Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Books

Crackpot by Adele Wiseman
1974, McClelland and Stewart

Adele Wiseman (1928-1992) was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her parents had emigrated from the Ukraine to escape the Jewish pogroms. Adele did her BA at the University of Manitoba and then worked at a variety of jobs to support her writing habit. She took about three years to complete her first novel, The Sacrifice, which won the Governor General's Award in 1956. That bears repeating. Her FIRST novel won the Governor General's Award! THE most prestigious Canadian literary award. Over the years, Adele was writer-in-residence at several Canadian universities: Toronto, Manitoba, Trent, Western, Concordia). She also headed up the writing program at Banff School of Fine Arts. Oh, how I wish I'd taken a class from her.

A description of Crackpot from "Hoda, the protagonist of Crackpot, is one of the most captivating characters in Canadian fiction. Graduating from a tumultuous childhood to a life of prostitution, she becomes a legend in her neighbourhood, a canny and ingenious woman, generous, intuitive, and exuding a wholesome lust for life."

This story takes place in Winnipeg from World I to World War II. The voice in Crackpot is incredible. The symbolism is incredible. The language is incredible. Parts of this book were uncomfortable to read, though. I squinted my eyes and kept muttering, "No, no, no, don't do that" or "Don't go there." For example, Hoda is the town whore. She gives birth to an illegitimate son, whom she leaves at the door of the orphanage. He grows up to be a teen. I'm sure you can do the math. But Adele Wiseman is such a magnificent writer that I couldn't stop reading.

Oh, and a little trivia. Guess who Adele Wiseman's BFF was? Margaret Laurence! Another amazing Canadian writer.

You can read excerpts of Crackpot here.

Thank you Patti Abbott for coordinating Friday's Forgotten Books. Please visit Patti's blog for book posts and for links to the other participants.


Charles Gramlich said...

I've not heard of this one. Will have to check it out. Sounds like a talented writer. We should get more info down here in the States about Canadian writers.

David Cranmer said...

Thanks for introducing me to a new writer and from the bios I just read on line a very talented woman.

preTzel said...

I am going looking for this book. I want to read it now. Wow. Great description Barrie and way to draw me in. :D Do you mind if I send Mr. your way when he starts grumbling about "more fricken fracken books"? LOL!

Unknown said...

Once you stumble on Wiseman you become greedy and want more. Read The Sacrifice. I found this to be one of the best portrayals and betrayal of the family in any /all the CanLit that I’ve enjoyed. The treatment of the father’s pride is tender and troubling.

My complete review is on Book Crossing and also on my blog:

And certainly, keep launching Canadian authors into the wild with your blog posts. A great list of Canadian works is posted on the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge blog.

But get through Wiseman first, and you’ll understand how high we’ve set the bar!

Kathleen Molloy, author – Dining with Death

laughingwolf said...

another writer new to me, thank you for, i'll be looking up her stuff....

Gabriele Goldstone said...

I took CanLit and didn't read Adele Wiseman. Shame on me. I'm going to change this now - thanks, Barrie.

Chantal said...

You keep introducing me to these wonderful author Barrie. Thank you so much. I used to think I was well read... I guess I still have a lot of reading ahead of me. Sounds like good reading too.