by a sly door-to-door salesman and referred to by us kids as "Mom's Recipe Book") for names of diseases with which they could torment me. I lived in fear of horrifying maladies such as "impentaygo," "elephantitis," "pamifingus" and the dreaded "herpes zosters," fully convinced they could strike at any moment. While the glossy photos of angry rashes and oozing sores no doubt contributed to my trepidation, those polysyllabic, unpronounceable words had power for me--perhaps even power over me, for a time. This is not to say, however, that I was incapable of (linguistically) getting even with my siblings. I, too, had a growing vocabulary: "weasel-breath," "fart-face," and "poo-nose," were, as I recall among my favourites. Word-play, for children, while s i l l y and fun and laughter-provoking, is very serious business: it provides the opportunity to express the secret, the taboo, to break rules and invent new ones, to challenge authority and themselves. In the same way that children resist the traditional rules of Adults, Kroetsch resists the rules of Authorship. Children beg for the freedom to make their own decisions, to say and do and be what they want in their own way, and Kroetsch's self-conscious resistance to literary conventions, genre boundaries 97 and grammatical constraints invokes this child-like response to the world in many ways. Take, for example, the pleasure and defiance of the adolescent Kroetsch's "playing dirty" in "Seed Catalogue" and chanting I don't give a damn if I do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do die do or the play with nursery rhymes enjoyed by his younger self: Beans, beans the musical fruit; the more you eat, the more you virtue. (FN, 45, 33) Indeed, "Seed Catalogue" is perhaps best understood as a child's poem—and this child is a rebel. Does your mama know that you're going to hell?/ Does your mama know you're doing it well?/ Does your mama know how you love to screw?/ She was pretty good in her day too,/ they tell me. Kroetsch repeatedly talks, in interviews and essays, about the naivete that is required to write—the wonder, the magic, the willingness to engage, to play. Indeed, game theory plays a large part in his speculations on fictional discourse: "I think a kind of erasure of self goes into fiction-making. It's interesting that we PLAY a Game, isn't it? . . . . These two words resist each other in a signifying way. PLAY resists the necessary rules of the 98 GAME" (LV, 50). One gets a sense, in reading almost any of Kroetsch's texts, of a concept of play which mirrors the way in which children play games. When they are unsatisfied with the rules as they exist—when they cannot "win" by playing the game as it was designed—children simply make up new rules: "anybody with blue eyes gets two bonus points"; "All l i t t l e kids get an extra five minutes to hide.. . ." oops is the right name for accident Language itself may be construed as a game, writing as a form of play. This idea is certainly not a new one: Saussure draws parallels between language and chess in several instances in his Course in General Linguistics. Language's rules of selection and combination are arbitrary, products of a chance roll of the dice, and potentially infinite, given language's diachronic possibilities. Kroetsch plays both with and against language—depending on whether or not the rules as they exist will allow him to "win"—and in the process, passes the ball to the reader, inviting her to get out onto the playing field and into the game. "Stone Hammer Poem" are three nouns, like "RockPaperScissors," a game of continuous breaking, covering and cutting. . . . Only paper, covering rock, wins that game. And this paperweight is on top. KROETSCH 99 . . .no camera so far has done justice to my fascinating face... 100 LANGUAGE . . . it seems to me that language is totally removed from the notion of speech and voice . . . . I don't think I understood at f irst how language is separate from what it signifies. I was interested in language as signifying things that were not allowed, were taboo... it's only recently that I came to see that what language signified was language. * * * In What the Crow Said, language is not only explored and pressured in characteristic Kroetschian style, but it is also thematised/characterised/ personified. (The nature of and degree to which Kroetsch probes and stretches the limits of language in this novel can perhaps be evidenced by my own difficulties in finding a word to describe it adequately). The first character to whom we are introduced in Crow is Vera Lang[ue], a woman who, after copulating with a swarm of bees (bee/be/b—a single letter, a single phoneme, which mesmerizingly conveys the entire essence of our existence), "starts[s] everything" (7): language and being have intercourse and the world of the novel is born. The child of that union, JG, significantly referred to only by 101 Language itself is a version of plot. his initials (letters? signs? syllables?), is mute. He is not portrayed as trapped in his silence, however—far from i t . JG is "the most beautiful baby ever born in Big Indian Hospital" (61), eternally young and fundamentally free to express himself from the very roots of his be(e)ing: "JG was not guilty of thought. It was a simple knowing that took him where he went" (147). A face that is only beautiful, a boy who never grows old—because he is free of language. JG is Kroetsch's enactment of his belief that the authenticity of voice, the lyricism and profundity of poetry, are firmly rooted in the body. We discover, for example, late in the novel, that JG sang in the womb for almost the full term of the pregnancy: "Only at the moment of birth did JG fall into his terrible silence" (156). The implication here is that JG could not make the transition from the warm, liquid safety of the Mother's body to a world of rigid signs and systems unscathed. The raw splendour and grace of JG's spirit could not translate itself into mere words. In a world in which intellect, soul, and body are conceived as separate and distinct entities, JG is a vision of wholeness. His silence is not a "terrible" l i fe sentence; it is a wondrous living sentience, a celebration of the voice of the body: JG, locked up in the parlour, hearing the men return, was excited beyond all reason; but he couldn't speak a sound. He farted loudly out of pure joy. . . . the phone . . . ringing a confusing series of rings, 102 scar[ed] poor JG half out of his wits: soft, ripe excrement trickled down his pantleg onto the parlour floor. (129; 133) We are taught, as children, to fart silently. What a pity. Perhaps, right there, we learn to abandon Voice. We try to "sound" like our "superiors." Imagine a society in which people praise the eloquence of each other's farting. A society of poets. If the magical properties accorded to JG are not clear in the dexterity with which he expresses his emotions, we must consider that what the crow said is said for/to/on behalf of JG. It is this portrait of innocence, unsullied by language, and not the characters whose words make up the 218-odd pages of text, who provides the genesis of the novel's central issues. That langauge is fundamentally the antagonist in this text is made eminently clear through the character of Liebhaber, a typesetter for The Big  Indian Signal. (The triple punning here contributes to the foregrounding [sign-posting?] of language: signal as smoke signal, as signifier, and as "meta-signal" to the reader, hastening her to pay attention to word-usage). Liebhaber blames Gutenberg for all of the problems in his l i fe , from his linguistic/job-oriented difficulties, to his habit of passing out in the "cans" of the beer parlours and other dwellings in which he is wont to imbibe, only to be found with his hands frozen in somewhat indelicate postures (cf. 54, 115, 165). Liebhaber's many interior monologues express nothing short of hatred at the inability of signs not to mean: 103 He liked to drink while he sat alone at his kitchen table and hated his collection of type. He tried, with the twist of a wrist, to turn an M into a W. Failing at that, he turned a T upside down; but he could read it as easily upside down as upright. . . . He set the word OUT, building from the T he had tried to mock out of meaning. He left the T on the table. He placed the U on a windowsill. He carried the 0 into his living room. But he knew the word OUT was s t i l l OUT. It was the failure to reduce a mere three-letter word to nothing that made him attempt a sequence of illogical sentences; he printed across the linoleum of his living room floor: I'M NOT ALONE. REALLY. (54-55) The man who lives by words alone is truly that. Liebhaber recognises the Derridean dilemma which we all now face: the language speaks us. I despise words, he wrote; he stared at the sentence, enjoying i t . Writing it down had freed him, in some way he did not fully comprehend. Liebhaber comes to cherish and care for his wooden type pieces as one would a collection of rare birds or a flower garden composed of unique blooms. Indeed, the letters individually have l i fe- l ike qualities in his estimation. Perhaps language fails again and I am being disparaging or reductive without intention. Let me correct myself: for Liebhaber, the letters are alive; it is 104 only when the alphabet, the system, takes over that the letters lose their capacity to simply be and he rages at their subjugation: All the capital letters in his collection of wood type were set in neat rows, arranged alphabetically. He couldn't bear that. . . In terror at the domestication of those free beautiful letters—no, it was the absurdity of their recited order that afflicted him: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ—he opened a twenty-six [!] of rye and, with immense effort, tried to disentangle himself from the tyranny of rote. The U, he argued aloud to himself, in the Middle Ages, was the final letter, held by the wisest of men to be only a rounded version of V. He tried to resay the alphabet and failed. I and J , he remembered, were once deemed the same: he tried to disregard one in his recitation and lost both. He tried again, the simplest changing of the alphabet—and heard himself making sounds for which he had no signs at a l l . (69) Like Liebhaber, Kroetsch also often finds himself making "sounds" for which there are no signs. Kroetsch, too, rages at the seeming imprisonment of linguistic system—Lang/langue—perhaps why he revels so in parole, the freedom, with certain stipulations and conditions attached to i t , that may be attained in, for example, the neologisms with which he has come to be associated ("becomingness," "unhiding, "uninventing"...). Only words which resist their wordness, constructions with their own deconstructions built-in, 105 labyrinths of meaning which defy the narrowness of hieroglyphics, etymology, definition, can hope to reconcile the Liebhaber/Kroetsch contra-diction: these despisers of words must live through them. The balance of Liebhaber's love/hate relationship with his set of wooden type pieces would seem, at the end of the novel, to have been tipped in favour of love.. . our linguistic sign-post, our Big Signal, tells us that he is, after a l l , a love-haver. When he thinks that his l i fe and his world may be coming to an end, Liebhaber turns to thoughts of his own small collection of wood type, hoarded away from the destroying world. Those hidden words, failed in their hiding. . . . Yes: his hands wanted those few scraps of wood, those fragments of old trees, carved and cut into the shapes of the alphabet. They were all he had brought with him from whatever the place was that he had fled or abandoned. (197) We can only speculate as to what Kroetsch's thoughts would be at a similar moment, what his collection of wood type might be: possibly the alphabet blocks he played with as a child, the building blocks of his own language-acquisition; the box of notes and diaries and stories he kept under his bed while growing up; or, perhaps more appropriate would be a word-hoard comprised of his signature phrases.* The idea for the following (dare I call it?) poem is borrowed from David Wagoner's "The Words" in Collected Poems: 1956-1976. Bloomington/London: Indiana UP, 1976, p. 53. THE WORDS Crow, memory, how?, breast, fear, Failing to unhide the discoveries of the site. These are the words guaranteed to appear In any text Robert Kroetsch did write. He possesses a wide and varied lexicon, Other birds, other questions, other glands, But these words, it seems, have a pull that is strong, Attracting, inspiring the poet of prairie lands. There are blackbirds and who's? and anxieties and legs, Potential success covering stones, fences, and pegs, But, more often than not, in the end Kroetsch returns to these old friends. Language itself, the trickster, perhaps. 107 METAPHOR The notion of transference that's involved in metaphor moving from one place to another And I think it's that moving we distrust * * * Kroetsch has said in interview, numerous times, that he resists metaphor, that it is a "too easy" way to write a poem, and that he has abandoned it in favour of metonymy (cf. LV, 92-94, 116-117; RDT, 45-46). These kinds of statements, I argue, are best understood by critics as another of Kroetsch's interesting, but hardly factual tales. "The Ledger," the text Kroetsch has repeatedly introduced as evidence of his newfound metonymic re-naming, is (Sorry Bob), undeniably metaphoric. You see, metonyms, as expressions of part/whole relations, do not draw on additional semantic fields. But wait! There's hope for Kroetsch's (desired, if not entirely actual) aesthetic yet. But I begin in the middle. Let me explain using the model for metaphor developed by Eva Kittay and Adrienne Lehrer in "Semantic Fields and the Structure of Metaphor." 108 Kittay and Lehrer offer a theory for the analysis and explication of metaphor essentially based on the following tenets: 1. In metaphor two otherwise unrelated conceptual domains are brought into contact in a manner specifiable through the use of the linguistic notion of a semantic field (31); 2. Semantic field theory is based on the assumption that the meaning of a word is determined in part by other related words available in the lexicon (32); 3. Within this view of semantic field theory, "lexemes in a field can be related paradigmatically or syntagmatically. The commonest kinds of paradigmatic relationships are synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy, converseness, part-whole relations, and incompatibility. The syntagmatic relations of a field indicate the basic underlying structure of sentences in a given semantic field or indicate rules and relations specifying what collocations are possible given certain semantic considerations, i .e. considerations which govern the constituents of a given field (33); 4. In metaphor the lexical items [the paradigmatic and syntagmatic relationships] from one semantic field are transferred to another semantic field and the structure of semantic relations of the first field (the donor field) provides the structure or reorganises some previous structure of the second field (the recipient field)" (32); 5. The transference of meaning can be seen as a process in which the structure of one semantic field reorders and imposes a new 109 structure on another conceptual domain. To regard metaphor in this way will help to explain the conceptual interest of metaphor (34). Now, it is this very transference of meaning and imposition of structure in metaphor to which Kroetsch objects. In simply damning metaphor as a generic Kroetsch: . . . I guess I have this absurd hope that if I provide twenty names, then somewhere I will reach a point where they all connect and become more realized or identifiable. Metonymy isn't analogy either, is it? Neuman: Metaphor is analogy. Wilson: Metonymy only asserts that two things, or two signs, are sequential. . . . Kroetsch: And so one just moves on and around, and there are further namings and renamings. I trust that process. I trust the discreteness of those naming acts. And it is very important, I think, that it is this very discreteness that becomes part of how writers are getting at stories, not the connections made by analogy, or by metaphor, which keep on insisting upon stable, definite structures. . . . system, a homogeneous entity, which results in the evils of stasis and defintiion, Kroetsch ignores the possibility of difference, ignores his own propensity to deconstruct systems, his own inability to write in stable and definite forms. Ah, I get ahead of my own argument again. Let me demonstrate. "The Ledger": the poem intersperses excerpts from the "real" ledger with passages from letters and articles, along with a variety of alternative/ 110 historical/obsolete definitions of the word "ledger" and their literal and figurative extensions to create an intricately tangled web of metaphor. To be fair, I should acknowledge that Kittay and Lehrer's theory stems from a structuralist school which specifies, labels, and diagrams the transference of meaning which takes place in metaphor. Application of this sort of rigid theory to a poststructuralist poet/poem which attempts to defy such categorisation is probably cause for question. However, this very paradox compels me to attempt i t . The metaphors in "The Ledger" lack many of the components Kittay and Lehrer propose. They are implicit and cannot be reduced to an easily delineated sentence; they have no explicit "points of incongruity" and resist even classification into sets of paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations. But they are metaphors nonetheless. Only in the tension between the systematic and scientific theory and the maze-like and deconstructed text can I hope to find an answer to the question of Kroetsch and metaphor. I have learned a l i t t l e bit more clearly that to go from metaphor to metonymy is to go from the temptation of the single to the allure of multiplicity. While at least one metaphor is provided by each of the six definitions of the word "ledger," the primary donor field in the poem (because it is first in the sequence and because of the columnar form of the poem) is accounting, which restructures three recipient fields: the human l i fe cycle, the Ill eco-system, and writing/poetry. For the moment, I will limit my discussion to these three metaphors. THE LEDGER a. "in bookkeeping, the book of final entry, in which a record of / debits, credits, and all money transactions is kept." the book of columns (FN, 11) Kroetsch generously outlines the characteristics conventionally associated with accounting. The "ledger" is the book in which the accountant records and tabulates figures, in columns of debits and credits. The paradigmatic relations of accounting can include synonyms such as bookkeeping, recording or tabulating. Accounting involves mathematical calculations—right and wrong answers—empirical truths. We tend to think of it as being a very dry, unimaginative enterprise, and our cultural stereotypes of accountants depict them as dull "number-crunchers," devoid of ingenuity or personality. Accounting also, importantly, involves the imposition of arbitrary structure; entries into the ledger must fall into one of only two categories: debit or credit. Transferred to the recipient field of the human l i fe cycle, as occurs through Kroetsch's exploitation of the elements of the donor field in his recounting of anecdotes from the lives of his ancestors in Bruce County, 112 Ontario (the columnar structure; the antiphonal repetition of "What do I owe you?"; "It doesn't balance"; "Paid in Full"), these relations transform significant human l i fe experiences (the setting up of a home, the birth of a child, the growth of friendships) into a mere table of checks and balances. (See Figure A). Married three Bavarians. Buried three Bavarians. it balances (24) Figure A RESTRUCTURED FIELD OF HUMAN LIFE CYCLE OPENING OF ACCOUNT LOAN OF $ REPAYMENT OF $ MERGING OF TWO ACCOUNTS INTEREST BIRTH FAVOUR DONE FAVOUR RETURNED MARRIAGE BECOMING A PARENT DORMANT ACCOUNT CLOSING OF ACCOUNT OLD AGE DEATH The "naturalness" we would generally associate with birth and death or the "romance" of falling in love and getting married, once imposed upon by the rigid, stark conventions of accounting, seem l i t t l e more than debits and credits. And, if we consider the restructured syntagmatic relations (Figure 113 B), this cynical, cut-and-dried portrait of human existence becomes even more pronounced. Figure B RESTRUCTURED SYNTAGMATIC RELATIONS AGENT VERB OBJECT LOCATIVE Accountant records money transactions in ledger Justice of the Peace/Clergy/ Government Official records birth/baptism/ marriage/death on ce r t i f i c a t e / 1icense CI ergy/ Undertaker records name, birth and death dates on tombstone Viewed this way, human l i f e is further restructured—reduced to what can be " f i l l e d into the blanks" (or columns) of standard records. Human l i f e is depicted in the way i t will appear generations after our deaths—with only st e r i l e , emotionless accounts remaining to establish that we ever lived. 114 The ways in which the donor field of accounting serves to restructure the recipient field of the eco-system can perhaps be described as an undermining (or balancing) of this rather cynical view of human l i fe . Though referred to as the human l i fe cycle, the above restructuring delineated human l i fe as just that—linear—with a beginning and an end. Foregrounded in this new context, however, is the "balance" aspect of accounting—give and take. Nothing comes from nothing: for every credit there is a debit somewhere, and, as this restructuring implies, for every debit there is a also a corresponding credit. Once opened, an account never really closes; it merely transfers it funds. (See Figure C). Shaping the trees into logs (burn the slash) into timbers and planks. Shaping the trees into ledgers. Raising the barn. Shaping the trees. Into shingles. Into scantling. Into tables and chairs. Have a seat, John. Sit down, Henry. That they might sit down a forest had fallen. (14) Cause of death: went to sit down and missed the chair (26) Shaping the trees. Pushing up daisies. (16) 115 Figure C RESTRUCTURED FIELD OF ECO-SYSTEM CREDIT DEBIT growing tree tree cut down chair made out of wood from tree human dies falling off of chair human body (buried) fertilises growth of new trees I ' l l be damned. It balances. (16) This metaphor implies that no death is an "end," but merely a change of state, a transference of funds. It restructures the previous metaphor in the sense that our human lives are depicted as a component of the larger field that is the planet's eco-system and thus a debit to the inanimate world can be a credit to humans and vice versa. The restructuring of writing/poetry by accounting is even more of a "jump" than the previous two metaphors—more implicit, and having more to do with ambiguous associations and conventions than easily "diagrammable" semantic relationships. A poet is conventionally thought of as an imaginative * * * 116 "creator" of meaning, a spiritual person, moved by the Muses to transmitting profound thoughts and deep emotions via literary devices such as metaphors. Kroetsch tells us, however, EVERYTHING I WRITE I SAID, IS A SEARCH (is debit, is credit) is a search for some pages remaining (by accident) the poet: finding the column straight in the torn ledger the column broken (12-13). The poet is revealed to be not a creative source of original insights, but at best a manipulator of "found," prior texts—the accountant, totalling the numbers of someone else's books. More importantly, however, in terms of the conceptual restructuring taking place, when faced with "the book of columns" that is "The Ledger," we are made to re-think our assumptions about the writing of poetry. Once the donor field of accounting has been superimposed upon the (writing of the) poem, we can no longer view it as the product of some great rush of creative energy and inspiration; rather, we must see it as the result of a process of cutting, shaping, and balancing of its component parts until each fits into a certain arbitrary structure—made overt through Kroetsch's exploitation of the columnar form. This restructuring is further reinforced when we begin to consider the relationship between the 117 accountant's numbers and the poet's words. In the same way that the accountant's ledger reduced people's entire lives to what they owed to whom and if they paid, the poet's "Ledger" reduces people's experiences to what can be put into words, delineated with the alphabet, a system easily as arbitrary as are numbers (if not more so). The poet once envisioned as the exemplar of free-flowing imagination is now no more or less an accountant than is a banker. * * * THE AUDIT The "balancing act," in which I have engaged in trying to apply this categorical theory to metaphors for which there are not yet categories raises a number of issues. Kroetsch's assessment of metaphor as it is conventionally understood and employed is quite apt: certainly, Kittay and Lehrer's theory (here treated as representative of at least most conceptualisations of metaphor) does regard metaphor as a transference/imposition of meaning, a making of "A into B"—the very facet of metaphor which Kroetsch condemns (cf. RDT, 46; my page 113), and importantly, as occurring at the level of content or semantics, and uni-directional. In "The Ledger," however, the transference of meaning is multiple: donor and recipient fields are not simply linear and static, but are constantly shifting to evolve into a complex layering of metaphors—even meta-metaphors\ The "meaning" is transferred principally at 118 the level of the columnar form and as often as "A" is made into "B," "B" is made into "A," and both are made into "C" or "D" or " E " . . . Kroetsch's labyrinthine handling of meaning transference in "The Ledger" certainly deconstructs convetional metaphors; but, it does not destroy them. "The Ledger" is s t i l l a metaphoric text. Back to you Bob. 119 NOTE Of the many problematically problematised genres into which Kroetsch's work may (refuse to) be slotted, only one gives even a sense of the varieties and multiplicities of Kroetsch's work because it is, by definition, without concrete definition: the note. "Note" implies sketchiness, incompleteness, perhaps randomness or arbitrariness, immediateness, streams of consciousness, and indefiniteness. The note—as amorphous, as process-oriented, as a moving toward an as yet unrealised something else, as transforming and transformational—may be anything we wish it to be.* Note: as Advice to Himself t»' Si T~ J<S-W>\ t^^'t-r^w ly *- y — j"^ ^ f->„v Please see Appendix A for transcriptions of holograph reproductions, tjp »°LMt^. <<jF*& more of the lalyinthlne skheming of Leet, In his devising an escape from death. His endless returning to new possibilities. His ever-lasting blindness to the l i fe that goes on around him. But xi is i t then a first-person story? Or limited third-person? No, I have to keep in in third pesson. But the presence of the "authors" has to be more demanding/ against the story itself . The pressure of Leeb's need aagainst the flow of Tiddy's world. The intertwining. More looseness into the style, the flow into Leeb's mood and poetry and stark meditation. The total freedom of leeb's creation in tension with his total obsession. Escape from, abandon, everything that smacks of the merely. 121 Note: as Advice to his Friends Let the chips fal1. Think of yourself there as your own shadow. Consider submission. Forget desire. * Let the surprise surprise you. * Listen to the voice of the blackbird, my dear friends. When you hear not one phoneme, not one morpheme—not one smidgen of a sound—that is familiar: then you will cease to be afraid of your own Voices. Note: as Caption Sinnott took great pains to compose the picture in his mind, then adjusted the camera, then snapped. He muttered to himself: "Men Repairing a Sweep." And added to no one: "Vanishing." He set up his camera to take a picture of the shore, as if that too must vanish. He waited, watched the shifting pattern of water, mud, grass, h i l l s , sky: he snapped the picture, he said to himself: "Retreating Shoreline." Again he moved the camera, again he announced his t i t le : "Chinese Cook and Cookstove on Open Deck." Note: as Correspondence No mail at all from you. I talk to myself. I begin to suspect I am writing these letters to myself, writing myself the poem of you. Note: as Dispatch I liked the telegram, the one you sent me reporting my birth. And the bouquet of thistles, that too bespoke a generosity and a thoughtfulness I hadn't anticipated. But why did you have the florist send me the bi l l in a black envelope? Note, as Draft 6. l o r . j encujrh f o r one Govt im H i n u i e l . - h i s stcr.e r,c.ul s t e p p e d a p l o u g h Tae poem i s uhe stone c h i p p e d and h t-mered u n - ; i i i t i s shaped l i k e the i t o n e Che E l a c k f c o t ( t h e 7 Cree) n o t ^ f j n d i n g talis n e u l j c u r s e d . 7. ^ 1 ::cv; t he f i e l d i s c i n e because 1 aSS* it 1 n o t i c e t h a t t h e l e n d d i d not h e l o n g 123 Note, Field Grey, two-headed, the pemmican maul f e l l from a travois or a boy playing lost i t in the prairie wool or a squaw l e f t i t in the brain of a buffalo or i t is a mil 1 ion years older than the hand that chipped stone or raised slough water (or blood) or Note, Foot * I have removed from this stanza the single line (her breast were paradigms) Note: as Grocery List I am tired of strawberries. One last basket to finish and then I must stop eating strawberries. I had some cherries yesterday. They were outrageously expensive. Perhaps I can measure my waiting in kinds of fruit . There, I am almost through the strawberries, I have already begun the cherries. * To town to buy groceries: potatoes, bacon, eggs, milk, Cheddar, brie, Swedish Stilton, lettuce, tomatoes, frozen orange juice, chicken, hamburger, margarine, radishes, canned soup, bread. Note: as Letter What is a letter? Sometimes it is a star that f e l l . Sometimes it is a stone. Note: as Memo From you I could learn to hate geography. Its emptiness. Its spaces. Note: as Memoir Even the two ends of an egg have difficulty understanding one another. As a child I believed rabbits lay eggs, and i that knowledge I was complete. Note: as Postcard I am in China without a language. What I saw from the sky was roads that weren't roads; I saw the irrigation system 125 for watering the land and from up in the sky I thought I saw roads, too many of them, brown, on the green of the green earth, and then I saw a l l those roads were water, and so in a sense they were roads, and I thought of the fingering of water, holding the land green; i t was like that, I was happy to see that, and I understood; but then we were landing. Note: as Record page 33: James Darling 1880 Mar 22: to sawing square timber 1.44 June 21: to 1 round cedar bed 3.50 June 21: to 1 jack shingles .50 Dec 4: to sawing mable [sfc] 1.50 (i t doesn't balance) Note: as Reflection I only buy used mirrors now. I like to see other faces when I look at myself. Note: as Vignette Winter was ending. This is what happened: we were harrowing in the garden. 126 You've got to understand this: I was sitting on the horse. The horse was standing s t i l l . I fell off. Note: the, form of formlessness, the place of/for free play, the ways in which suddenly anything is fair game for writing: Kroetsch has said that when "we have nothing to write about, but NOTHING to write about, that is what we HAVE to write about" (LV, 145), and he does it beautifully. The rigid structures dictating the composition of fiction versus poetry versus criticism do not (at least, apparently, for Kroetsch) permit the expression of such unusual/quizzical/surprising/banal/self-directed/shared/ personal ideas; the forms and functions of the index card, the l i t t l e yellow stickie, the datebook, the scrap or shred of paper do. Please note. ORAL I'm s t i l l tempted by oral models where the story in the act of retelling is always responsive to individuals, to the place, to invention. * . . . I was tuning in on . . . the kind of self-creation that goes on orally. . . I'm fascinated by the content where we are l i teral ly in a new world telling ourselves about i t , making each other up, inventing each other in this new world. * Please request cassette of oral exam from thesis librarian. 128 POSTMODERNISM Kroetsch has been dubbed "MR. CANADIAN POSTMODERN" by Linda Hutcheon (cf. CP, 188 f f . ) ; M.E. Turner refers not to Kroetsch's canonicity as a postmodern writer, but rather to his canonization (cf. ACC); Kroetsch has edited boundary  2: a journal of postmodern literature: he claims he writes Canada as a "postmodern country" (cf. LTW, 21-33, for example). Thus to argue for Kroetsch's postmodernism is nothing short of redundancy; it seems the Name of the writer and the Name ascribed to the writing have become synonymous. They should hereafter be read as such. and Postmodernism i s . . . the term designate for fundamental self-reflexivity, the self-consciously art(ifice), situating itself squarely in the context of itself, its social and ideological actualities (CP, 1, 10). but Kroetschism i s . . . wilfully fragmentary, discontinuous, asystematic, incomplete (CP, 160). 129 and Postmodernism i s . . . the consumerism of easily disseminated reality structures such that cultural entrepreneurs dabble gaily in the creation of new history, new science, new religion, new politics (R, 9). but Kroetschism i s . . . a transformation of reader into rat, labyrinth into hall of mirrors, cheese into nothingness. and Postmodernism i s . . . creative use of shelf space: keeping your Mozart, Twisted Sister, Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Fine Young Cannibals, Leonard Cohen, MC Hammer, Kenny Rogers and Placido Domingo collections in a funky holder equipped for 45's, 78's, 33's, eight-tracks, cassettes and CD's. but Kroetschism i s . . . a harmonious tension or a tense harmony refusing to balance the contra-diction between the implied universals of mythic story and the definite here-and-now-only-less of narrative. and Postmodernism'is... the fountainhead of noble lies (R, 11). Kroetschism i s . . . eclectic, drawing as much from Victorian Dickensianism (or Dickensian Victorianism) and down-home Prairie farmhand bullshitting as from Faulknerian streams of consciousness or Marquezian magic realism. Postmodernism i s . . . catching; preventative vaccinations are available at the Free Clinic for a nominal fee. Kroetschism i s . . . ludic activity, a concept of play in which its inescapable rule-boundedness is matched by a laying bare of the game plans within the game itself so that others may play or refuse to play, but always with a knowledge of just what they are playing at. Postmodernism i s . . . drinking Mexican beer bottled in Taiwan and (perhaps not) eating a pepperoni and fugu sushi pizza at an Ethiopian restaurant. Kroetschism i s . . . at its best, a restoration to first place of the temporality of language over the spatiality of image (27.1.9.77). 131 and Postmodernism i s . . . a kitsch ecotheology complete with its doctrines and its priest and priestesses (R, 12). but Kroetschism i s . . . the paradoxical setting up of and refusal of categorisation, a construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of sense making non-sense (sensually speaking). and Postmodernism i s . . . a bunch of WASP teenagers from Kerrisdale spending all their hard-earned McDonald's paychecks at a hole-in-the-wall shop in the East end called THIRD WORLD where they can buy live hermit crab necklaces, 60's love beads and tie-dyes, woven Tehuana ponchos, and hand-carved Kenyan slave rings. but Kroetschism i s . . . a confrontation of the hopelessness and necessary hope of originality, a contriving of authentic origins, an orchestration of the absent (FWPF, 55, 56). and Postmodernism i s . . . agony: the pain of birth into its self, its world (R, 16). but Kroetschism i s . . . not. 132 and Postmodernism i s . . . an elusive idea, with a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't- way of behaving (R, 26). but Kroetschism i s . . . actually choosing to give up free tickets to The Indigo Girls Nomads... Indians... Saints concert at the Orpheum to be followed by cheap lobster at the English Bay Cafe in order to stay home all but handcuffed to a computer named Biff writing an anti-thesis about nothing in particular and eating leftover alphaghetti. and Postmodernism i s . . . entirely unsatisfactory, quintessentially problematic, annoyingly awkward and calling to mind a band of vainglorious contemporary artists following the circus elephants of Modernism with snow shovels (PF, 3). but Kroetschism i s . . . an exploding porcupine, an erotics of space, unhiding the hidden, disunity as unity, a recitation of emptiness, a grammar of silence, a veil of knowing, the lovely treachery of words. and Postmodernism i s . . . wearing a Victorian, ruffled-collar lace blouse with faded and ripped Levi's, a smoking jacket, and K-mart $12.99 rubber riding boots 133 and but ( i f one is a woman of course; worn by a man the outfit would be merely ridiculous). Kroetschism i s . . . a textual drunkenness; the incoherence and inanity, profundity and power of linguistic intoxication. Postmodernism i s . . . modernism NEW AND IMPROVED, like Mr. Clean and its powerful new addit ive-biodegradable surfactins (and a larger, shinier earring dangling from his glistening germ-free bald head). Kroetschism i s . . . [insert here entire thesis; then ignore it] Postmodernism i s . . . never having to say you're sorry. QUESTIONS ( ( . . . remaining... lost . . . found why are there not more q words in the english lexi-con how come maybe just may BE/E it all begins with q with ? there is so much left that I want to cannot know not k/now 135 archaeologybloGrpahyca NnicitydialOgismeducat oRfeminismgenrehAngove riNterviewjuvenesCenck roetschlanguagEmetapho rnoteoralitypostmodern ismr i sksystemtal1taleu nwestxyz KnowledgewisdomdegRees educatiOnhonoursl Earni ngTu i t i oned i f icat i onte ach i ngcr i tc i Smanalys i s Closereadingexperience intelligenceinsigHtadv ancementonehel1uvaloto ofhardwork the weight of ignorance tips the scale the order of things  of grammatology  the alphabet book i t doesn't balance the books i should have read the books i should not have read the order of things  of qrammatology  the alphabet book the questions i asked of family and friends can you think of any words associated with archaeology? did mother goose write the alphabet book or was i t someone else? could "anon" have written it? what's the name of that beat-up old medical book, mom? what kinds of diseases can cattle get? do you hyphenate grass-hopper? is percheron a breed of horse? 136 what k i n d s o f names d i d you c a l l y o u r s i s t e r s and b r o t h e r s when you were k i d s ? do you know a n y t h i n g about italics? j u s t where i s t h i s h e i s l e r p l a c e on a map, anyway? d i d grandpa have t o abandon h i s farm i n t h e d e p r e s s i o n ? how f a r can i push t h e d e a d l i n e s and s t i l l have t h i s done by a p r i l ? do you g e t i t ? i mean r e a l l y , i s i t c l e a r ? can you u n d e r s t a n d i t ? i s i t t o o easy? s e r i o u s l y , do you g e t i t ? what s o r t s o f q u e s t i o n s d i d i ask you w h i l e i was w r i t i n g my t h e s i s ? t h e q u e s t i o n s i was asked what does t h e a l p h a b e t have t o do w i t h i t ? how on e a r t h d i d you come up w i t h t h a t i d e a ? what a r e you g o i n g t o do about "z"? "x"? "q"? a r e you s u r e you can s a y t h a t ? won't you g e t i n t o t r o u b l e ? does y o u r v o i c e want t o s p l i t t h a t i n f i n i t i v e ? does y o u r v o i c e want t o s p l i t t h i s i n f i n i t i v e ? you've g o t a l o t o f pages t h e r e , duck, why c a n ' t you j u s t c u t a few c h a p t e r s , w r i t e a c o n c l u s i o n , and come home f o r d i n n e r ? what i n t h e sam h e l l do you t h i n k y o u ' r e d o i n g h e r e and do you r e a l l y imagine y o u ' r e g o i n g t o g e t away w i t h i t ? r o b e r t who? 137 the questions kroetsch refused to answer what's the most commonly asked question? what's the stupidest question (or sort of question), assuming, of course, that your answer will not be the same as to the previous question? what have you never been asked, and possibly, would like to be asked? why do you think no one has asked before? what would your answer be? what question(s) would you refuse to answer and why? if the fiction makes us real, what does the "real" make our fiction? any superstitions? do you have a favourite fountain pen or an antique typewriter? any way in which you always begin or always end a work? do you have an ideal reader? i do not want to write a dry, extended version of a publisher's squib for the biography chapter, so i am trying, instead, to pull together a series of vignettes to make a collage of sorts, do you think you could tell me a (tall) tale or two? if i were an actor hired to play you in "the robert kroetsch story," what would i need to know in order to ge a sense of my character's motivations? if you were the guest of the week on "this is your l ife ," whose voices would be coming out from behind the magic curtain for you to identify? what would they say about you? anything you can tell me about upcoming work? 138 the questions i was told to ask did he really travel through the badlands? did the hotsprings scene in alibi really happen? does he get women's permissions before he publishes their sex l i fe along with his own? is he aware of the very process of being interviewed by a graduate student? did the hotsprings scene in alibi really happen? what do his daughters think of his work? has he ever asked a group of first nation's peoples what they think of his handling of myth? did the hotsprings scene in alibi really happen? to him? the questions i could not ask how do you begin where do you find the strength/ where do you find the weakness for language game story meaning for -less for -ness ?? how DO you woo a bear ?? how DO you make love in a new country ?? how DO you grow a Prairie town ?? how DO you grow a gardener ?? how DO you grow a lover ?? how DO you grow a past ?? how DO you grow a poet ?? how do you grow a THESIS ?? how do you DO 139 R I S K A serious writer who can always win is bored and boring. . . . We push to a point where we begin to risk losing. That's where fiction acquires a game element. In fiction, in writing i t -self, I think there is a temptation to failure. * * * Risk: the word is scattered throughout Kroetsch's writings, and its connotations inform his aesthetic perhaps more than any other concept. The primary consideration for any writer, of course, is the reader. Daring to write at a l l , daring to publish, involves risking possibly negative audience and critical reception. Because Kroetsch pushes language and convention and expectation to the point where he "risks losing," his works do not present an "easy read." The text is so steeped in con-text, whether theoretical (Bakhtin, Barthes, Derrida, Eco, Foucault, Iser, Jakobson, Kristeva, Ong, Saussure....), intertextual (Barth, Borges, Lowry, Marquez, Ross, Stevens, Twain, Williams, 140 to name very few), or rural (the tall tale; the novelist, the language, as trickster), that, one could argue, years of pre-reading are necessary even to begin to grasp the possibilities. As Kroetsch has pointed out on numerous occasions, one cannot deconstruct what has not yet been constructed: "the whole notion of experimentation and avant-garde is based on the audience's having a strong sense of convention. . . . In our own time, the conventions [have] become so shaky that it's rather hard to be defiant about them" (LV, 190). Kroetsch's work is never going to hit the bestseller l i s t . But then, daring to speak of authorial intention for a moment, that is not his wish. Kroetsch is appealing to a "probing and intellectual readership," and wants to "move literary boundaries, not masses of people" (UST, 36). "Anybody can read one of my books," says Kroetsch, "but they have to be willing to do a l i t t l e work—and play too of course" (ibid). The reader may refuse, however, may not enter into the game, may not be willing to put in the required energy and commitment, and Kroetsch recognises that in asking so much of his readers, he is "going for the big stakes" (ibid). Kroetsch is quick to make clear, however, that his choice of writing style is not so much a calculated risk as it is a necessary one—writing without some element of risk is tantamount to the death of creativity: You stay alive by moving around on those edges where you risk meaninglessness all the time. That's one of the risks you have to take on the edge, that it might be just totally meaningless. When you disallow the centre, you take that risk. (LV, 130) 141 Being on the "cutting edge" of his f ield, the explorer, the "first" to attempt some innovative textual strategy, can mean that Kroetsch 1 iberates himself and discovers new forms; or, conversely, it can mean that he discovers this "new" form has never been attempted before because it is simply unworkable. In The Crow Journals. Kroetsch speaks of his writing process: The meaning that doesn't quite mean. . . . I begin to understand that when I begin a novel I am the creator. I control, select, invent. At some point the created world assumes control of the creator. It uses the writer to get itself created, completed. Thus, currently, my loss of identity. I am the merest vehicle, the tool, of my novel's ambition... I am lost, but that is a l l . I am only lost. From that, there is a possibility of finding. (69) Kroetsch seems to feel that the writer must dare to let the work write itself, to let the process take over—not merely the appearance of process remaining in the so-called "finished" product—but rather the opening of the textual site to the degree that what is sought is subjugated to what might be found. After the first reading of "Seed Catalogue," Kroetsch records his response: "It works as a poem. All that bloody gambling. It WORKS!!!" (CJ, 62). He is not sure what he was looking for, but he knows he has found something. The poet not a maker, but as book-maker. Again, we come to the notion of the labyrinth. Lifting the pen, facing the blankness of the page, the writer enters a maze. Somewhere between the 142 imagination and the paper l ie all manner of traps and pitfalls and the writer must navigate over and around them, taking the risk of losing idea, focus, self, or worse yet, for Kroetsch, losing out—to order, to system, to time... to language. I play on the edge of convention. I suppose that's one place where I bend the rules. I also take the risk of falling right into langauge: the danger of language taking over. Kroetsch's short piece entitled, "Taking the Risk," takes the reader in s t i l l another direction with respect to this obsession. In i t , Kroetsch talks about his childhood, his education, his early writing, his current work, until, at long last, in the closing line, he gets to the point and says: ". . . you must take the risk, finally of loving words. Of loving/words" (67). Ah, but to draw this hasty conclusion is to miss the point. That Kroetsch equates loving and words, as indicated by the either/or of his ever-present virgule, is no surprise, and is certainly not a "risky" disclosure. No, the real risks were taken in the parts of the narrative that I skimmed over trying to find the next reference to risk, to the revelation of the much-anticipated point. I used to, I think, distance myself greatly— keep myself and my work far apart. But in writing poems like "Stone Hammer" I have taken the risk, so to speak, of looking at my own immediate experience rather than shaping it into fiction. 143 Perhaps the biggest gamble Kroetsch has taken in any of his work is his placing of his se7f squarely in the text... the awkward l i t t l e boy in "Seed Catalogue" who gardens on the farm and gropes in the granary; the accountant/poet, son and nephew who (un-)narrates "The Ledger"; the friend presuming to counsel so many in Advice to My Friends; the father, husband, and lover revealing such private privates in "Postcards from China" and "Letters to Salonika"; the self-conscious and introspective writer of The Crow  Journals. Risking Humour: poem for a child who has just bit into a halved lemon that has just been squeezed: see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, 144 see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you, see, what did I tell you One could, of course, go on ("Sketches of a Lemon," FN, 87) The reader might not laugh. Risking the Intensely personal: I am past all fantasy, past even touching my own body. Except only that I rehearse you with my remembering tongue. ("Letters to Salonika," FN, 143) The reader might not want to know. Risking bodily harm: I've been to bed with some dandy and also skilled ladies, sure, but would I a ballyhoo start for the keen (and gossipy) public? I'd be sued or whatever, maybe killed but (now and then) you've got to tell somebody and a reader has I guess, in spite of a l l , ears ("For a Poet Who Has Stopped Writing," FN, 105) The reader might be offended. 145 Risk ing the bana l : Ken Probert and I went for a late lunch, this afternoon, to the new Burger King that has just opened on Pembina. Grand Opening. Litt le children wearing crowns. The children, in their make-believe, laughing. I asked for a crown. The young gentleman in charge of the crowns was offended. ("Letters to Salonika," FN, 150) The reader might not care. 146 SYSTEM I suppose I write against systems, even if I, ironically, end up incorporating a system. That's one thing. I do write against them. * * * I. The difficulty in subverting or deconstructing, the reliance on conventionalised meanings and forms and tropes in order to hide them... "The Ledger": the found accountant's record, the already-created, the form we must know as it was in order to see what it is, the source we must recognise in order to appreciate Kroetsch's re-creation/un-invention of i t , the necessity of reader expectations in order to fail to meet them. What the Crow Said: the out-of-time-novel, the all-at-once-ness of which can only be transmitted by its not adhering to the prescribed beginning-middle-end, passing of seasons, coming of age and growing old time frames. 147 The thing that strikes me more and more in writing. . . is the power of conventions; if the reader does not know the conventions, we can't make it come alive. "Stone Hammer Poem," "Seed Catalogue," "Sketches of a Lemon": the beautiful telling of story without narrative, without linearity, the eloquence of which becomes clear because of the paradoxical construction of and resistance to numerical ordering. "Effing the Ineffable"; "For Play and Entrance: The Contemporary Canadian Long Poem"; "The Moment of the Discovery of America Continues": the anti-essay-ness of Kroetsch's critical forms, the subversion (explosion) of Aristotelian five-part structures, of for examples, of giving time to the oppositions, of syllogisms, of transitions, and the essential horribleness of hinging the reception, the apprehension, the connection to/of the work on reader knowledge of what it is not. . . . The whole notion of experimentation and avant-garde is based on an audience's having a strong sense of convention. . . . In our own time, the conventions became so shaky that it's rather hard to be defiant about them. I think that one of the paradoxes of serious art is its reliance on an audience that is grounded in conventions. 148 I I . The deadline, the degree, the calendar, the daytimer... Iraq invades Kuwait; the U.S. (the U.N. Coalition) invades Iraq (liberates Kuwait). Desert Shield (which sounds like a brand-name for Arab condoms—Trojans, Sheiks, Desert Shields—they are all in the same semantic field) becomes Desert Storm overnight—the Naming and UnNaming, the construction of (my) reality. Television programming becomes endless streams of CNN footage, including non-stop commentary on the dimples and muscular arms, shoulders, buttocks of their number one reporter, now dubbed "The Desert Fox." Every PhD on the continent becomes a Middle East expert: "Ah, yeah, well, I travelled through Egypt in 1962 when I was trying to find myself after failing my Comps for the second time, and my impression of the area then is that it was very volatile " Every economist becomes an oil-speculator: "Canadians pay more at the pumps... film footage at 11:00." The American toy industry, victim of the recession, begins to boom again, designing a Saddam doll, new fatigues for G.I. Joe, and miniature PATRIOTS 149 which can actually intercept SCUDS. (In Canada, I guess we'll be*manufacturing brooms, dustpans, and l i t t l e lysol cans, since we're only over there to do "sweep and escort" missions, "sterilising" the area for American CF-18's. UBC campus sees not one demonstration, not one ral ly , not one break in stride, one moment of silence, one acknowledgement that something even minutely more serious is going on than ECT's, GMAT's and GPA's. I continue writing, watching documentaries of the Sixties between casualty reports, making progress toward graduation day... ashamed. III. The delight in arbitrariness... Kroetsch's need to number, alphabetise, map, structure, plan, chart, outline, footnote, edit . . . and then "resist" these schemes "with words" (Hancock, 44). Yet, does the reader ever really get to see the arbitrariness, or the resistance to it? Is such a thing even possible? Kroetsch p7ans to be arbitrary. Is the reader to understand this strategy as providing some mimesis of arbitrariness? Or is she just supposed to say "oh, well, it's the thought that counts."? Or is she just being duped, perhaps as much by her own expectations as by the Author controlling these (semblances of) structures? How is she to know whether his beautiful anti-teleological un-narratives weren't written first in chronological order and only later de-sequenced? I begin to feel like Annie Wilkes in Misery: "I'm your number one fan.. ." 150 . . . I have less and less interest in the notion of literature. I keep thinking of Artaud: "Literature is bullshit." He didn't say writing is bullshit, he said literature is bullshit, because to make it into literature is to systematise. IV. Lunch: Student Union Building, talking ad nauseam about reading processes with Erin as a busperson wipes off our table. Erin, looking at this black woman, slump-shouldered as she carries our dirty trays away, says: I think I get it now. This white, upper-class male theoretician has an author-function; I, as a white, middle-class woman have a reader-function; and across the room is a black, lower-class woman who has the cleaning-up-our-shit-function. Welcome to university, I say. V. The inscription of the author-function... The fledgling writer sends an unknown first manuscript to a publishing house (he doesn't have an agent yet); a junior editor reads i t , eyes full of stars at its potential—a bigger office, a reserved parking space, a key to the executive washroom—and oh yeah, maybe some book sales; so, the l i t t l e editor takes the draft upstairs to a big editor who also sees its potential, calls starving writer on the phone and sets up a meeting. Cutting to the chase, fledgling writer's book gets published and he becomes a legitimate writer, getting royalties and everything; big editor (having taken all the credit for l i t t l e editor's discovery) begins marketing his new gold mine, dreaming of a 151 condo in the Cayman Islands: the squib and the "About the Author" are carefully drafted; the publicity tour commences, and the author-function is born. A few autographs, interviews and GG Awards later and he is all grown up: Robert Kroetsch, Mr. Canadian Postmodern, down-home prairie farmboy hick-from-the-sticks turned academic and theoretician, and, ultimately, a Lion of Canadian Letters. No new Kroetsch work can ever be read as was that early manuscript; the author-function does its job well and is now invisibly, but indelibly superimposed on even future texts. Before even cracking the binding, the reader encounters the laurels of the critics (Governor General's Award winning author Robert Kroetsch "has an extraordinary command of literary form"; "is an experimental writer of the first order"; "possesses a profound sense of the legendary"; "recounts the hilariously parodic story..."; "confirms his reputation as one of Canada's finest. . ."). Even if she has never heard of Robert Kroetsch, literary icon, she cannot help but be influenced by such words. And if she has "heard of" him, has read other works, has dipped into some Kroetsch criticism, has taken a course on Canadian literature or postmodernism, whether she knows it or not, she brings an author-construct to her reading of the text and will balance that reading against her expectations. Author-function: Prairie writer. Text: Seems to be inaccurate in its description of the harvesting season. Reader-response: Oh well, maybe they do it differently in the northern part of Alberta where Kroetsch was raised. 152 Author-function: Liberal Democrat, accepting of differences. Text: Seems racist/sexist/homophobic/classist/elitist Reader-response: Ah . . . Parody! Author-function: Subversive, Deconstructionist, Avant-garde Text: Seems traditional and formulaic Reader-response: Beautiful foregrounding of the inadequacy of conventional forms and structures. VI. Innocent, Motivated, Imaginative Student: . . . a contemporary Canadian novelist, poet, and cr i t i c , can often be found investigating systems of ordering: he examines their contrasting characteristics of symmetry and arbitrariness; necessity and inanity, their potential to be both banal and surprising. My thesis on his aesthetic will comprise twenty-six chapters, each corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. My form is not in any way an attempt to trivialize scholarly criticism; rather, this form is an integral part of my study. The writer's absorption with system invariably leads him back to the nature of the linguistic sign, and the possibilities and limitations of significance. The form of my thesis responds to my subject; it is a form which becomes, finally, a thesis in itself. Anal Retentive, Jaded, Tenured Professor: Uh-huh. Well, it certainly seems, ah, ambitious, and ah, I suppose, interesting, but what, ah, precisely, I mean, is, ah, the point? 153 Student: Well, Sir, it seems to me that if you are asking me to posit a single point, then you missed the point. Professor: No, my dear young lady, quite to the contrary: I did not miss the point; you do not have one. Student: Exactly. Professor: Request for thesis approval denied. VII . Imagine if you w i l l . . . That disjunctive, fragmentary, self-consciously parodic, playful, intertextual and irreverent writing formed the canon of literature written in English since the eighteenth century... That Bakhtin, Derrida, Foucault, Kristeva, and their poststructuralist colleagues had not become the driving force behind a (not the) new critical movement... That postmodernism had not been periodised (and thus valorised) virtually contemporaneously with its inception... Who/What/Where/Why/How would a Robert Kroetsch be? 154 V I I I . Instructions for the Preparation of Graduate Theses: A. PRELIMINARY PAGES: Parts 1-4 listed below must be included; parts 5-6 only if appropriate; part 7 is optional. Those parts which are included must be in the order given, 1-7. 1. Title Page: The form and the content of the t i t l e page must follow the sample shown. All the information shown on the sample —from the t i t le to the copyright statement is REQUIRED. 2. Authorisation: This form is required in the Library's copies only. 3. Abstract: This should be a summary or condensation of the thesis and state the problem, the methods of investigation, and the general conclusions. Those abstracts intended for the library copies should not exceed 600 words; those intended for U.M.I, must be limited to 350 words. 4. Table of contents: This must l i s t all the main divisions of the thesis, the subdivisions, the bibliography, and, when present, the appropriate sections included here (i .e. 3, 5-7), the appendix, and index. Page numbers must be given. 5. List of Tables: For each table, its number, full t i t l e , and page number must be listed on a page separate from that on which the table of contents is entered. The tables must be numbered consecutively in order of appearance and, preferably, in large Roman numerals. 155 6. List of Figures: Figures—graphs, photographs, and other illustrative material—are to be listed on a page separate from that containing the tables. Number, t i t l e , and page are to be given. Figures must be numbered in Arabic numerals consecutively in order of appearance and captioned Figure (or Fig.) 1, 2, 3, etc. 1. Acknowledgement: This should not be more than one-half page. B. TEXT: While not all the parts of the text listed here are required ( i .e . , introduction, appendix, and index), those present must be in the following order: introduction, main body, bibliography, appendix, and biographical form. NOTES: The footnotes or notes may be numbered consecutively throughout the thesis, or throughout each chapter. They may be at the bottom of pages, at the end of chapters, or at the end of the main body of the text immediately preceding the bibliography. Candidates are reminded that a consistent and established style must be followed in footnotes, notes, and bibliography. PROHIBITED: Binding, Cardboard, Construction paper, Erasable paper under any of its various trade names, Holes (such as those made by binder rings), Letraset or like adhesive, Pencil, Rubber Cement, Scotch tape or like adhesive tapes. 156 /X. The Sad Phoenician in alphabetical order: A A A A A A A A A A A a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a absence abyss accident actually actually add adverbs adverbs afflicted afghan after after after airs alive all all all all all all all all all all all all all all all alphabet alphabet always always am amber ambush Ampersand an an an an analogies analogy anarchist And And And and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and anger anonymous anonymous any any anything apollonian are are are arms as as as as as as as as as as as as as as as as as as as ask ask ask asking ass ass ass at at at at at at at avoidance avoiding aye bait backwards bad Baltimore bare barking basket basket basket be be bears beautiful because because become bed bed beds been been before beg behind behind being being being being believe believe believe below belly belly's bench best bet better between big bi l l bird bird birds bite black black blame blastfamous bleeding blew blood blood blood blood blood blouse blow blue bodies body boil bone books books bother bottles bought bowl braid brass breaks breasts breath breed bride bridegroom brief bright bring brings brings broken bronchitis bronze broody brush buffaloes burn burned burning burning burrowing bursting bury business 157 business But But but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but One could, of course, go on.. 158 TALL TALE . . . the tall tale tradition. You see it in beer parlours in the West; the delight in insulting and verbal quarrel-ling. . . . But behind that there is a very serious movement toward, a need for, myth-making. * * * The tall tale genre is clearly a major influence on Kroetsch's work. Kroetsch is constantly to be found elaborating upon the ways in which story-telling is not only important in a literary sense, but integral to the human condition. Indeed, it seems to me that Kroetsch argues for the necessity of story with the same vehemence as contemporary psychologists and psychiatrists argue for dream or REM ("rapid eye movement") sleep: deprivation of mental exercise, of psychological re-creation, results in intellectual and emotional dysfunction. Kroetsch clearly believes that we need to fictionalise—make each other larger than life—"weave and unweave ourselves" (CJ, 19). The tall tale is particularly amenable to Kroetsch's style and aesthetic because the story gets richer and fuller with each (re-)telling; it is the 159 ultimate in melding continuity and openness, in the participatory, re-creative experience. Take, for example, this excerpt from "Seed Catalogue": My father was mad at the badger: the badger was digging holes in the potato patch, threatening man and beast with broken limbs (I quote). My father took the double-barrelled shotgun out into the potato patch and waited. My father couldn't shoot the badger. He uncocked the shotgun, came back to the house in time for breakfast. The badger dug another hole. My father got mad again. They carried on like that all summer. One morning my father actually shot at the badger. He killed a magpie that was pecking away at the horse turd about fifty feet beyond and to the right of the spot where the badger had been standing. A week later my father told the story again. In that version he intended to hit the magpie. Magpies, he explained, are a nuisance. They eat robins' eggs. They're harder to k i l l than snakes, jumping around the way they do, nothing but feathers. Just call me sure-shot, my father added. (FN, 35) 160 Kroetsch acknowledges the strength and beauty of his own tall tale heritage and beautifully captures the paradoxical process of self-erasure and self-creation which is the cornerstone of this story-making tradition. In the tall tale, we are responsible for our own identities. We make our own plots and subplots, chapters and verses, additions and deletions; we can be our own heroes. One time in my callous youthfulness I dared to ask if he wasn't stretching a point. "You tell it ," he said, if you know better. Kroetsch's resistance to codification and insistence upon the open-ness and dialectical freedom of the tall tale is based in large part on the tale's history (archaeology?) as a pre-1iterate discourse, firmly rooted in the oral tradition. The tall tale forges a link between performance and process because every telling involves an improvisation of sorts. Each narration is a carefully crafted and continually adapted exhibition: the teller reacts not only to audience response, but to audience questioning and interjecting (Brown, 28). The tall tale is always improbable if not downright illogical or impossible, and is usually spontaneous, based in the personal, and intended to be comic (Brown, 26): a description which could as easily have been intended for "Seed Catalogue" (in spite of that poem's basis in a found, written text) specifically, as any story or yarn in general. The tall tale can also be described as "paratactic"—in part due to its reliance on audience response and participation, it takes shape as if by building blocks. Each piece comprises a plot portent or an "and then" and the order of telling is 161 dependent on the order in which the blocks are laid out and picked up. Lines/verses/stanzas, etc., are detachable: the story grows clause by clause, one idea at a time, and can be expanded upon, altered, or ended at any given point. As folklorists are quick to point out, there are l i teral ly hundreds of thousands of tall tales, handed down from generation to generation, which are s t i l l frequently told today (to say nothing of the whoppers contemporary tale-spinners continue to invent). The seemingly endless possibilities for story, with all of these tellers and all of these listeners jumping in and out of age-old narratives, are reminiscent of the labyrinth, a pervasive motif in Kroetsch's work. The oral poet/tale-spinner throws himself into the midst of a whole maze of stories, old and new, each twisting, turning, and intertwining with another, and must find a way, embellishing as he goes along, to get himself out. As Kroetsch has said, however, getting oneself out of the labyrinth involves a participation in its creation: You tell your way out of story, in a sense. I think that what it comes down to is that we are trapped in those mythic stories; we can surrender to them or we can tell our way out. (LV, 96) Telling his way out, for Kroetsch, often means daring to appropriate the stories which have come before him, stories from other eras, other cultures, other peoples, and recontextualising them in a contemporary national, regional, or most often, personal context. One of Kroetsch's most interesting mythic works is a long poem entitled, "How I Joined the Seal Herd" (FN, 52-162 56). Conjuring up images of the west coast Indian "Salmon Boy" legend,* this poem involves Kroetsch's introspective game-playing with the possibilities of fantasy and illusion for the creation of new textual (and physical) forms: I knew, the seals lying together in the hot sun maybe 300 seals I counted slipping off my shoes the effect was immediate I learned to let my body give it was not I who controlled the rocks I learned curling my stockinged toes to the granite rocks and edges: maybe I have this wrong but I knew in the first instant of my courage I must undo my very standing/crawl on the wet rocks, the sand... I'm a new man (mammal, I corrected myself) here and yet I was going In virtually every Indian community (or First Nation— the politically correct language changes often enough to become a labyrinthine tale of its own) west of Alberta (Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshain, Kwakiutl, Kutenai, Chinook, Nez Perce, Kathlamet, Coos...) one comes across variations of a legend in which a young boy is abandoned by his family and adopted by the salmon, gradually adapting physically until he is one of them. See, for example, Tsimshian Mythology. Ed. Franz Boas. Recorded by Henry W. Tate. U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology, Thirty-first Annual Report, 1916. 163 too far too far past everything dispersed past everything here/gone dear, I whispered (words again, words) I wanted to say/I am writing this poem with my 1ife [.] (52, 56) Kroetsch takes the ancient and timeless story of human copulation with and transformation into animal, adds to it his absorption with language, and places it ("it"—a nice vague, open referent, potentially meaning almost anything from the poem, to language, to the self, to truth) under erasure, constantly questioning, revising, and rethinking: " . . . I believe this is the word. . ."; ". . . I corrected myself. . . "; "maybe I have this wrong. . . ." This refusal to accept either the solidification of experience and vision into a factual account, or the forcing of abstract thoughts and emotions into concrete words, is wholly consistent with Kroetsch's paradoxical comments on the long poem of which "Seal Herd" is an example: the task facing the (contemporary long) poet, he says, "is to honour the belief in disbelief" (P&E, 92). This notion of honouring the belief in disbelief seems to me to inform much of Kroetsch's literary and critical contexts. Myth is generally recognised as being somehow other than true, without actually being false, and by its very pervasiveness and significance, it calls the value and nature of 164 truth into question. Myths, certainly, evolve and change, and the story we hear or read may not be the same story that was f irst told; but, at least we think/we know what we are dealing with. Truth is an indefinable concept. We believe something to be true—we cannot really know i t . Thus the sanctity of the tall tale: the truth of it is that it 7*s, not that it is factual or accurate, but that it is reliable, an old friend, an other self. . . . during harvest, when the bunkshack out in the yard was fu l l , I liked to sneak out there at night and listen to stories of travel, of adventure, of hard times, of home; they were story-makers, those dispossessed men of the thirties, myth-makers. I began to recognize the archaeological sites of my own short l i f e . . . . I became, profoundly, a 1istener. Myths survive (and perhaps propagate) in their retellings and Kroetsch believes in the open, ongoing text. He is also intensely aware, as a regionalist, that the myths of other cultures, however universal in theme or scope, cannot speak to the experiences of western Canada and Canadians. We must, therefore, recreate (and the multiple meanings are important) these mythic stories—of origin, of transformation, of initiation—so that they can be authentically spoken with our own voices (as does the first person speaker of "Seal Herd"). Says Kroetsch: We have sought out the decentering rather than the centering function of myth.... Now existing on the circumference rather than in the center excites me. It is a way to resist endings and 165 completion. On the circumference we can defer meaning and other finalities. I want to avoid both meaning and conclusiveness. And one way to achieve this is to keep retelling, keep transforming the story. . . . So myth can become a very useful notion again. Instead of fear and entrapment, myth can become generative again. But it must be decentered. (LV, 130) Kroetsch believes in the necessity of audience/reader participation and textual openness or fluidity, thus I think his resistance to Myth (and the capital M is important) as great code or archetype or allusion stems from a distrust of its implied universality and consequent rigidity. The tall tale, with its mythologising of the personal and everyday, becomes myth decentered. The tall tale provides a form (forum?) which is inviting and accessible to a l l , drawing us into its small-ness and immediacy, and slowly building toward the larger-than-life with the imagination of each re-telling. Thus the strange tale I have tried to weave here begins to, or at least, hints at coming together. The beer parlour—the last bastion of communal dialogue and interaction in our society, as Kroetsch would have it—is the place where, the group-bullshitting which takes place as a story is told by a teller and the interjecting listeners who qualify and question, takes on the seriousness of myth-making and culture-building. 166 " . . . Why didn't you go when you had a chance?" I was going." "Going where?" "Going. Making tracks. Skinning out... Then I got hit on the goddamned head. That's why I stopped." "Hope it wasn't an idea that hit you." "Good God Almighty himself, as far as I can see. Hailstones coming down as big as goddamned apples. Macintoshes." Knocked me s i l l i er than"—he signalled back over his shoulder—"you know who. I was travelling full gallop when I got hit, streaking across those bald-headed prairies, spraining both ankles in gopher holes. Ground was half covered with lumps of ice the size of softballs, more coming down, the wind blowing, the sky roaring. Then clonk. Nothing can knock me over, Tune. But somehow I got it into my head that all those big round things were dinosaur eggs...." "I suppose you think I'm bullshitting?" Web said. "I didn't say anything." "Never told a l ie in my l ife." "I didn't say a word," Tune said. Maybe we should be concerned about that. 167 U N 1. There are no rules. 2. There are rules. * * * Kroetsch's favourite prefix: "UN." He unsays, undoes, unnames, uninvents, unweaves, unhides, and generally, unmeans any and all forms of discourse. (When you write about a poem by Robert Kroetsch, you find your-self saying BUT a lot, or trying to find a way not to say i t ) . Kroetsch writes to convey speech and dialogue, uncoding the code; he edits lines out of a poem only to re-incorporate them in a different form, unremoving the removed; he draws maps and charts and plot outlines on which to base a novel or poem and then resists them in the writing, uncreating the created; he builds a system in order to take it apart, and thus unforms the formed. 168 At one time I considered it the task of the Canadian writer to give names to his experience, to be the namer. I now suspect that on the contrary, it is his task to un-name. Asked to describe Kroetsch's work to someone unfamiliar with i t , one would find it difficult to avoid un words: unacademic, unanalysable, unapologising, unarrogant, unassembled, unattainable, unauthor-ised, unbanned, uncanonical, uncensored, uncheckable, unclassified, unclassifiable, uncliched, uncoercive, uncommercial ised, unconcealed, unconnected, unconstrained, uncontrived, uncustomary, undeluded, undefinable, undignified, unduplicated, unexpurgated, unfaked, unfazed, unforgettable, unhackneyed, unhistorical, unhomogenised, unignorable, unjointed, unmanageable, unmatchable, unmediated, unnameable, unpredictable, unpunctual, unrealistic, unregulated, unromanticised, unstandardised, unsynchronised, unsystematised, untraditional, untypical My choice of words is obviously mediated by my respect for Kroetsch's work. Another crit ic might have constructed a l i s t which looks more like the following: unaccented, unacceptable, unaccredited, unadmired, unadventurous, unaffecting, unaggressive, unambitious, unamiable, unartistic, unassimilated, unauthentic, unbeloved, unbrilliant, uncandid, unclarified, uncoded, uncompelling, uncomprehended, uncontemplated, uncourageous, uncreative, uncredited, uncultured, undedicated, undemanding, unexciting, unexotic, unexplored, unexpressed, unforgivable, unfulfilling, unfunny, ungifted, ungraspable, unhelpful, unheroic, unideological, unimaginative, unimpassioned, unimportant, unimpressive, uninspired, unintellectual, unintelligible, uninventive, unliberated, unliterary, unmelodious, unmemorable, unneeded, unpardonable, unpersuasive, unpleasing, unpoetic, unpolished, unprofessional, unquestioned, unreflective, unreliable, unremarkable, unsatisfying, unscholarly, unspectacular, unstartling, unstylish, unsubtle, unsuitable, unsurprising, untalented, untrained, unversed... This is not exactly reaching the glorious heights of profundity. There are not any wondrous literary terms which start with "U." My un-thesis system has apparently been my un-doing. Peter Thomas has argued that Kroetsch's un-ness is part of a need to un-Kroetsch, saying that "for all the energy and joy of Kroetsch's fictional world, it is realised by a mind which distrusts its own compulsions" (PDM, 64). Indeed, this argument has much to support it; however, I would take it s t i l l further: Kroetsch, it would appear, distrusts any compulsions. Any system, be it of thought, literary convention, cultural code, the language itself, is "contrary to the demands of authenticity" (MCNE, 17). They must, therefore, be probed, explored, exploded, forced to make non-(un?)sense... they must be undone. . . . the form must violate itself. The renewal does not come from outside, can-not be brought about by the introduction of new materials into the form. This creature is a porcupine that can only be violated from within. One builds into a system something that breaks that system. 170 VERACITY Verily, I insist: Mr. Canadian Postmodern is a hard-core realist. * Kroetsch's work has always been recognised as "descriptive" and "authentic," in the sense that farmers reading The Words of Mv Roaring or archaeologists reading Badlands or graduate students reading Gone Indian are able to recognise themselves and their experiences in the texts. What has not yet been recognised—at least not in any published materials of which I am aware—is the painstaking research lying behind Kroetsch's achievements of such authenticity. Every character's voice, every allusion, every historical event, every minute detail is checked and re-checked to ensure that he gets it right. While writing The Studhorse Man. Kroetsch researched calendar dates for 171 1945 to determine that Lent fell between March 8 and April 1 that year (27.10.1); similarly, he consulted the same 1910 edition of Encyclopedia  Britannica. which he would have Hazard and then Demeter consult, discovering that it had a dark blue binding and that its coverage of the horse was found in "VOL. XIII, HAR to HUR," beginning on page 712 (27.10.2). His preparation for the writing of Badlands included travel to the Public Archives of Canada (Ottawa) to read the journals of famous archaeologists such as Phillip Weston, and recording bits of "insider information"ran archaeologist, he notes, would "break a skeleton—never cut through" (27.16.8). In addition to his consulting published and archival sources in his quest for accuracy, Kroetsch has, for example, written to farmers to check his "book/theoretical" information . . . itinerant prairie printer, as center, as ultimate story center/ teller: my own (rural?) experience, . basically, expanded towards the tall tale, the mythological; but always the hard core of detail. against their l i fe experience. He has also conducted his research as experience, travelling on a river boat down the Red Deer River to feel for himself what he would record William Dawe as feeling, or visiting horse breeders who practice artif icial insemination in order to capture its practical and emotional aspects, to capture that which cannot be encapsulated in a veterinarian's manual (cf. CANAM, 4). Consulting Kroetsch's papers in Calgary left me, quite simply, stunned. The archaeologist, says Kroetsch, "leave[s] things where they're found," merely unearthing the discovery and leaving interpretation to the reader (RDT, 2 1 ) . In that spirit , I offer here, without mediation, a small taste of the discoveries which I was fortunate enough to retrace.* *, -y~* y. ^ — X o * *7 Zc. > f^-^-1w /^w—~y*N. o - ^ i C * ^ U M U *Please consult Appendix B for transcriptions of holograph materials. 173 A ^ r ^ _ ir<f 2_«A~7» 0 7 y.—Tu A—* —^ • ^ ^ ^ ^ " 175 A r t i f i c i a l insemination, you must understand, is possible only with genuine semen. And of course i t must be collected. The a r t i f i c i a l vagina—and I have examined one since, holding i t with trembling hands before me~1s made up of an outer tube of heavy rubber with, inside i t , another tube or lining, this one very thin rubber. The space between must be f i l e d with water that has been heated to a temperature of not less than 105 and not more than 115 degrees F. The male can be quite insistent about the proper—not only temperature, but pressure and lubrication, as well. A special lubricant i s , of course, available commercially. At the far end from the opening of this device, a beaker is so placed as to catch without waste or contamination the ejaculated semen. (SHM, 148) 176 / - V — , (t 4>y 177 0 v^/o ^ r / ^ t l ^ C to I studied the documents. I read of the bitter feuds of Marsh and Cope, those first great collectors of dinosaur bones; and from that lesson I learned that my father had been born one generation too late. But he was not to 6e deterred by a mere error in chronology. (BL, 138) 179 Dawe quiet for awhile, working with his raw, bare hands, moving the clay off the clay-encased bones that were the skeleton on his precious and unique Daweosaurus. Then, without looking up, working while he spoke: "Sternburg... one time, working in Kansas... Found some new specimens just when they were leaving the f i e l d . . . Had no plaster or burlap l e f t . . . They used their last sack of flour to make paste...." "Not much use making paste," Web said. "If you don't have burlap." Dawe working carefully, uncovering traces of the ischium, ilium, pubis in a chunk of rock. Carefully, lovingly, he laid bare the unbroken specimen. "Used their underwear," Dawe said. "Sternberg's men. . . . " Grizzly laughed now. He unbuttoned his sweat -stained grey flannel shirt, removed i t , threw it on top of Web's. Both he and Web waited. . Dawe: "I'm not thinking. Should have told you to bring your bedsheets." And abruptly he stripped off his shirt, stood awkward and embarrassed in his long-sleeved underwear. Web motioned Grizzly to follow; he and Grizzly went out of the coulee to carry in more water, went to bring whatever food they could find, whatever rags they could make of bedding and clothes. QUESTIONS: 1. Do t h e e o r u t l n e e r a oount t h e b a l l o t s a t a e l e c t i o n ? ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^jr^* A r e t h e b a l l o t s o o u n t e d a t t h e p a l l i n g b o o t h ? T . " t o a^r^l^olaT^leotlon. i s eleotto^erTnT^il'o™*- on the day before the aotual voting? 4. To v o t e i n a p r o v i n c i a l e l e o t l o n « - d o y o u make a n " i " ? 6 I s there a name f o r t h e men on h o r s e b a o k a t a s tampede who r i d e o u t t o t a k e a r i d e r o f f a b u o k i a g h o r s e ? 6. I f y o u had no r a i n f o r 35 d a y s , w o u l d a heavy " i n s t i l l s a v e a wheat c r o p ? A t what t i n a o f y e a r c o u l d a c rop b e s a v e d — i n a u g u s t somet ime , f o r l n e t a n o e f ^ X / ^ ^ V — ' > ^ « < 2 t „ , -"It's pretty easy to say it's going to rain in the next thirteen days." "It hasn't rained in the last twenty-four," I said. "Or hadn't you noticed, Doc?" (WOMR, 8) . . . the bull wasn't finished. He kept bucking and turning. And the boy who had been riding so grandly suddenly looked scared. His hat was too new, that was a bad sign. He had got onto something and didn't know how to get off. He'd planned on being bucked off, I suppose, and here he was riding the worst animal of the lot, and he wasn't losing. That was his trouble. Two pick-up riders started out to try and crowd in on the bull from both sides and pick the boy off. He was using both hands now, pulling leather, and his hat was somewhere on the ground getting its f irst stains. But before those cowboys got to him he just let go and the bellyband and f e l l . That's when the bull turned. (WOMR, 105) * That's when I f irst realized: I had forgotten what a rain cloud looks like. In a flash I remembered. That hint of purple behind all the blackness. You understand—earlier I had believed it would rain. While all the time I suspected that every cloud is made of dust. Now I knew it would rain. There's a terrible difference. (WOMR, 188) 182 I listened to it rain; it was nearly pitch-dark, with the rain falling not in sheets now but steady. The three-day kind of rain. It might go on for a full week, you can always guess. . . . "She's a soaker," the Doc said. "A real souser," I said. "Just what we needed," the Doc said. . . . "There won't be much of a crop," he said. "But at least they'll get their seed back. And feed for the winter, and a l ittle to sell, enough to pay the bills until spring." He was right. I'd been promising a bumper crop. But this was all we could hope for. I didn't think an Easterner could know that much about farming. (WOMR, 198-199) 7C U ^ J ^ - x 183 Robert Kroetsch, the arbiter of Canadian postmodernism, the writer who sees (or claims to see) language as an infinitely regressing, auto-referential system, a mere series of deferrals of difference, who argues that the connection between signifier and signified as at most arbitrary, at least non-existent, is a closet-realist. Behind closed doors, Kroetsch is, in fact, obsessed with detail, precision, documentary accuracy, verifiable truth. If "the fiction makes us real," the real certainly enriches Kroetsch's fiction. 184 WEST I live in Vancouver, about 10 blocks from the Pacific Ocean; I used to live on Vancouver Island, only two blocks from i t . . . I always thought I lived in the west; now I discover that I live on the coast. The west is elsewhere, maybe nowhere... except in f ic t ion. . . except in the works of Robert Kroetsch, where the fiction makes it real (C, 63). Kroetsch comes closest to risking a definition of what west means to him in a short essay entitled "Turning Alberta into Fiction," where he writes: About westerners: we are all homesteaders, finally. And will be, for generations. This realization shapes all of us as individuals or citizens, shapes me as a writer. We are homesteaders in that our imaginations respond first to possibility rather than to past. We look at this place, at these prairies, at this Alberta, and, to be poetic about i t , we replace memory with desire. The popular name, next-year country, is not frightening to us. It is our shorthand name for a state of mind, a need, an obsession, a blind confidence, a desperate act of faith, a way of l iving. 185 The historians remind us that we, or our immediate ancestors, came here from other places. But they forget that the migrating generations had to travel light to get here at a l l . A man's bare hands were of more value than his piano. Books were a luxury, and without books memory is reduced to the living generations, the speaker, his parents, his grandparents. The 1930's finished the job: those who had memories went back to them. In the bright, terrible flame of that long sun, the dross of culture was burned away. History itself became a luxury. All that remained was next year. It was the politicians, not the writers, who first understood the nature of this possibility. Louis Riel, that frustrated and frustrating dreamer, was reduced by an earlier circumstance to an identical predicament. In his translation of predicament into potential—in his prophesying a new world, imagining a new kingdom—he is l i t t l e different from Bil l Aberhart or Tommy Douglas or Dief the Chief. . . . It is inevitable that some of us would stop being visionary politicians and try to become mere novelists instead. Because we want to imagine the real Alberta. (27.23.6) Kroetsch's calibre of perception, his beautifully poetic reading of settlement as narrative, as autobiography—even in such a short, perhaps even "throw-away" piece—speaks to the importance of the western people and landscape in shaping his sense of self as a writer. West, in Kroetsch's work, is an 186 amalgamation of the place, its people, and their spirit , interacting with each other. The Canadian prairies and the dreamers who came west to inhabit them become for Kroetsch a "geography of museness" (CJ, 15), a "frontier of our selves" (27.1.13.17), an inspiration and an event: "Genius loc i . . . . The place of mythology, of story, become action" (CJ, 56). West is not so much a real place as it is a mythic one, a possibility, a never-quite-reached potential, a necessary failure in order to keep the dream alive. Kroetsch From Tristan to Columbus to Trudeau, men have gone west in search of new loves, new worlds, new identities. Gone Indian explores that "trip" in its variations from the Blackfoot shaman's visions to the American dream of the Canadian frontier as the last Eden. Kroetsch phrased it poetically; I will phrase it aphoristically: west is where one's reach forever exceeds one's grasp. "Next-year country" remains next year country, forever in the process of creating itself. Jeremy Sadness, upon at last reaching "the far interior he [could] in the flesh inhabit" (GI, 5) for which he has been looking his whole l i fe , pronounces he is in fact looking for nothing: Nothing. Yes, I am looking for nothing. The primal darkness. The purest light. For the f irst word. For the voice that spoke the first word. The inventor of zero. (22) The beauty of the number "zero," however, is that it may signify infinity as well as nothingness. The absent presence of potentially illimitable possibility. Such is the mythic west for Kroetsch. "It's only by our lack of 187 West we're haunted, we might say. Kroetsch addresses the lack by making absence essence" (FOW, 119). In "Seed Catalogue," for example, Kroetsch builds poem out of prairie fence: Son, this is a crowbar. This is a willow fencepost. This is a sledge. This is a roll of barbed wire. This is a bag of staples. This is a claw hammer. We give form to the land by running a series of posts and strands of barbed wire around a quarter section. First off I want you to take that crowbar and driver 1,156 holes in that gumbo. And the next time you want to write a poem we'll start the haying. How do you grow a poet? This is a prairie road. This road is the shortest distance between nowhere and nowhere. 188 This road is a poem. Just two miles up the road you'll find a porcupine dead in the ditch. It was trying to cross the road. (FN, 42-43) The heritage handed down to him from his homesteading family, the simple beauty of self-creation, (creation by self and creation of self), the building of something out of nothing, provides strength and stimulus for Kroetsch's work. The road which leads from "nowhere to nowhere," the sense of isolation, nothingness, the sheer absence of the west is fodder for Kroetsch's imagination. The notion of the blank page, the tabula rasa, parallels the apparently open plains on which the dreams of those early homesteaders were founded. The farmer and the writer each plant their seeds and hope for a profitable yield. I think the prairie novelist is somebody who sees something for those 900 miles between Winnipeg and the foothills. Kroetsch's wonderment at the imaginative possibilities afforded him by his western settings—and, importantly, his western heritage—translate into what can only be described as a reverence for the prairie peoples and their ways of l i f e . He seeks to capture every subtle nuance of the characteristics 189 which separate prairie farmers from all other Canadians. In The Words of My  Roaring, for example, the crowd at a political rally is portrayed with a respectful attention to detail: "Three hundred people knocking their calluses together. . . . the men in overalls with patches on the patches on their patches, the women in bloomers made of flour sacks" (4, 7). Calluses and patches and bloomers, to another writer, perhaps to any outsider, might be construed negatively, as judgement, their indications of poverty and hard labour equated with lower class status; in Kroetsch's text, however, these markers of poverty are symbols of pride, of survival, of a strong work ethic and an indomitable spirit . Those calluses become a muse for Kroetsch, a reminder of where he came from, a marker indicating the direction in which he wants to go. I look at my hands. They are no longer my own. They have become my father's hands. Kroetsch's real ism—indeed, his 1 iteral ism—in depicting western ways of l i fe functions as a continuing tribute to the culture which shaped his writerly identity. The prairie road of "Seed Catalogue" does not have "poetic qualities"; it is a poem. Kroetsch's imagination and veracity merge in the setting/trope/ absence/presence of the prairies. His paradoxical obsession with the accurate portrayal of real people, living real lives is (un?)balanced by his equally strong need to mythologise, to make things larger-than-life. I 190 am tempted to say that Kroetsch's mythologising of everyday activities from voting or livestock reproduction to crop planting or fence-building is magic-realistic, the raising of the ordinary and banal to levels of profound importance and myth. I think, though, that Kroetsch would say that these ordinary events are already important, already profound, already mythic. By basing story in the here and now, the personal, the local, Kroetsch reveals, rather than creates, his western identity. West, the mythic land of "Go west, young man" infamy, is, Kroetsch wants us to know, the home of the prairie farmer. The hostility between east and west in Kroetsch's novels also achieves realistically mythic proportions. Nowhere is this made clearer than in the Sunday morning radio addresses of Reverend Applecart, whose sermons call for the retribution of "that red beast of a Who-er. . . . Toronto, and all her high muckie-muck millionaires" (WOMR, 34, 35). As Johnnie Backstrom recounts: Applecart was onto the dirty Easterners who were gouging the West. He had built up to that and now he was onto them. He was talking about the Second Coming and the Last Judgement, the final reckoning of the Fifty Big Shots. Just wait, he said. And he gave them a blanket condemnation. . . . Applecart was connecting Satan and all of hell with the dirty Eastern millionaires, the financial racketeers. He was the voice of the prairies speaking. He was ripping into all the betrayers of Christ and His holy principles which, it turned out, had a lot to do with the price of a wheat crop. (35, 37) 191 This excerpt is about more than just the rivalry which dates back farther than Confederation; it returns us to the mythology of west of which Kroetsch speaks in "Turning Alberta into Fiction," to the unshakeable belief that anything— that all—is possible, to the faith in the land that keeps the farmer from abandoning his homestead in the face of drought, grasshoppers, hail , and the crop failure they bring. It returns us to "next-year country." Applecart's sermon also raises another important feature of the Canadian west: those who live and work the prairie farms of which Applecart speaks, see themselves as living not just in "next-year country," but God's country. West here connotes the promised land, inhabited by a chosen few, living a purer l i fe than those city-dwellers who sleep too late and are incapable of appreciating the satisfaction produced by a hard day's work, dirt under their fingernails, the smell of manure in their nostrils. Western l i fe is a simple one, characterised by the unencumbered-ness of those early homesteaders, migrating across the country with only their most valuable possession in tow: their bare hands. Kroetsch writes, in Alberta, that A certain giddiness characterizes an Albertan, a certain confident heady willingness to top whatever was said before, whether he is mixing politics and religion in one sentence, talking football and oil stocks in one breath, telling of the trout that turned out to be a horse—or simply remarking on the prospects for next-year's crop. I might add that the word giddy derives from god; it suggests a frenzy that is divine in origin. Some say this condition is encouraged by the salubrious effect of Pacific 192 air strained through the teeth of the Rockies and mixed with an Arctic cold front; others, less inclined to praise temperature extremes, attribute it to a slight deficiency in oxygen supply combined with the decreased gravitational pul l . At any rate, Albertans are in an excellent position to look down on the rest of Canada. . . . their elevation is such that they live with their heads quite l i teral ly in the clouds. (3) The beautiful truth is as good a name as any for the meaning Kroetsch does not wish to represent, but does point out like an "x"—a transcendent truth. . . . * The story is concealed from us. Only by careful acknowledgement of that concealment do we allow for a revelation of story. * I like mathematics as language. 194 y 2 + z 3 = x ( 7 ) Find the value of x (as reader-response, as interpretation, as criticism, as opinion, as judgement...) where y = reader z = text and y = text z = reader "Text" may refer to any Kroetsch text, the canon of Kroetsch texts, my thesis, a Kroetsch text in my thesis, the two (many?) as merged or recontextualised or uninvented... "Reader" may refer to any Kroetsch reader, the ideal Kroetsch reader, me as Kroetsch reader, my reader(s), readers of Kroetsch through my thesis.. . * Language, whether "natural," or "artificial," has limitations and boundaries which are obscured by formless, indefinable variables. ARCHAEOLOGY (or... The Alphabet Journals) MY Field Notes NO. Library Archive Inter-Library Loan } Den ] Notes Bedroom ] Kitchen Table } Classroom Bathtub Long Walks in the Woods Well, that's closer to i t . 196 27 July 1990 OK. Getting my thoughts re-collected. The stopping and starting on this project is getting a l i t t l e ridiculous. S t i l l , glad to be getting on to Calgary and the real work. It's the before that always ki l l s me. Once I get into i t , the sheer enormity of it all lessens. University of Calgary 31 July 1990 OK. Found my way to the library and then went over to the bookstore for supplies: red, blue, green and black pens; pink, blue, yellow, and purple hi-1 iters (I'd never be able to organise my thoughts if I couldn't colour-code); two f i le boxes and a slough of 3x5 cards. I'm ready to go. 1 August 1990 Wow. The librarians here are great, bringing out box after box, always ready with another one before I have to ask for i t . This all feels so voyeuristic. I'm peeking in at a lot of things that are very private, especially to a writer. Strange feeling of intertextuality in going over many of the holograph notes. So many poems begun on the back of SUNY Bing course l i s t s . . . written over Joyce, Sartre, Camus, Conrad, Kafka, Fitzgerald, etc. Their names, their works, BEHIND K's poems. Hmmm. Gotta get this in somehow. It gets more and more bizarre. 20 or so holograph notes written on health evaluation sheets. "Elegy of Wong Toy" begun on back of "Physician's Evaluation of Patient's Mental Attitude." Evening. Back in this residence cubby hole. Re-reading the novels. It's almost like K doesn't trust the written word on its own. Gone Indian has lots of tapes; Badlands has Sinnott the photographer. Other mediums are constantly foregrounded. But what to do with this? 2 August 1990 Mom and Dad's 28th wedding anniversary. I'm struck by the thoroughness of research here—bees, rainfal l , archaeological digs, horse breeding (in more detail than I care to ponder before dinner), myths—Mr. Canadian Postmodern is a bloody realist. Hmmm. Lots of references to Dickens too. I need a letter for this, though. My system turning on me already. Every idea leads to an Uh-oh, where do I put it? 197 Get a legible holograph page from each text and get them in the thesis somewhere. Collage-like. The pages don't have to be "evidence" of anything, just for interest's—and arbitrariness'!—sake. 3 August 1990 HA! Found a very early volume of poetry: "Mental Meanderings" 1945-46. Long rhymed sequence entitled: "On Having Failed a Final." The absorption with failure, even then. So beautiful here, on the 12th floor, overlooking the whole city. I can see beyond the oil-baron's headquarters though, to the plains and wheat fields. Makes me feel more connected to the work. Starting to feel like I know this Mr. Robert Kroetsch. Like he's an old friend with whom I'm getting reacquainted. All the stories, letters, notes seem so familiar, like catching up on the past or something. I've traced poems and novels from their inception on the back of a Denny's placemat through the drafts and logistics of publishing to the completed work. The whole practice seems rather odd, really. Trying to explain just why I'm doing this to my relatives has been a learning experience in itself. 6 August 1991 Spent the long weekend playing with my niece and nephews. Couldn't get more removed from "scholarly research" than playing commando on a jungle gym. The boys running around with toy machine guns; Krysta and I told to "stand guard," reminded that sentry duty means being s t i l l and quiet—out of their male way. Some things never change. 7 August 1990 Notes-to-Himself... gotta work these in too. The sisters in Crow based on his own sisters. I wonder if they know that. Maps, maps, and more maps, each with a chapter by chapter structuring of the novels. He actually makes l i t t l e squares for each chapter before f i l l ing it all in and the ideas rarely f i t in the boxes intended to contain them. Pushing the boundaries, even at an outlining stage. My imagination fired, I wish I had a month off. Uninterrupted time, one great burst of energy, and I could write it a l l . 8 August 1990 Found a wild letter from his mother-in-law today. Chastising him for his foul language. Sounds like my parents. You sound like a dock worker. A lady wouldn't talk that way! Yeah, wel l . . . Wait until they see my plans for the Feminism chapter. 198 Amazing work on t i t les . I can't even begin until I have a t i t l e . I've written some pretty bad papers because I couldn't let go of a great t i t l e , even when the thesis it demanded stank. Kroetsch offers his editors as many as ten different titles just for what became But We Are Exiles: Badlands had almost as many. Beautiful! Dawe's hump originally envisioned as wings. Wonder if anyone's picked up on that or done anything with i t . 9 August 1990 I've gone through two whole packages of my 3x5's—had to go back to the bookstore. Not sure if that's a good sign or not. At any rate, I'm blown away by all this "finding," these trails left for me to find. Read through three handwritten drafts "Stone Hammer Poem" today. Beautiful to retrace the steps, like looking over his shoulder. Suddenly I understand the archaeology metaphor. 10 August 1990 My last day of digging and delving. Starting to wonder how much of this I can really use. The desire to f i t it all in, to rename chapters and remake plans to do it justice. Eight full hours a day trying to decipher impenetrable handwriting. It's worth i t . It will be. 18 Dec 1990 Gee, bit of a gap here. All my grand plans for getting started early disappeared once the school year began. (Archaeological expedition delayed on account of ra in . . . ) But now, the last papers are marked, the last bibliography assignment submitted, the last exam written. It's time to begin. (Then again, maybe I ' l l start after Christmas...) 31 December 1991 12:01 AM. Happy New Year! (I guess that makes it January 1, but I can't get used to it being a new day until I've gone to sleep and woken up). Locked myself up, turned down four party invitations and a lovely offer of a date with Dad, feeling sorry for me, promising to get me home early New Year's Day to get back to work. My arguing that starting the very moment of the New Year with the first chapter is symbolic, a fresh start, the impetus that this thesis needs. 13 January 1991 St i l l no f irst chapter. St i l l reading and re-reading. St i l l cleaning the oven and the fridge and the fireplace instead. Anything but face that computer, that blank screen. 199 16 January 1991 Hallelujah! A breakthrough. Not a whole chapter mind you, but parts of eight of them. (Like glimpses of fragments protruding from rock.. .) My finally facing that I always work according to a sort of all-at-once jigsaw puzzle method. Starting and finishing l i t t l e parts just isn't in me. Gotta attack the whole and see what happens. 22 January 1991 Got a skeleton of each and every one of those damn letters. Starting to understand Liebhaber a lot better now too. I like to drink hot tea while I sit and hate my alphabet. 28 January 1991 Wrote the "Juvenescence" chapter tonite. Really neat how it happened. I had no idea how to begin and was getting very frustrated and just started to think about my own childhood and the beginnings that may have shaped whatever writing style I may have and I was writing it down before I was really aware of doing so, before there was any plan to approach the form or the semiotics of the chapter in any particular way. The process really did become the product and I was sitting there feeling quite pleased about that but then I started thinking that, theoretically, this is a big SO WHAT? There's no way for the reader to really know that, no way to differentiate the planned and edited from the spontaneous and pretty much left alone. Clearly I think too much. 6 February 1991 I always tell my students the only stupid question is an unasked question. I always believed it too. Until that is, people started asking me about my thesis. They ask how many more chapters... I give them the number of the week. They say, Gee, that sounds like an awful lot. Why don't you cut a chapter or two or combine some so you can make it shorter. I say, because it's an alphabet. They say, So? I say, I can't just eliminate letters because I feel like i t . They say, why? It's you and me, Lieb. 15 February 1991 Michelle asked me today how come I started this whole alphabet thing and I absolutely had no idea! (Sometimes it's the answers that are stupid.) I l i teral ly forgot. I've been at it for so long that it just became a matter of course. I've stopped thinking about why... only if it is ever going to get 200 done. Went back to re-read my notes from this time last year. It seems the structure came out of a desire not to structure, and then, realising the impossibility of that, I decided to impose the most rigid, arbitrary structure I could. Yeah, sure, whatever I say. 28 February 1991 God I wish it was (were? the subjunctive always gets me) Leap Year. An extra day, an extra hour. Stop the world, I wanna get off. 3 March 1991 Wrote the System chapter today. Felt so good. Cathartic really. Hope it makes it through the revising stages. 7 March 1991 my eyes ache my back aches i think even my tongue aches just burned it on hot coffee trying to stay awake to finish this insane project on which i embarked seemed like a good idea at the time that's what they all say i don't care i f i never graduate i was a damn good bartender i could make a living at that who needs a master's degree anyway academics are nothing but stuffy useless old fogies with over-inflated egos what ever made me think i wanted to become one what ever made me think i could do this no one should have to go through this i'm a social person and i spend seventeen eighteen nineteen hours a day locked up in my study staring at my computer screen with only the humming of the hard drive and the blips of the cursor for company i can hardly remember what it was like to have a non-thesis conversation if one more person asks me how it's going i'm going to have to do something very drastic my imagination is so numb right now i can't specify what but if pushed to the limit i ' l l come up with somethin believe you me haven't even read a newspaper in three days and there's a war going on you know that's it i ' l l quit school and join the army or something you can't you're a pacifist okay so i ' l l join the red cross or the peace corps or something you can't do that either the peace corps is american and the red cross can't even get into kuwait you know the worst thing is that i start arguing with myself and i lose even at that 11 March 1991 A couple more chapters done and suddenly it doesn't look so bleak. Found a cool article on the breakdown of Kroetsch criticism by A. R. Kizuk. It's a drag that once again, something I've been trying to work out for myself has already been done, but.. . at least i t ' l l make good fodder for one of the (far too many) chapters s t i l l to go. 201 14 March 1991 Colouring, glue-sniffing. The title-page and the collages coming together. I get to be five years old again and I love i t . 16 March 1991 Re-digging through my xeroxes of Kroetsch's papers. The wonder of discovery all over again. He researched calendar dates for 1945 to ensure that he had the days of the week for Lent right. Trying, for the fourth time, to write the Archaeology chapter. Afraid of i t . Afraid I won't be able to get it right. So important, so mind-boggling for me. The need to capture that feeling, the realisation before I start that I cannot even begin. 18 March 1991 Talked to the man himself on the phone tonite. Got home later than usual, bone-tired, and flipped on the answering machine as I headed into the kitchen to make some tea. Beep. Hi Duck this is Dad... Plugged in the kettle. Beep. Alanna? Kerry here. Just called to say... Most of that message drowned out by the kettle whistling. Beep. Hello Alanna. This is Robert Kroetsch. YIKES! I spilled boiling water all over the counter! I mean you don't get a message like that everyday. Anyhow, I called him back and the interview worked out fine and he was very nice. Made for a much-needed boost when I'm really starting to think this project will never be completed. 21 March 1991 Wrote "Risk" last night. Met with Laurie today to discuss my teaching evaluation. Turns out his reference letter is all about my pedagogical risk-taking. Got Kroetsch's interview responses in the mail tonite when I got home. He wrote that I am a lover of risks. Serendipity or conspiracy? 24 March 1991 Mom called tonite to read me my horoscope: "All stops out! Cycle high, invest in your own capabilities. You'll successfully meet challenge of deadline. Focus on intensity and creativity." Now, I would hardly consider myself a believer in astrology or any other "psychic" or "New Age" genres, but this seems a bit too good to be coincidence. 29 March 1991 Had an amazing conversation with Karen and Cherry about myth tonite. Both of them so knowledgeable about religion and philosophy—Karen can actually read Sanskrit. Me sitting there feeling so in awe of not just their knowledge but the grace and generosity with which they share i t . I couldn't contribute much to the conversation, but I've got them reading Badlands so I'm looking forward to our next discussion. 202 1 April 1991 Lost an entire chapter today. The computer locked and it just disappeared. Back-up f i le and a l l . On April Fool's Day! It's too ridiculous even for fiction. If I wrote that into a novel, nobody would believe me. 3 April 1991 Another unbelievable "coincidence" in my horoscope: "Every day in every way you do more in less time. Live up to your own expectations. You could have a future in the publishing industry. Be patient with yourself until you find the right words." This is very strange. Is every Leo on the planet writing a thesis on Kroetsch? 5 April 1991 It's done! St i l l needs some revising of course and I haven't typed the table of contents or the bibliography or any of that academic-requirement-type-stuff, but it's done! And, I became an aunt today. My brother Ken and sister-in-law Terri had a baby boy—8 lbs. 5 ozs.—Scott Kenneth—healthy and hollering. Terri and I complete our overdue, 9 month projects on same day. Beautiful. Left a note saying "It's a boy!" with his weight, etc. for Karen and Cherry and at f irst they thought I was joking. Thought I was talking about Kroetsch and the weight of my thesis which, as I have been saying for weeks now, is BIG and HEAVY, arguing that theses should be graded according to sheer weight alone. My l i fe so dominated by this project it's become impossible for friend's to imagine I could be speaking of anything else. (Dawe, yelling: "It's a bone!") 10 April 1991 Laurie sent back the draft for final revisions today. Lots of helpful comments but one really disturbing remark: my field notes aren't field notes. "Field notes," Laurie tells me, "are not, generically, self-reflexive. They don't normally contain thoughts about the procedure of digging or the meaning of doing all that digging." Great. Fabulous. I never really liked Dawe anyway. Badlands would be a pretty boring read if it weren't for Anna's inclusion of her thoughts and feelings (says the non-field-noter, self-reflexively self-justifying...) 203 APPENDIX A HOLOGRAPH NOTE, PAGE 125 (27.10.1) It seems to me that I have to sit down and write the whole novel in one great uninterrupted outburst—This is the only way I can put into it a sustained energy, a sustained tension. This worked with both previous novels. HOLOGRAPH NOTE, PAGE 126 (27.10.1) Don't hear the voice yet the situations are fine—so many good things going but humour does not quite come across—tone seems indefinite obvious sex too strong? (a l i t t l e more humour perhaps—perhaps not the one to one relationship between him and his profession? The war is brought in well. How does he get out of scene with [illegible] ? Not clear? Why are the men angry with him? What are the bones used for: fuel? He is a "poet"—so is Johnnie—is this good? 204 APPENDIX B TRANSCRIPTIONS OF REPRODUCTIONS OF KROETSCH'S RESEARCH MATERIALS PAGE 181 (27.10.2) [Re: The Studhorse Manl Stall ion Studhorse man charges by the jump, by the colt, or by the season. Usually by the standing colt—$15 to $20. Heavy horses: Percheron—grey, or some are black. Bronson [apparently a surname] used Clydesdales. Belgian is also a draft horse. Keep a stallion tied in a barn two ways: halter and a chain around the neck. Jim puts a bridle on when they jump. Then he runs a snap and chain from the rear ring of the bridle through the ring on the far side and back to his hand. By pulling on 2 straps attached to the back he can tighten up the horse's jaw and it won't hurt. With his other hand he grinds the penis—to save time. Jim, travelling a stallion for two years, led it with a chain run through one ring of the bit and fastened to the other. Used this "for Satan purchase." Chain binds the jaw. Stallion bit—rough on one side (like a wood screw), smooth on the other. Use smooth side for a gentle stallion; rough side pulls down on the jaw. 2 0 5 Kept his stallion shod. Penis—16"(?)—dark with white across the top. PAGE 182 A stallion will make for a gelding. Knows by smell it isn't a mare. Chew a gelding to pieces. Used a loaded buggy whip to control the stallion—once cut upon the flank in two places when the stallion made for a four-horse team that was being watered. As soon as a stud sees a mare it starts to get excited. The master has to handle i t . In restraining i t , he angers it; the stud may turn on the man. Stallion gets bold with its tail and shakes its head. Teeth usually slip and tear hair off. Jim got kicked in stomach with both feet. Once a studhorse man came in, had lost his nerve, the woman of the house went and unhooked the stallion (used to pull the buggy). Four farmers refused to let a studhorse man come by because he couldn't control the stallion. Two men were crippled on the job. 206 A mare "going out of season" might put up quite a fight. Have to bring in another mare to arouse the stallion, then when he is aroused, switch him to the 1st mare. Stallion often won't go near a mare that has a sucking colt. Sometimes a mare won't take a stallion without being worked up. Use a pole or a sta l l to protect the stallion from kicks while he works the mare up. Have to keep other horses away while breeding a mare. One man holds the mare; other holds the s t a l l i o n . One man could t i e up the mare and do i t alone. Studhorse man goes on the road for a week at a time. Jump three mares in one day but not 2 days running. Best to "stay by two a day." Too many—the stud isn't sure enough—you may destroy him. PAGE 183 (27.10.2) [Re: The Studhorse Manl 1. The a r t i f i c i a l vagina An outer tube made of heavy rubber An inner tube or lining of thin rubber The space between is f i l l e d with warm water At one end an opening so the penis may enter 207 At other end a beaker—or rubber semen receptor—to catch the ejaculated semen the operator must be skilled; the animal trained. Studs insist on the correct temperature, pressure, and lubrication. Temp, between 105 and 115 degrees F. A special lubricant is commercially available Let the stud mount an estrous female—and then guide the penis quickly into the open end of the artif icial vagina —see encyclopedia also estrus 2. Very active males can be trained to mount dummy females. Semen should be used within the day of collection from a stallion With the development of freezing techniques, it should be possible to store semen for several years PAGE 184 (27.16.8) [Re: Badlands1 They tear up their underclothes and boil flour to wrap specimens in wilderness—anything to enable them to bring out an extra specimen— 208 have that happen—they find the bones they've been seeking, at end of t r i p — n o plaster or burlap l e f t — t h e y take off their clothes and boil up their remaining flour—then comes d i s a s t e r — 1500 lbs. of plaster too [sic] bring one father collected 76 near Drumheller — a s many as 120 people came in one day to see a skeleton he was c o l l e c t i n g — a 40 f t . duckbill skeleton—arranged to have one day to show. burlap dipped in fl u i d p l a s t e r — made the plaster right t h e r e -cut underneath in middle, supported in 2 places, the complete wrapping and turn over—no rock showing—haul into canyon and build case on a rainy day— outline the skeleton-smaller one in one piece—larger ones, break at a natural crack or a weaK point one black boxed—3500 lbs.—the biggest boned dinosaur—close to 3000 lbs. — i f any bone is exposed, cover i t with rice paper, then put on sticks cut by river—then wrap in strips of [other pages not available] 209 PAGE 190 (27.6.3) [Re: Words o f Mv Roaring1 Questions: 1. Do the scrutineers count the ballots at a provincial election? They are there to check the count [sic] also to watch the poll during the day. 2. Are the ballots counted at the polling booth? They are counted at the polling station, the booth is the l i t t l e corner, set aside, for marking the ballot. 3. In a provincial election, is electioneering allowed on the day before the actual vote? Yes. 4. To vote in a provincial election—do you make an "X"? Yes. 210 Is there a name for the men on horseback at a stampede who ride out to take a rider off a bucking horse? They are called pick-up riders. If you had no rain for 35 days, would a heavy rain still save a wheat-crop? At what time of year could a crop be saved—in August sometime, for instance? Off [sic] course Bob it all depends on the amount of reserve moisture at the beginning of the drought, but with a good reserve, a crop can stand a 35 day drought, for instance last year (1964) we had hardly anything—but a l i t t l e sprinkle of rain from the middle of May until the first part of August. But we had a terrif ic amount of sub-moisture. With the methods of farming these days, ferti l izer, deep tillage cultivation instead of plows and the combine putting the straw back on the land, make quite a lot of difference in the amount of moisture we need. I sincerely hope this answers the questions for you. Sorry I didn't get it off sooner, but I just found the letter, it was put away in my desk, any time I can answer any questions please feel free to ask. Hope to see you soon. As ever, Harley P.S. Hello to Jane and Laura 211 PAGE 192 (27.6.3) [Re: The Words of My Roaring1 RAIN The homesteader's generation—a great shared service that severed the past and gave these men a new beginning in common. West of Red Deer— swamp fever ki l l e d the horses the homesteaders brought with them. Stopping house. Farmers who would put up people who lived farther from town. The man and his part-Indian wife that Jane and I talked to in Snowy House, London, at breakfast. In the old man, the only truly significant experience in his long l i f e was that of homesteading, when he was 17 years old. LIST OF EPIGRAPHS AND TEXT WINDOWS ARCHAEOLOGY page 1 — "The poets as..." (P&E, 97) page 2 — "I'm going to write..." (27.1.13.7) page 4 — "God help us..." (BL, 2) page 7 — "Dawe stepped off..." (BL, 172) page 10 — "He let himself..." (BL, 189) BIOGRAPHY page 11 — "A biographer i s . . . " (SHM, 165) page 11 — "I have lived..." (27.1.11) page 11 — "Mental Meanderings..." (27.17.14) page 11 — "Canada looked..." (NYJ in LTW, 137) page 12 — "Graduate College..." (334.84.1.1.2) page 13 — "I had an incredible..." (SOS, 111) page 13 — "Kroetsch, Hilda Marie..." (334.84.1.1.1) page 13 — "I only learned..." (Acknowledgements, LTW, ix) page 13 — "Dear Son..." (27.1.11.97) page 14 — "EDUCATION DIRECTOR..." (334.84.1.1.1) page 14 — "Residence from Birth..." (334.84.1.1.1) page 14 — "I thought everybody..." (SOS, 115) page 14 — "I was quite astonished..." (SOS, 111) page 15 — "PERSONAL HISTORY..." (334.84.1.1.1) page 16 — "Yesterday, while..." (MsC 42) page 16 -page 17 -page 18 -page 18 -CANONICITY page 18 -DIALOGISM page 25 -EDUCATOR page 39 -page 41 -page 42 -page 43 -FEMINISM page 45 -page 46 -page 47 -page 48 -page 49 -page 50 -GENRE page 51 -"I didn't think..." (SOS, 122) "in my family..." (SOS, 119) "during harvest..." (MDAC in LTW, 4) "I lived four..." (SOS, 113) "Since I define..." (Brown, 1) "I believe in a dialogic..." (UST, 36) "the mere onslaught..." (GI, 13) "Saturday, April 2..." (CJ, 67) "Thursday, September 7..." (NYJ in LTW, 144) "Simon and Schuster..." (27.2.4) "This Miss Coehn..." (GI, 45-46) "Hello? Carol?..." (GI, 46-47) "Her t i t s were l i k e . . . " (SHM, 41-42) "Martha's own nipples..." (SHM, 42) "The only woman..." (GI, 48) "Total and absurd male..." (BL, 76) "We have to face..." (Enright, 27) HANGOVER page 72 — "Begin: the body..." (TR, 67) page 72 — "Interviewer: Would you ever..." (Twigg, 116) JUVENESCENCE page 91 — page 93 — page 95 — page 97 — page 98 — page 98 — KROETSCH page 99 — LANGUAGE page 100 — page 101 — page 101 — page 102 — page 103 -page 106 — METAPHOR page 107 — page 109 — page 110 — "A whole unlearning..." (CJ, 14) "Hey, wait a minute..." ("Seed Catalogue," FN, 42) "How do you suppose..." ("After Paradise," FN, 266) "Does your mama know..." ("Excerpts from the Real World," FN, 242) "oops is the right..." ("After Paradise," FN, 267) "Stone Hammer Poem are..." (SHN, 134, 136) "no camera..." (27.1.13.32a) " i t seems to me that..." (LV, 142) "Language i t s e l f i s . . . " (VK in LTW, 189) "A face that is only..." (CJ, 30) "We are taught..." (EI, 23) "I despise words..." (BL, 34) "Language i t s e l f , the trickster..." (CJ, 25) "The notion of..." (RDT, 46) "Kroetsch: I guess I have..." (LV, 93) "I have learned..." (LV, 117) NOTE page 119 — "It seems to me that. .." (27.10.1) page 120 — "Don't hear the voice..." (27.10.1) page 120 — "more of the labyrinthine..." (7.1) page 121 — "Let the chips f a l l . . ("To the Wahs," FN, 107) page 121 — "Let the surprise..." ("Back in the Spring of '76: For Laurie Ricou," FN, 114) page 121 — "Listen to the voice. .." (EI, 23) page 121 — "Sinnott took great.. ." (BL, 124-25) page 122 — "No mail at a l l . . . " ("Letters to Salonika," FN, 147) page 122 — "I 1 iked the telegram ..." ("Excerpts from the Real World," FN, 229) page 122 — "6. This stone maul.. ." (27.18.7.3) page 123 — "Grey, two-headed..." ("Stone Hammer Poem," FN, 2) page 123 — "* I have removed..." ("Mile Zero," FN, 132) page 123 — "I am tired of..." ("Letters to Salonika," FN, 141) page 124 — "To town to buy..." (CJ, 73) page 124 — "What is a letter?... " ("Letters to Salonika," FN, 153) page 124 — "From you I could..." ("Letters to Salonika," FN, 150) page 124 — "Even the two ends... " ("Excerpts from the Real World," FN, 253) page 124 — "I am in China..." ("Postcards from China," FN, 168) page 125 — "page 33: James Darling..." ("The Ledger," FN, 11) page 125 — "I only buy used..." ("Excerpts from the Real World," FN, 231) page 125 — "Winter was ending... " ("Seed Catalogue," FN, 32) ORAL page 127 page 127 RISK page 139 page 141 page 142 page 142 SYSTEM page 146 page 147 page 147 page 150 TALL TALE page 158 page 160 page 164 page 166 UN page 167 page 167 page 168 page 169 page 169 "I am s t i l l . . . " (LV, 13) "I was tuning in on..." (LV, 39) "A serious writer..." (LV, 50) "The poet not as maker..." (P&E, 104) "I play on the edge..." (LV, 50) "I used to..." (Brown, 1) "I suppose I write against..." (LV, 159) "The thing that strikes me..." (LV, 165) "The whole notion of..." (LV, 190-91) "...I have less and less..." (LV, 142) "the t a l l tale tradition..." (AECV, 50) "One time in my callous..." (SHM, 134) "during harvest..." (MDAM in LTW, 4) "Why didn't you go..." (BL, 135-36) "There are no rules..." (CJ, 70) "When you write about..." (SHN, 133) "At one time I considered..." (UH, 17) "the form must violate i t s e l f . . . " (EP, 63) "One build into a system..." (LV, 32) 217 VERACITY page 171 — "itinerant prairie printer..." (CJ, 11) page 172 — "Stallion..." (27.10.2) page 174 — "1. The a r t i f i c i a l vagina..." (27.10.2) page 175 — "They tear up their..." (27.16.8) page 180 — "QUESTIONS..." (27.6.3) page 182 — "RAIN..." (27.6.3) WEST page 186 — "From Tristan to Columbus..." (27.1.13.32d) page 188 — "I think the prairie..." (CANAM, 2; 27.28.3) page 189 — "I look at my hands..." (CJ, 52) XYZ page 193 — "The beautiful truth..." (MNS, 62) page 193 — "The story is concealed..." (VK in LTW, 182) page 193 — "I like mathematics..." (SOS, 134) 218 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, Hazard. "Canons: Literary Criteria/Power Criteria." Critical Inquiry. 14, No. 4 (Summer 1988), 748-764. Anderson, Walter Truett. Reality Isn't What it Used to Be: Theatrical Politics. Ready-to-Wear Religion. Global Myths. Primitive Chic, and Other Wonders of the Postmodern World. NY: Harper and Row, 1990. Bakhtin, M. M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essavs. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1984. . Problems of Dostoevskv's Poetics. Ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984. Barbour, Douglas. Introduction. The Crow Journals. By Robert Kroetsch. Edmonton: NeWest, 1980, 5-10. Barthes, Roland. SJI. Trans. Richard Miller. NY: Hill and Wang, 1974. Bennett, Donna. 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"Mile Zero: Being Some Account of a Journey through Western Canada in the Dead of Six Nights. 'Collected Poem.'" The Canadian Forum. May 1982, 24. Appears in Advice to Mv Friends (revised). . "Mile Zero: Being Some Account of a Journey through Western Canada in the Dead of Six Nights. 'Weather Vane.'" The Canadian Forum. May 1982, 24. Appears in Advice to Mv Friends (revised). . A l i b i . Don Mills, Ont.: Stoddart, 1983. . Letters to Salonika. Toronto: Grand Union, 1983. Robert Kroetsch: Essays. Ed. Frank Davey and bpNichol. [Open Letter. Ser. 5, No. 4 (Spring 1983)]. . Advice to My Friends: a continuing poem. Spectrum Poetry Series. Don Mills, Ont.: Stoddart, 1985. . Excerpts from the Real World. Lantzville, B.C.: Oolichan, 1986. . Completed Field Notes: The Long Poems of Robert Kroetsch. The Modern Canadian Poets. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1989. . The Lovely Treachery of Words: Essays Selected and New. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1989. Lecker, Robert. "Robert Kroetsch's Poetry." Open Letter. Ser. 3, No. 8 (Spring 1978), 72-88. . "Bordering On: Robert Kroetsch's Aesthetic. "Journal of Canadian Studies. 17, No. 3 (Fall 1982), 124-33. . "Caught in the Balance: Robert Kroetsch's Gone Indian." The American Review of Canadian Studies. 13 (Autumn 1983), 139-56. . "Con/Texts of Desire: Robert Kroetsch's A l i b i . " Open Letter. Ser. 5, Nos. 8-9 (Summer-Fall 1984), 83-98. 226 . "Freed from Story: Narrative Tactics in Badlands." Essays on Canadian Writing. No. 30 (Winter 1984-85), 160-86. . Robert Kroetsch. Twayne's World Author's Series, No. 768. Boston: Twayne, 1986. MacKendrick, Louis K. "Robert Kroetsch and the Modern Canadian Novel of Exhaustion." Essays on Canadian Writing. No. 11 (Summer 1978), 10-27. . "Context, Construct, and Canadian Metafictional Novels." The University of Windsor Review. 18, No. 1 (Fall-Winter 1984), 59-60, 61-62. MacKinnon, Brian. " 'The Writer Has Got to Know Where He Lives': An Interview with Robert Kroetsch." Pt. I. Writers News Manitoba. 4, No. 1 (Feb. 1982), 3-18. . " 'We Always Tell Stories': An Interview with Robert Kroetsch." Pt. II. Writers News Manitoba. 4, No. 2 (Dec. 1982), 3-13. Mandel, Ann. "Uninventing Structures: Cultural Criticism and the Novels of Robert Kroetsch." Open Letter. Ser. 3, No. 8 (Spring 1978), 52-71. Mandel, E l i . "The Regional Novel: Borderline Art." In Taking Stock: The  Calgary Conference on the Canadian Novel. Ed. Charles R. Steele. Downsview, Ont.: ECW, 1982, 110, 112, 115, 117, 120. . "The Death of the Long Poem." Open Letter. Ser. 6, Nos. 2-3 (Summer-Fall 1985), 11, 15, 17, 21, 22. Marshall, John, "from the REMEMBRANCE DAY TAPES." Island. No. 7 (1980), 35-50. McHale, Brian. Postmodernist Fiction. London: Methuen, 1987. Messmer, Michael W. "Looking Behind Modernism." South Atlantic Quarterly. 84, No. 3 (Summer 1985), 235-44. 227 Miki, Roy. "Prairie Poetics: An Interchange with E l i Mandel and Robert Kroetsch.' Dandelion. 10, No. 2 (Fall-Winter 1983), 82-92. . "The Lang Poem: The Cosmology of the Long Poem in Contemporary Canadian Poetry." Open Letter. Ser. 6, Nos. 2-3 (Summer-Fall 1985), 71-72, 80, 84. . "Self on Self: Robert Kroetsch Interviewed." Line. 14 (Fall 1989), 108-142. Moss, John, ed. Present Tense: A Cri t i c a l Anthology. The Canadian Novel, Vol. IV. Toronto: New Canada, 1985, 232-264. . "Canadian Frontiers: Sexuality and Violence from Richardson to Kroetsch." Journal of Canadian Fiction. 2, No. 3 (Summer 1973), 36-41. Munton, Ann. "The Structural Horizons of Prairie Poetics: The Long Poem, E l i Mandel, Andrew Suknaski, and Robert Kroetsch." Dalhousie Review. 63 (Spring 1983), 69-97. . "The Long Poem as Poetic Diary." Open Letter. Ser. 6, Nos. 2-3 (Summer-Fall 1985), 93, 94, 95, 96-97, 98, 102, 105. Neuman, Shirley. "Unearthing Language: An Interview with Rudy Wiebe and Robert Kroetsch." In A Voice in the Land: Essays by and about Rudy Wiebe. Ed. W.J. Keith. Edmonton: NeWest, 1981, 226-47. , and Robert Wilson. Labyrinths of Voice: Conversations with Robert Kroetsch. Western Canadian Literary Documents. Vol. III. Edmonton: NeWest, 1982. . "Allow Self, Portraying Self: Autobiography in Field Notes." Line [Simon Fraser University], No. 2 (Fall 1983), 104-21. 228 . "Figuring the Reader, Figuring the Self in Field Notes: 'Double or Noting.'" Open Letter. Ser. 5, Nos. 8-9 (Summer-Fall 1984), 176-94. New, W.H. "The Studhorse Quests." In his Articulating West: Essavs on Purpose and Form in Modern Canadian Literature. Toronto: new, 1972, 179-82. Nicolaisen, W.F.H. "Ordering the Chaos: Name Strategies in Robert Kroetsch's Novels." Essavs on Canadian Writing. No. 11 (Summer 1978), 55-65. Pache, Walter. "'The Fiction Makes Us Real': Aspects of Postmodernism in Canada." In Gaining Ground: European Critics on Canadian Literature. Ed. Robert Kroetsch and Reingard M. Nischik. Western Canadian Literary Documents. Vol. VI. Edmonton: NeWest, 1985, 67-72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77. Phill i p s , Bob. Out West: Stories About Persons and Places on the Canadian Prairies. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie, 1977. Pratt, Mary Louise. Toward a Speech Act Theory of Literary Discourse. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1977. Randall, Neil. "Carnival and Intertext: Humour in What the Crow Said and Studhorse Man." Studies in Canadian Literature. 14, No. 1 (1989), 85-98. Ricou, Laurence. "Field Notes and Notes in a Field: Forms of the West in Robert Kroetsch and Tom Robbins." Journal of Canadian Studies. 17, No. 3 (Fall 1982), 117-23. . Everyday Magic: Child Languages in Canadian Literature. Vancouver: U of British Columbia P, 1987. Ross, Brian L. "The Naked Narrator: The Studhorse Man & the Structuralist Imagination." Canadian Literature. No. 104 (Spring 1985), 65-73. 229 de Saussure, Ferdinand. Course in General Linguistics. Ed. Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye. In collaboration with Albert Riedlinger. NY: McGraw-H i l l , 1966. Schafer, Jurgen. "A Farewell to Europe: Rudy Wiebe's The Temptations of Big  Bear and Robert Kroetsch's Gone Indian." In Gaining Ground: European  Critics on Canadian Literature. Ed. Robert Kroetsch and Reingard M. Nischik. Western Canadian Literary Documents. Vol. VI. Edmonton: NeWest, 1985, 79-80, 84-87, 88, 89, 90. Scholes, Robert. "Aiming a Canon at the Curriculum." Salmagundi. No. 72 (Fall 1986), 101-117. Scobie, Steven. Signature Event Cantext. The Writer as C r i t i c Series, Vol. II. Gen. ed. Smaro Kamboureli. Edmonton: NeWest, 1989, 46, 54, 62, 91-92, 157, 164-5. Seim, Jeanette. "Horses and Houses: Further Readings in Kroetsch's Badlands and Sinclair Ross's As For Me and Mv House." Open Letter. Ser. 5, Nos. 8-9 (Summer-Fall 1984), 99-115. Smith, Patricia Keeney. "WQ Interview with Robert Kroetsch.' Cross-Canada Writers' Quarterly. 6, No. 3 (1984), 3-5, 29. Stahl, Sandra K. Literary Folkloristics and the Personal Narrative. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989. Stanzel, Franz K. "Texts Recycled: 'Found' Poems in Canada." In Gaining Ground: European Critics on Canadian Literature. Ed. Robert Kroetsch and Reingard M. Nischik. Western Canadian Literary Documents. Vol. VI. Edmonton: NeWest, 1985, 94, 104, 105, 106. 230 Steele, Apollonia and Jean F. Tener, eds. The Robert Kroetsch Papers First  Accession: An Inventory of the Archive at the University of Calgary  Libraries. Compilers: Jeans. F. Tener, Sandra Mortensen, and Marlys Chevrefils. Calgary: U of Calgary P, 1986. Stone, Ted. It's Hardly Worth Talkin 1 If You're Goin 1 To Tell the Truth. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie, 1986. Sullivan, Rosemary. "The Fascinating Place Between: The Fiction of Robert Kroetsch." Mosaic: A Journal for the Comparative Study of Literature and  Ideas. 11, No. 3 (Spring 1978), 165-76. Sunday Supplement. CBC Radio, 27 May 1973. Surette, P.L. "The Fabular Fiction of Robert Kroetsch." Canadian Literature. No. 77 (Summer 1978), 6-19. Thiher, Allen. Words in Reflection: Modern Language Theory and Postmodern Fiction. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984. Thomas, D.P. "Robert Kroetsch, Rupert Brooke, The Voices of the Dead." Studies in Canadian Literature. 1 (Winter 1976), 124-29. Thomas, Peter. "Keeping Mum: Kroetsch's Alberta." Journal of Canadian Fiction. 2, No. 2 (Spring 1973), 54-56. . "Priapus in the Danse Macabre." Canadian Literature. No. 61 (Summer 1974), 54-64. . Robert Kroetsch. Studies in Canadian Literature, No. 13. Vancouver: Douglas & Mclntyre, 1980. . "Robert Kroetsch and Silence." Essays on Canadian Writing. Nos. 18-19 (Summer-Fall 1980), 33-53. 231 Thurley, Geoffrey. Counter-Modernism in Current Cr i t i c a l Theory. London: Macmillan, 1983. Turner, Margaret E. "Endings Be Damned: Robert Kroetsch's Gone Indian." Canadian Literature. No. 119 (Winter 1988), 57-71. Turner, Roy. "Friends and Enemies of the Canon." Queen's Quarterly. 97, No. 2 (Summer 1990), 236-49. Turner, M. E. "Canadian Literature and Robert Kroetsch: A Case of Canonization." Dalhousie Review. 67, No. 1 (Spring 1987), 56-72. Twigg, Alan. "Male: Kroetsch." In his For Openers: Conversations with 24 Canadian Writers. Madiera Park, B.C.: Harbour, 1981, 107-16. Vorsey, Paul. "Rural Local History and the Prairie West." Prairie Forum. 10, No. 2 (Summer 1986), 327-38. Wah, Fred. "Making Strange Poetics." Open Letter. Ser. 6, Nos. 2-3 (Summer-Fall 1985), 214, 215-16, 218-19, 221. Wilkins, Charles. "Robert Kroetsch: An Uncompromising Spinner of Tales." Quill and Quire. Aug. 1983, 36. Wood, Susan. "Reinventing the Word: Kroetsch's Poetry." Canadian Literature. No. 77 (Summer 1978), 28-39. SKETCHES OF A THESIS A thesis 1s a unified argument. Some theses are unified. This thesis 1s not unified. So much for that. How can one argue that a thesis is truly a thesis, i f such a question can be argued? So much for that. I said, to myself (I was working on this thesis) Alanna, I said, 1s there (I was reading Completed Field Notes) (and eating alphabet soup) any possibility of a convincing, single, unitary/unified POINT on the works of Robert Kroetsch? No, I said. So much for that. 

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