A Very Large Soul: Selected Letters from Margaret Laurence to Canadian Writers; We Who Can Fly; Poems, Essays and Memories in Honour of Adele Wiseman

By Suderman, Brenda | Herizons, March 2000 | Go to article overview

A Very Large Soul: Selected Letters from Margaret Laurence to Canadian Writers; We Who Can Fly; Poems, Essays and Memories in Honour of Adele Wiseman


Suderman, Brenda, Herizons


A VERY LARGE SOUL: SELECTED LETTERS FROM MARGARET LAURENCE TO CANADIAN WRITERS; WE WHO CAN FLY; POEMS, ESSAYS AND MEMORIES IN HONOUR OF ADELE WISEMAN

EDITED BY J.A. WAINWRIGHT

CORMORANT BOOKS

EDITED BY ELIZABETH GREENE

CORMORANT BOOKS 1997

They could be the two high priestesses of the CanLit tribe.

Contemporaries, colleagues, and most of all friends, Margaret Laurence and Adele Wiseman were two of the original members of what they called "the tribe"- Canadian writers who shared the twin goals of writing about our national landscape and supporting each other in the process.

These two books show just how widespread that tribe was. Laurence's voluminous correspondence is highlighted in A Very Large Soul, a collection of letters spanning nearly three decades. The bulks of this collection, written to 34 Canadian writers, dates from Laurence's time in England, (1962-74) where she felt distanced from her country and compatriots. Curiously, none of the many letters she exchanged with Wiseman appear in this collection, since, the editor tells us, Wiseman never got around to sorting through the boxes containing the correspondence.

From the vantage point of 1999, the lists of Laurence's correspondents is a who's who of Canadian literature (Margaret Atwood, George Bowering, Al Purdy, Timothy Findley), but at the time of their writing, the letters were often simply exchanges between struggling writers. Often Laurence sends quick notes acknowledging the publication of another's writer's book, offering praise and critique. Other letters reflect the awe Laurence felt for those who went before her, such as Ernest Buckler and Gabrielle Roy.

Editor J.A. Wainwright arranged the letters alphabetically by correspondent, beginning with Atwood and ending with Vancouver poet Dale Zieroth. Although it is interesting to follow the progression of the letters and the relationship with the other writer, this arrangement also has its faults. Many of the letters to various correspondents are virtually identical, as when Laurence completed her last adult novel, The Diviners, and wrote many of her friends about the book and her plans to move to England.

The letters are interspersed with interview comments from the correspondents, inclusions which are helpful but also detract from the flow of the book. …

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